News and analysis for the passenger services executive
Food for thought
Kosher meals, local cuisine and reducing waste
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Rick Lundstrom, Editor-in-Chief
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JEREMY CLARK, PAX International Asia Correspondent
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Key title: Pax International
The last word
As is usually the case, the Editor’s Letter in our magazine is the last assignment that is written, and this fall it was no different for PAX International.
For 25 years, I’ve generally avoided personal opinions, opting instead to hunt for the most recent bit of news or research, and build up the facts with some context or thoughts.
This time, I am the news.
After I leave this year’s October IFSA EXPO I’ll be also leaving PAX International and moving into retirement.
In Long Beach, attendees will have the opportunity to meet Stephanie Philp, the publication’s new Editor who joined the company in late-September. She’ll be working alongside our Managing Editor Jane Hobson.
Two years of COVID-19 restrictions and loss of business has changed the industry more profoundly than anything I’ve seen since we started the magazine in the spring of 1997. But as I step away from the job, I’m happy to see that the resilient industry that was battered by 9/11, epidemics and financial crisis is snapping back.
That we’ve survived them all and remained in business is a tribute to our Publisher Aijaz Khan, who could have said at any time that the headwinds were too strong. But after each crisis in the industry, we built back with the help of people in the industry telling us their stories and loyal group of advertisers that came back after rough times again and again.
There have been editors, writers and ad salespeople who have passed through the company for 25 years and they have all played a part in making the publication, newsletter and website what it is. They were colleagues and friends whose talent and contributions kept the magazine fresh and kept me feeling challenged to match their enthusiasm.
It’s no different with the current group who have hung with us through the pandemic. Jane, now also managing our Travel Retail title, will be helping Stephanie transition into the job. Jessica Hearn will continue to provide the clean, professional look you see in the magazine’s design. Ash Khan will handle social media and other duties. You’ll see bylines from Mary Jane Pittilla, former Editor
Rachel Debling and Jeremy Clark, Our Man in Asia.
I’ll still be following the industry, and for the first time maybe become active in the Linkedin community. Besides that, plans are few. Pastimes and house projects will be taking up much of my day. I’d be happy to hear from any of you. May the New Year to come bring you happiness and health.
A word from Publisher Aijaz Khan
We are so grateful to have had Rick’s support for the magazines and the industry for the last 25 years. Through difficult times and good times, Rick remained our focused and fearless leader. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have had you, Rick. We will miss you very much, but we wish you a relaxing and fulfilling retirement filled with much joy and peace.
Aijaz KhanRick Lundstrom Editor-in-Chief PAX International
Publisher, PAX International
DREAMS BECOME REALITY
AMENITIES & COMFORT
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THE VALUE GAME
Alpha to cater at RKT
Alpha Flight Services has signed a 10-year conces sion agreement with Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (RKT) in the United Arab Emirates.
The partnership will see Alpha Flight Services invest in infrastructure and provide catering services to more than 10 airlines at the airport. In addition, it will oper ate three food and beverage outlets, the airport lounge and a number of vending machines at RKT.
dnata has operated Alpha Flight Services since 2010. In recent years, the company has significantly expanded its operations and currently provides catering ser vices to customers, including over 30 airlines, from its kitchen near Sharjah International Airport (SHJ).
Alpha operates a total of 11 outlets, including seven café restaurants and four kiosks, an airport lounge as well as a newly upgraded and renovated hotel at SHJ. ‘The Hotel’ can comfortably accommodate 200 guests. Alpha also sup ports local tourism by providing authentic local meals to the UAE’s leading desert safari provider. Alpha’s team consists of 480 people who prepare seven million meals annually.
From left to right: Stanislav Bujnovsky, Commercial Director of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport; Mark Whelan, General Manager of Alpha Flight Services; Athanasios Titonis, CEO of Ras Al Khaimah International Airport; Waqas Javed, CFO of Alpha Flight Services
Delta picks Savannah chef for meal design
Chef Mashama Bailey, center, founded The Grey restaurant in Savannah
Delta flights departing Atlanta are boarding Southerninspired meals designed by Chef Mashama Bailey.
Bailey is the winner of the 2022 James Beard Foun dation’s “Outstanding American Chef” award and Executive Chef and co-founder of The Grey, a South ern restaurant in downtown Savannah, Georgia.
Bailey’s meals are served out of Atlanta for lunch and dinner in domestic First Class on flights where hot food is served. International Delta One passen gers departing Atlanta will have the option to pre-select menu items designed by the chef before their flight.
Bailey’s Port City Southern menu features dishes similar to those served at The Grey: a flounder and oyster dish with fumé blanc, green apple, potato, bok choy and turnips; short ribs with kanni sauce and smoked collard greens; vegan vegetable tagine with roasted sweet potato topped with a chermoula sauce and, for dessert, buttermilk cornmeal tres leches with candied kumquats and mandarin oranges.
McYoung Foods launches allergen free granola
With one in 10 adults and one in 13 children suf fering from food allergies McYoung Foods has developed an allergen-free granola made in a nut/tree nut free facility in the United States.
“This granola is a sign to all passengers that air lines understand the alienation that is created when individuals are forced to make dietary and lifestyle
changes,” said a release from DFMI which is distributing the product in the airline market.
AWESOME GRANOLA™ is available in Original, Choco late and Cranberry flavors.
SWISS partners with Zurich hotel through October
Through the end of October, SWISS is offering its First and Business Class travelers culinary delights in collaboration with Zurich’s traditional Baur au Lac hotel in the latest chapter of the airline’s ‘SWISS Taste of Switzerland.’
The new meals have been created by top chefs Laurent Eperon and Maximilian Müller of the hotel’s Pavillon gourmet restaurant. SWISS Premium Econ omy Class passengers can also enjoy a range of food specialties inspired by the Zurich region.
Eperon and Müller, the two chefs de cuisine of the two-Michelin-star and 18-GaultMillau-point Pavillon, will be treating SWISS’s premium travelers on long-haul ser vices from Switzerland to their modern interpretation of French haute cuisine. For their ‘SWISS Taste of Switzerland’ creations they have also drawn strongly on specialties from Canton Zurich to help further familiarize SWISS’s customers with Switzerland’s sheer culinary variety.
Lufthansa relaunches inflight shopping
Toys, travel supplies and high-end soaps and shampoos are in the WorldShop catalog on Lufthansa
Retail inMotion (RiM) is working with Lufthansa to relaunch its Inflight Shopping powered by World Shop on all the airline’s intercontinental flights.
Lufthansa passengers have their pick from new product assortment developed by Retail inMotion in partnership with WorldShop.
The product offer included in Lufthansa Inflight Shop ping is clustered into themes: products that show you care, products for your journey, and exclusives from Germany such as the Lufthansa aviation tag and Creative-Tonie® Lufthansa Flight Attendant. The aviation tag is a limited one-off and collector’s piece from the Lufthansa Upcy cling Collection with a free lost-and-found luggage service once the product has been registered. The Creative-Tonie Lufthansa Flight Attendant Audio Toy offers 90 minutes of playback time for kids’ own audio programming or music.
Products include Lufthansa-branded kids socks from Falke, which come with textile pens. For a premium audio experience, Bose QuietComfort 45 Wireless Noise Can celling Bluetooth Headphones is part of the offering.
Nuud 100 percent vegan deodorant is packed in a bioplastic tube made from sugar cane. ‘Stop The Water While Using Me!’ all-natural, waterless shampoo bar is handmade in Germany.
Bottega launches alcohol free spritz
The rise of non-alcoholic drinks has prompted Bot tega to introduce effervescent non-alcoholic drinks. The essence of the drinks evoke the same ritual ity of drinking sparkling wine and have been highly appreciated by the market, the company says.
The most recent launch is its Pink Spritz, a zeroalcoholic spritz with the main ingredient being Bottega 0 Rosé, the alcohol-free ‘spumante’ in a rosé version.
The recipe for Pink Spritz includes the following: 100 milliliters Bottega 0 Rosé, 100 milliliters pink grape fruit juice and ice. Stir for 30 seconds, garnish with dried pink grapefruit, blueberries and a mint leaf.
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NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP
LATAM Airlines is proving that innovation can be found in the tiniest details of every flightby RACHEL DEBLING María Estela Espinoza,
Senior Manager of Inflight and Lounges Customer Experience
at LATAM Airlines Group, admits that though the last two years have been chal lenging, the future is bright for LATAM. An airline industry veteran with 17 years in the biz, Espinoza is fueled by cautious optimism for not only LATAM but the entire industry, and she and her team know that they are on the right track.
“We firmly believe that we are a company that delivers a recognizable differential to its stakeholders,” she explains, noting three pillars that are at the heart of LATAM’s competitive – and attractive – position in the industry: that it serves more than 100 destinations; that it has a standard of punctuality that has been recognized time and time again on an international level; and that it strives to be attentive while delivering a differential service that satisfies the needs and expectations of its customers.
But that, she stresses, is just the beginning of the carrier’s defining characteristics.
The LATAM passenger journey is anchored by its catering, which has been curated to reflect the Latin American cultures and flavors that have long inspired the carrier’s style of service.
“We work with different caterers around the world, which are responsible for executing our services according to the duration and type of flight,” says Espinoza. “The renewal of our menu is crucial to improving our customers’ travel experience, so we are constantly redesigning them.”
To wit, the airline recently launched a new service concept on its regional and long-haul international routes that features wine pairings from the only master sommelier in Latin America, Héctor Vergara. From Economy to Premium Economy to Business, each cabin ushers guests to their destinations through regionally inspired cuisine and
meal delivery that puts sustainability at the forefront of the experience.
Espinoza and her team also recognize the importance of a well-designed and functional amenity kit. Incorporating sustainable elements and relying on the talents of local designers, the carrier’s latest release, a partnership
between LATAM and amenities expert WESSCO International, supplies Premium Business cabin passengers with a series of cosmetic and comfort products that keep the Latin American spirit in mind. (For full details, see Wowing with Wellness on page 24.)
As Espinoza explains, “The design of the bags is the work of South American artists chosen for their emerging trajectory and/or for being transformers of their communities. The first two artists to join this initiative are Tomás Olivos of Chile and Hamilton Aguiar, who hails from Brazil.”
Regarding its fleet, the airline is undergoing, as Espinoza puts it, one of the “most significant fleet renewal processes” ever undertaken in the company’s history for its narrow-body and wide-body Airbus fleet. Looking to its newly committed aircraft, LATAM has begun to receive the first of its 87 Airbus 320neos. Having arrived last June, it will soon be incorporated into the airline’s subsidiary Brazilian fleet.
Onboard, passengers can view the latest media with the airline’s proprietary entertainment platform, LATAM Play, where more than 150 movies, 400 episodes and countless music options –more than 700 hours of content in total – are available for consumption through their mobile devices. The program also allows travelers to purchase Wi-Fi and to send and receive text messages through WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and iMessage for free while in the air.
In addition, Warner Media has recently partnered with LATAM to bring HBO Max content to LATAM Play, a move that is a first for the region. Shortly before PAX International spoke with Espinoza, the partnership helped bring another first to the skies.
“As part of this alliance, the first episode of the series House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones, was broadcast to passengers flying on three of the group’s routes to Madrid, from Santiago, São Paulo and Lima,” she says. In keeping with the theme, passengers were welcomed by hosts with gifts, and even treated to a greeting from the captain in Valyrian, the language of one of the show’s most popular empires.
All in all, it’s the distinctive onboard experience offered by LATAM that makes it heads and tails above the rest, she says. “This is where we have the opportunity to interact with our customers for the longest time.”
The coming years will have LATAM continuing to make both subtle and large-scale changes in its never-ending goal of providing the highest level of service to its passengers, without losing sight of sustainability. Small changes, after all, can have the biggest impact – and the industry should take note of where they are going.
What is needed are “simple, intuitive products, according to the needs of each customer, where empathy, problemsolving and friendliness will continue to be fundamental to achieving an excellent customer experience,” Espinoza notes. “A more connected world is also a kinder and more empathetic world, and that is part of our service challenge.”
And connecting people, places and ideas is what LATAM does best.
LATAM CLEARS MOST PLASTIC FROM ECONOMY CABIN
LATAM recently announced changes to its Economy cabin service that has allowed it to eliminate more than 1,200 tons of single-use plastics. The airline reported in September that 75 percent of plastic is gone from Economy Class.
The airline says the changes are the equivalent of eliminating 36,000 plastic bottles. The new service seeks to implement a more sustain able cabin and considers important changes in the materiality of all items on board (cups, cutlery, trays), replacing them with more sus tainable materials such as bamboo cutlery, reusable trays, kraft paper packaging for cutlery, and certified sustainable paper cups.
These changes have been implemented on all of LATAM group’s regional and long-haul routes, and are part of the group’s sustainability strategy, which aims to eliminate 100 percent of single-use plastics used in its operations by 2023.
“Caring for the planet is a challenge for everyone, and a necessary destination for LATAM, which is why we reviewed our services and iden tified nearly 1,800 tons of single-use plastic on board our international flights. Our teams got involved to redefine all details of our service, mak ing a positive change for our customers, and also for our planet,” said Paulo Miranda, LATAM Airlines Group Vice President of Customers.
This new proposal is in addition to the changes made in the Premium Business cabin, which include the incorporation of reusable bags to cover rest items and eco travel kits for passengers, which include a bam boo toothbrush with a sugar cane lid, earplugs with packaging made of kraft paper and socks and eye covers made from recycled plastic.
The group has also implemented recycling and reuse measures. On domestic flights in Chile, Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, LATAM has a program called ‘Recycle Your Trip,’ through which cabin crew members separate plastic and cans on board (in Colombia, this separation takes place on the ground). In addition, together with women entrepreneurs and partner organizations, the group continues with its uniform reuse program in Peru, Chile, Colom bia, Ecuador and Brazil, giving a second life to the uniforms of employees.
These initiatives are part of LATAM’s sustainability strategy, which includes goals such as zero waste to landfill by 2027, reducing and offsetting 50 percent of domestic emissions by 2030, and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
Single-use plastics on LATAM will be a thing of a past by 2023
Kosher meals on airlines are becoming modernized in Dubai by a new company with an eye on the future
Great effort has gone into designing attractive packaging at Kosher Arabia by RICK LUNDSTROM
The Emirates flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv averages a little more than three hours. In that time, one of the airline’s suppliers has a mission to make the dining experience compliant with religious requirements and offer a fresh perspective on centuries-long traditions.
Kosher Arabia is the sole supplier of kosher meals out of DXB (Dubai Inter national Airport), but the joint venture company with Emirates Flight Catering is looking beyond its home base with a goal to make the United Arab Emirates an exporter of kosher meals for airline catering and other food service venues.
And the products moving out of the company’s plant and onto the aircraft bear little resemblance to kosher meals that airlines have served for years. When a passenger opts for a kosher meal (which they do at a rate of approximately 10 percent on the DXB — TLV Ben Gurion Airport route) they will receive a product packaged for presentation and prepared in strict compliance.
“As a generalization, kosher dining focuses on tradition – our aim is to evolve current airline meals to include new concepts and offerings to delight kosher customers, without compromis ing on traditional aspects,” says David Johnson, Business Development Man ager at Kosher Arabia. “We are thinking
differently and pushing the envelope.”
The obvious difference from kosher meals of the past is in the presentation of the product. In the past, kosher meals were served bound tightly in layers of plastic wrap and foil to avoid the possibility of contamination. Kosher Arabia has thrown out the practice and sought to make its products a feast to the eyes with colorful packaging and presentation that fits in Atlas trolleys in full, half and two-thirds sizes. The meal trays accommodate double-wrapped and sealed hot items to be removed and heated by the crew before serving, while ensuring kosher integrity.
Compliance is still top priority and the company’s food products are dual certified by the Orthodox Union (OU) which continues to work in partnership with the South African Union of Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) to provide the highest level of excellence in kosher certification.
Kosher Arabia supplies to both Dubai International Airport and Dubai World Central Airport through Emirates Flight Catering, so any airlines ordering kosher food will receive the company’s products.
“Additionally, we are talking to both airlines and airline caterers around the world interested in taking our delicious frozen range,” says Johnson.
Like food producers everywhere these
days, Kosher Arabia is eyeing trends.
“We are seriously looking into alternative plant-based proteins which is an exciting and evolving area,” says Johnson. “Kosher cuisine is changing and needs to change, to appeal to a younger generation who place more focus on food security and are more health conscious than earlier genera tions. The world is evolving and kosher food needs to evolve at the same pace.”
The company is still relying heavily on imports like much of the UAE. However, the farm-to-table concept is slowly tak ing shape. Homegrown products can be found around the corner from Bustanica, the world’s largest vertical farm built by Emirates Flight Catering in a joint venture with Crop One Holdings, Inc.
Kosher Arabia Top Five Popular Products
Chilean Sea Bass
Moroccan Beef Lamb
Chocolate Brownie, which is “totally deli cious” says Johnson
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FROM WASTE TO WISDOM
LSG Group is in the first stages of analyzing what comes back in the trolleys with the help of photography and artificial intelligenceby RICK LUNDSTROM
Airlines and caterers have been examining food trolleys for years, looking for clues to save weight and cut back on wasted food.
Now, LSG Group has taken a new approach with a set of tools that take digital photos of returning trolleys and analyze the uneaten meal items with the help of AI. The industry got one of the initial looks at the practice at the LSG Group stand in Hamburg this past June, and several airline customers have signed up since to trial the new tool.
Perhaps there will be a time in the not-too-distant future that Robin Sippel, Head of Digital Agenda, and his team at LSG Group, will be able to solve mysteries like a consistently uneaten serving of chocolate mousse.
That, and other mysteries may be solved only after time and gathering more data. And so far, LSG Group has been photographing uneaten airline food with an eye on spot ting trends that can one day be used to solve problems.
Several pilots with airlines were run and have proven that the approach works. “We can say that we are now market ready with the solution, of course we will constantly enhance it to get more and more insights over time,” states Sippel.
With the help of artificial intelligence, LSG Group is seeking to learn what passengers like and don’t like about the food offered on board. The company has long pursued the goal of learning more, but the additional activity is now taking place with a goal of customizing recommendations for improvement.
For now, the LSG Group is calling the process Consump tion Analytics. It has been developed by the company’s recently extended Digital Agenda department with a mission to “use new technology to solve problems that have not been solved in the old-fashioned ways,” says Sippel.
The Consumption Analytics program began simply in 2019 with interns working in the Digital Agenda depart ment, taking pictures of returning meal trays with a mobile phone. After some initial testing and development, Sippel says the group recognized early on that there was value in the process. The following year, the company invested in its first proprietary camera system and put it to work in
the LSG Sky Chefs kitchens for further testing. The system has been developed using a stationary camera that can photograph incoming tray sets at a rate of about one every three seconds and can be easily moved from place to place.
The pictures are sent to the LSG Group’s Data Platform, where artificial intelligence (AI) is trained to identify the individual meals of every airline and flight. The technology is able to read out of the image what has been fully eaten, partially eaten and what has been left untouched – without further human input and even if a tray is jumbled. With additional, detailed data about meals, weight, flights and passengers, the insights can be significantly enhanced. So far, the company has taken more than one million pictures of food returning to the caterers.
LSG Group has worked with three airline customers so far. In one test, the airline identified a consistently uneaten tomato that caused meal plan ners to make a change in the menu preparation.
While it may be understandable that a less-than-fresh looking tomato slice may go uneaten, a consistently untouched serving of chocolate mousse which analysis found on one flight was more baffling. After noting the consistently returned dessert item and discussing it with the airline and catering chefs, Sippel said there still was no clear explanation.
But whether it is tomatoes or chocolate mousse, learning more about the mountain of food that is wasted is a worthy task, especially when airlines are facing increased scrutiny
in their onboard products from a public concerned about sustainability. At the same time, the new data insights can lead to a more customized, passenger-centric food offer ing – and hence to a greater Net Promoter Score (NPS).
“We are in the kitchen and we see the waste that is disposed,” says Sippel. “And if you see it, It is kind of heartbreaking that that much food is actually wasted.”
To get a better handle on the issue, Sippel says much more needs to be done beyond occasional spot checks on an irregular basis. A way of monitoring the returned trolleys needs to be efficient and able to detect food quality issues and consumption trends. Cutting back on food waste is, in itself a worthy venture. But learning what does not get consumed can lead airlines to make more practical decisions that could bring about weight savings and more satisfied passengers. Sippel’s team has calculated at anywhere between 40 and 100 kilograms per aircraft could be trimmed with an effective analysis.
One of the partial solutions is taking place through regulations that require airlines to use fewer disposable products onboard. Meals coming back in rotable tableware can be more thoroughly analyzed and often requires moving just a few obstructions to get a clear picture.
“Everything that is thrown away on the plane, right in the bin (on the aircraft), that is information, basically,” Sippel adds. “And the more we get back in the trolley and not in a bin, the more we can analyze, and the better we can customize food concepts in the future.”
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Spreading the culinary word
The Singapore food scene is expanding through a new collaboration with SATS and local restaurateursby RICK LUNDSTROM
Around any corner in Singapore, there is food in a dizzying variety of flavors and cuisines enjoyed by locals throughout the day and well into the balmy night.
The city-state’s statistical trackers say Singapore had more than 14,000 food stalls in 2021. They are in coffeeshops, food courts, canteens, private markets and hawker centers feeding a city on the go where any spare moment can be used as mealtime.
Singapore hawker centers are large food courts with stalls around the perimeter serving everything from full meals to snacks and drinks. There are local dishes as well as flavors from across the world, including Chinese, Malay, Indian, and western.
With that much variety and ability to please diners, it would be neglectful not to mine the variety for innovation and export the concepts to other countries; and also use it to enrich the brands of the country and its many food producers.
SATS has been doing just that for nearly a year, when it announced its efforts to take brands regional through a program called FoodFlix. For the airline caterer, the program is a win-win as it connects SATS with small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).
“Through FoodFlix, these companies are able to leverage SATS’ network, customer base, large-batch production capabilities and innovations to expand their product portfolios and launch them into new markets and segments, including aviation catering,” says Goh Siang Han, Chief Operating Officer of Singapore Food Solutions, SATS Ltd.
Other institutions are involved in the preservation of hawker cuisine as well. Deeply intertwined in the Singapore’s makeup, hawker stalls were added to the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in December 2020. More than S$3 million (US$2.16 million) in support from Singapore’s Economic
Development Board has been commit ted to create and scale new business ventures with strong global potential.
FoodFlix started in November of last year with an initial group of a dozen food companies. Some, like the Beach Road Prawn Noodle House and Killiney Group Hainanese coffee shop, have been around for 100 years. Bismillah Biryani Restaurant opened as a simple coffee shop stall in 2003 and later moved to Dunlop Street in the city’s Little India. It received a Michelin Bib Gourmand for four straight years from 2016 to 2019.
Not only is the FoodFlix program accelerating the development of the brands in other regions, but they are also a source of inspiration for the many customers of SATS that fly out of Changi Airport.
“Through FoodFlix, we would also like to enhance our solutions for our airline customers for a more satisfying passenger experience by offering branded products,” says Siang Han.
One example of the successful use of hawker concepts in the aircraft galley happened on Singapore Airlines with its Singapore Showcase. For two months hawker brand partners were
featured on the menus of First Class and Business Class on selected flights from Singapore. Food products from Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice, Qiu Lian Ban Mee, Song Fa Bak Kut Teh and Beach Road Prawn Noodle House and Kok Kee Wanton Noodle each had their time in the front cabin
SATS’ ready-to-eat meals and handheld snacks capabilities are positioned for airline buy-on-board programs, and the company plans to expand this to FoodFlix’s partners in the future, developing products for buy-on-board programs.
SATS’ operations have branched out much further from airline food service over the years. The company has developed a line of ready-to-eat meals for retail sales called The Travelling Spoon. Last year, SATS also partnered Keng Eng Kee Seafood to create branded products for sale in supermarkets.
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When dreams become reality
that stores easily and ergonomically in the galley
A look at airasia’s Santan Restaurant: Tony Fernandes’ childhood dreamby JEREMY CLARK — Asia Correspondent
Most entrepreneurs have a story about childhood dreams that often get side-lined in the whirlwinds that carry them forward in directions they could not have imagined.
Curiously, at least from my perspec tive, running a restaurant, café or bar is often on that list. Having opened and run countless such operations both for myself, and for my clients over the years and knowing just how hard that can be, I often wonder what the attraction is. And yet, opening a restaurant still ranks as one of the most popular Things-I-Want-To-Do.
AirAsia’s CEO Tony Fernandes shares the dream as well. Having a restaurant was something he always wanted to
do – but how do you fit that into your role while running an airline? Well, strange as it may seem, the answer for him was to open restaurants with offerings modeled on dishes similar to what passengers might find onboard, with focus on some of the most popular passenger choices. Clearly not fazed by the traditional bad press that, despite all our best efforts, airline food can suffer, Fernandes started the airasia’s Santan Café and Restaurant brand with its direct links to AirAsia as the pull.
To find out exactly how this is going, I met with Vichitra Nades, of AirAsia Communications and Tek Shern Mok, Santan Product Innovation, at a couple of the outlets to find out more.
Nades explained to me that, “Santan is synonymous with the AirAsia name and with our main base in Kuala Lumpur, we’re the world’s first restaurant brand to serve a beloved Malaysian dish — the classic Nasi Lemak, both inflight and on ground.”
Loyal passengers have their favorites, she says, adding, “In the last 20 years,
we’ve built a steady fan-base with our classic local dishes like Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak and Uncle Chin’s Chicken Rice. Many of Santan restaurant visitors tell us that our in-flight meals were a key reason they chose to fly with AirAsia, and are thrilled that we’ve now opened up outlets for a great value, fast food dining experience.”
The popularity of Santan dishes is clear. Nasi Lemak – a traditional Malaysian rice-based dish cooked in fragrant coconut milk infused with herbs and spices, served with sambal, and a dried fish and peanuts garnish – has earned itself legendary status among AirAsia passengers so this was obviously going to be the core product for the café/restaurants.
With nine restaurants and three cafe outlets currently (and more than 80 planned for the Kuala Lumpur area), the project is still in its early development.
When it launched, the restaurant’s first challenge was the pandemic.
“As dining-in was prohibited for close to two years, we jumped on the
food delivery bandwagon which was seeing a huge surge at the time. Santan meals were sold on our airasia Super App and other platforms, and fans of our popular dishes became our loyal customers through there,” Nades says.
“In 2021, airasia Ride was launched, further strengthening our offerings as a one-stop-platform and this allowed us to reach more customers, with better promotions and deals.”
There are plans to extend the concept nationally and then regionally.
The original was built around the food delivery platform but now 70 per cent of product is consumed as dine-in.
The latest manifestation of the core product, dubbed ‘Nasi Lemak On-TheGo’ features packaging that is designed for use onboard the aircraft, as take-away or delivery, and as dine-in. Clever, eco-friendly cardboard packaging that stores easily and ergonomically in the galley with an easy-to-use function and
ability to open up and stand on a table, removing the need for plates or baskets.
Referring back to the inflight service, Nades says, “We’re always striving to better ourselves in every way and ensuring our customers enjoy the best quality of food at an inexpensive price. Our Nasi Lemak has sold over 20 million packets and counting and the team still works on improvements to recipe, and packaging. Our Santan R&D team are working on innovating and curating current menus whilst looking into new variations. AirAsia will always be a ‘no-frills’ brand but that said, Santan offerings won’t compromise on taste and quality. Low cost with AirAsia doesn’t mean low service.”
When asked specifically about the limited range available for pre-purchase on AirAsia, Mok says, “I have to balance popularity with variety and all at the lowest possible cost. We found the take-up rate did not change with
a wider choice range so we keep it to the favorites and rotate them, with occasional new products in the mix.”
Mok’s challenges, like most in the airline catering sector, center around the value proposition and convincing opera tors that the cost of providing good food and service delivers a multiple return. The problem is always that this return is not direct, it is earned over time. I do not believe Emirates expects to see a $2 billion immediate return on its recently announced F&B improvements program, but the long term benefits are clear.
For Mok, it is compounded by the need to keep the booking process quick and simple. The current meal choice range on AirAsia is limited, but the most popular dishes are also available at the outlets - which in turn feature a wider range of choices such as the ‘Nasi Lemak On-The-Go’ and most recently, ‘Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak Ice Cream’. It is very rare, and an example of Fernandes’ entrepreneurial mind, for an airline to build its own “brand” around its food options. The Santan Restaurant as a brand is of importance to the airline which keeps the simplicity of its offerings as a running theme.
“For now, our cafes are styled in a simplistic and comforting design. When our patrons visit us, be it in a Santan Restaurant or Cafe, we want them to feel at home, and we want our food to be the main highlight. In the future as we slowly expand internationally, the team will look into how we can customise our designs to suit the local culture.”
Wowing with wellness
The latest in onboard amenities have put comfort, wellbeing and sustainability at the forefront of air travelby RACHEL DEBLING
New designs inspired by traditional Turkish motifs have helped to reinvigorate these kits by Bayart Innovations
There’s something exciting in the air. From America to Australia, thousands of aircraft are taking to the skies, filled to the brim with passengers eager for new adventures and experiences. The first step in their journeys? These new kits, comfort items and inflight ame nities that welcome them and ensure that their travels are com fortable and luxurious, all while looking out for Mother Earth.
Bayart Innovations – Turkish Airlines long-haul Economy Class kit
A longtime partner of the Turkish Airlines, Bayart Innova tions has once again collaborated with the airline to provide top-notch comfort to their long-haul Economy passengers.
Fresh new designs inspired by traditional Turkish motifs have helped to reinvigorate these kits, which have been offered by Bayart since 2019. Each pouch contains an eye mask, slippers, dental kit, lip balm from cosmet ics company Human+Kind, earplugs and socks.
“We believe that these items upgrade the quality of the passenger journey and their inflight experience,” explains Jean-Guillaume Pollet, Bayart’s CEO. “We are also proud to contribute to the long-standing sustainability targets of Turkish Airlines thanks to these reusable pouches and inner items adjusted to reduce plastic consumption.”
To learn more, visit bayart-innovations.com.
Buzz – American Airlines sleeping suit
Pajama and loungewear company Recliner was tapped by Buzz to create an eco-friendly option for American Airlines which, according to the amenities company, “soars above the rest.”
Each sleepsuit is thoughtfully designed and made from a dozen recycled bottles and combined with breathable
cotton, resulting in 70 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regularly produced by synthetic fibers.
Spokespersons for Buzz explain that the innovative design and sustainability practices applied to this inflight offering have helped American Airlines take “a giant step forward in terms of comfort over the previous program.” These breathable, flexible and well-fitting sets lend well to an enjoyable and relaxing flight, no matter how long the trip.
As noted by Buzz, they have “streamlined airflow and optimized movement to wind up with the best sleep suit on earth – or in the air.”
Read more about Buzz’s sustainability efforts and other eco-minded products by visiting buzzproducts.com
Each American Airlines sleepsuit is thoughtfully designed and made from a dozen recycled bottles along with breathable cotton
Plane Talking Products’ plasticfree kit uses bamboo, organic cotton and other bio-based materials and innovations
Plane Talking Products –Plastic-free amenity kit
The inflight experts at Plane Talking Products – PTP for short – have been watching the changes in air traveler prefer ences over the years and have noticed a definite shift towards a range of post-pandemic products that have sustainability at their core as well as the mental and physical wellbeing of the passenger. Airlines, though still concerned with hygiene and cleanliness, have now reverted to the comfort products that put their customers’ welfare at the forefront.
“Airlines are recognizing that, for a lot of people, flying may have become a more stressful and anxious experi ence,” notes product designer Bryony Koziol. “Therefore, we are being asked to provide relaxing sprays, balms and mists, in addition to reminders of home to offer the passenger something familiar and reassuring – perhaps a local brand or a nod to local design touches.”
The environment is also still top of mind for both airlines and their passengers, which is why PTP launched a 100 percent plastic-free amenity kit earlier this year. In fact, sustainability is one of the company’s top priorities.
“Using a combination of bamboo, organic cotton and other bio-based materials and innovations, we’ve worked to remove every element of plastic, including the ‘hidden’ aspects that frequently get forgotten – like zippers, tags and toothbrush bristles,” says Koziol. “In addition, we’ve been looking at other innovations using more eco-friendly materials such as fabrics made from coconut husk, pine
The designs of apparel brand Someone Somewhere, featured in FORMIA’s recent Delta launch, meld traditional handicrafts with innovation
apple leaves and cork. We’re also researching alternatives to plastics made from seaweed and coffee grounds.”
As proof of its commitment, PTP is one of the found ing members of the Aviation Sustainability Forum, a move that owner and managing director Alison Wells says demonstrates their commitment to working with industry stakeholders to drive significant and per manent change in how the inflight sector works.
“As a small business, we recognize that in ourselves we have minimal impact on the planet,” explains Wells. “However, the products we supply to all corners of the globe can really make a difference. That is why we are focusing so much time and effort on having sustainable alternatives for our customers, and we encourage them to look at all aspects of the supply chain when taking procurement decisions.”
Head to planetalking.net to learn more about what PTP has on the horizon.
FORMIA – Delta One amenity kit, JetBlue Economy Class kit and more
Now celebrating its 20th year in operation, FORMIA is marking the occasion with releases for some of the world’s most high-end airlines that meet and surpass the standards they have been adhering to for decades.
As has always been its M.O., intelligent design and added value are center stage in FORMIA’s launches. Their awardwinning collaboration with Qatar Airways brought French perfumer Diptyque on board the carrier for the first time, bestowing passengers with wellness-focused skincare products both in cabin and in Qatar’s lounges. The bags also contain 100-percent recycled PET eye masks and socks, a move that brings “conscious luxury” to the skies, according to FORMIA.
Another FORMIA partnership, this time with Delta Air Lines, brings the Mexican brand Someone Somewhere to the airline’s Delta One passengers in
a program that proves “even premium products can deliver cultural, economic and social impact.”
The designs of apparel brand Someone Somewhere meld traditional handicrafts with innovation while aiding the predominantly female artisans that they work with to become independent income earners and community leaders. This partnership has already created hundreds of jobs for citizens in five of Mexico’s most vulnerable states. As a bonus, travelers can scan the QR code on the kits’ label to “meet” the artisan who helped shape their inflight amenities.
But that’s not where FORMIA’s socially and environmentally conscious efforts end. Last year, the company delivered on its pledge of fashioning a more sustainable air travel experience with its JetBlue Economy Class kits, contained in pouches made from non-toxic platinum silicon. Functional and reusable, the bags not only house a series of amenities but can be later used to keep food fresh longer, extending the life of the gift and further reducing its impact on the environment.
WESSCO – JetBlue Mint amenity kit,
LATAM Business Class kit, and more Petros Sakkis, WESSCO’s chief marketing officer, admits what we all know: the last few years have been tumultuous for air travel.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, our world was turned upside down,” he explains. “Many of us in the industry shifted quickly to hygiene brands and PPE, which became the lifeline for our industry.” TravelShield, a product line that the company invested in early in the pandemic, catered to airline require ments and helped WESSCO’s customers and their passengers travel safely and worry-free. American Airlines, United, Copa and other carriers quickly brought the solution on board.
Amenities are of course still the backbone of WESSCO’s business model, with a strong emphasis on sustainability. A collaboration with wellness curator Wanderfuel in 2019
WESSCO recently formed a partnership with Therabody, a company well-known for its percussive therapy devices
“The kits have been created from recycled and natural materials wherever feasible and feature skincare products from Brazilian natural brand Feito Cosmetics, in another nod to the airline’s Latin American roots.”
WESSCO has maintained its longstanding relation ship with natural beauty brand L’Occitane for more than 20 years, with launches spanning from Delta Air Lines to the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
“Since then, we have worked with L’Occitane again and again as they became one of the mainstays in our industry,” says Sakkis. Other cosmetic and skincare partnerships include KORRES, a brand “dedicated to harnessing the remarkable biodiversity of the Greek flora,” for programs found on board around the world, including Etihad Airways, Aeroméxico, and Air Europa.
resulted in a collection of kits for JetBlue’s Mint cabin and numerous awards for the company. And last year, WESSCO and LATAM worked together to deliver an environmentally conscious amenity kit to the airline’s Business Class passengers.
On the partnership, Sakkis explained, “We are very proud of the Business Class amenity kits we have launched with LATAM over the last year, which highlight LATAM’s unique Latin American identity in a modern and relevant way, showcasing the work of exceptional artists from many of the countries to which LATAM flies.
Post-pandemic, a partnership with Therabody, a company well-known for its percussive therapy devices, has Sakkis and the rest of the WESSCO team excited for what’s to come.
“The integrated program we are building with Therabody is exactly the type of program we aspire to cre ate – one that will truly improve the total travel experience, enhancing passengers’ physical and mental states over the course of their journey,” he notes. “We are confident that this will be a gamechanger for travel wellness and will become another industry mainstay over time.”
Learn more about all that WESSCO has in store by visiting wessco.net.
H‘ 's a family affair
Family-owned since 1985
FORMIA is celebrating two decades of serving the airline industry with visionary, custom-made concepts that focus on conscious design. Since it first entered the onboard industry in 2002, the company has been proud to collaborate with more than 50 airlines and 130 brand partners.
Twenty years since its inception, FORMIA is celebrating in a big way by further turning its attention to sustainability and refershing its corporate identity, including website and imagery
“We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone anniversary and are immensely proud of the past 20 years of curating meaningful moments for millions of passengers worldwide,” says Roland Grohmann, CEO and Managing Partner of FORMIA. “As we look to the future, our focus is on continuously serving our airline customers in the most relevant and valuable way possible, and ultimately, to drive positive change for our planet and our communities through tangible, responsible improve ments and solutions which pave the way forward for our industry.”
The company’s history has been as internationally inspired as its offerings. Founded in Scandinavia, FORMIA eventually moved to establish its headquarters in Asia before expanding across the continent and into the Middle East, Europe, North America and Latin America. As of 2022, FORMIA boasts offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bangkok, Dubai and New York, a reach that has helped the company become the global industry leader it is today.
As part of the celebrations marking its emerald anniversary, FORMIA has launched a new website in conjunction with its revamped corporate identity. Both aspects of the brand showcase the organization’s longstanding reputation as an expert in airline amenity kits, cosmetics and comfort items, along with its commitment to revolutionizing the industry with its trend research and analysis platform. The diversity reflected in FORMIA’s global team is the engine that drives their passion
as they continuously focus on adding value to the passenger experience.
FORMIA’s refreshed brand identity is echoed on its new website, which the company notes was “developed to reflect the changing world and evolutions in passenger needs and requirements, and to articulate a renewed purpose to their airline customers, brand partners, suppliers and the end consumer.”
Regarding their purpose, FORMIA has deemed “curating meaningful moments” its M.O., a motto that was born from its belief that this is the center of all positive passenger experiences. In partnership with their suppliers, onboard experts and designers, FORMIA strives to inspire and delight travelers while providing responsibly curated products that satisfy its airline customers’ need for unique and environmentally friendly programs.
On the sustainability front, FORMIA is making waves, as evidenced by the dedicated section of the company’s
website. A commitment to not only help its customers become truly sustainable but the entire inflight service industry at large is at the core of its plan, largely contributed by its partnership with REBEL, experts in quantifying environmental impact. With REBEL’s data, FORMIA is actively working with its customers to reduce the carbon impact of its amenity offerings through initiatives and standards that focus on an increase in sustainable materials, brand partnerships and circular solutions.
In parallel, FORMIA is also reducing its own day-to-day carbon foorprint, with the end goal to become net-zero by 2030.The company intends to continue investing in programs and innovations that will push them toward that objective while at the same time providing added value for its airline customers, brand partners and the passengers who ultimately benefit from their exclusive offerings.
The value game
making air travel an essential part of the entire journey. The concept has been described as refined vision of hospitality that focuses on tailor-made services offered to a wide breadth of consumers.
Passengers will not spend money if the excitement is not there. One of our new drivers for changes should be money well-spent! Partnering with premium brands and offering bundles that can enhance a passenger’s journey could increase sales and revenue. Offer ing more options such as early check in (48 hours before) or remote check in (train stations, etc.), fast-track security, chef curated meals and snacks can help. Technology should be enabling me and other passengers to improve the experience, using options available. Inflight entertainment or airline app should allow me to do other things, too. Finish a Netflix movie, watch an Amazon series episode, or go shopping. Then some can argue that watching movies does not generate any revenue.
In this guest column, Dr. Stathis Kefallonitis, Founder of branding.aero, finds a new breed of passenger has emerged from the pandemic, and airlines better take notice
Our industry has proven to be resilient over and over again after pandemics (COVID-19, SARS, foot-and-mouth) armed conflicts and turmoil around the world.
The problem this time is that customers, in this case passengers, know that they have choice and exercise it with their buying power.
An increasing number of voices call for passengers not to complain, as nothing changes. Instead, they are asked to take their business elsewhere. In other words, stop being loyal. You read that right: Stop being loyal. Loyalty has its advantages but also its costs if one sticks to one airline.
In an industry where loyalty is everything, yet it is not rewarded like before, how can an increasing number of dissatisfied customers come back?
Airlines and airports often say that passengers are used to having things their way. Often, they go as far as saying that passenger complaining behavior is a habit. This usually gets rewarded by frequent flyer miles, flight coupons and other perks.
Just as passenger habits are changing, the airline industry has to change by adapting to the new now. Pioneering a new value proposition airlines can make air travel more attractive.
Eliminating stressors in the journey is perceived as a positive move forward. A rethinking of check-in and security screening processes can add value. Remote and electronic check-in, as well as further use of technology and biometrics, provide useful solutions.
“Augmented hospitality” is another idea that can enhance the value by
Cohesiveness is key in keeping passengers excited and happy. Options offered can be innovative disruptors that make passengers think differently.
Continuity is another important factor that airlines need to invest in. Utilizing existing passenger information (preferences, FFP etc.) and new technology (salesforce, etc.) can establish consistency and ensure a smooth journey by addressing any travel irregularities and disturbances.
Empowering and engaging airline employees is key. Encouraging and recognizing excellence can have a big impact on everything that the passenger sees. Generating a work environment that allows them to grow and be happy increases the likelihood of productivity and employee happiness. We know that happy employees provide a better service and stand a better chance of creating happy passengers.
As travel becomes more complex, airlines and service providers are asked to step up and do more. Innovating is the solution to a successful product and its delivery in an ever-changing world.