Bindu Gopal Rao
Creamy mushroom custard with feta, cheese tart, exotic Asian platter, smoked chicken salad, oats and berry muffins, and mango kombucha. If you thought this reads like a menu at a fine dining restaurant, think again. These are among the 50-plus dishes available as part of the inflight menu aboard India’s low-cost airline Akasa Air. From seasonal treats during festivals like Diwali, Christmas and Eid-ul-Fitr to vegan meal options for wellness-focused passengers, many airlines are keeping their guests engaged. IndiGo recently revamped its onboard menu. “IndiGo’s new offering will allow customers to pre-book from a specially curated menu that includes regional favourites, inspired by the streets and kitchens of India. These meals celebrate India’s rich culinary heritage and diversity,” says a spokesperson of IndiGo. The airline’s new poured beverage service will be available as a combo to those opting for a pre-booked meal as well as purchasing it on board.
Akasa Air has partnered with bespoke functional beverage brand Borécha to become the first Indian airline to offer kombucha (fermented tea). Belson Coutinho, co-founder and chief marketing and experience officer, Akasa Air, says, “India is a melting pot of many cultures, and this reflects in our gastronomical landscape as well. Our new menu, too, reflects this amalgamation of cuisines.”
On Vistara, you will be served Starbucks®India Estates Blend coffee, besides gourmet desserts like chocolate ganache pastry and chocolate or strawberry Swiss roll. Air India serves complimentary meals on board. On advance notice, they also have religious meal plans like Kosher meal, Muslim meal, Jain meal, Asian Hindu meal (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), besides catering to special requirements such as medical and dietary meals as well as those for infants and children. Singapore Airlines has developed a selection of signature dishes.
“The Book the Cook service offers an international selection of dishes to meet varied customer preferences. Suites, first class, business class and premium economy class customers can choose from a selection of meal choices on board SIA’s flights. The meal options are regularly shuffled to include classic American and European favourites, popular dishes from across Asia, and a comprehensive spread of iconic fare from Singapore,” says Chen Sy Yen, general manager, Singapore Airlines.
With sustainability and wellness at the core of any food trend, many airlines are sourcing local ingredients and serving food in biodegradable cutlery.
“The local meal option on all our flights is rooted in creating an authentic Sri Lankan dining experience using heritage recipes and organic local ingredients that are rich in nutrients and wellness properties,” says Maria Sathasivam, manager, product development, Sri Lankan Airlines. According to Masterchef Sanjeev Kapoor, one of the five chefs on the International Culinary Panel for Singapore Airlines, “The ever-changing food palate is keeping the airlines on their toes. Though innovation is essential to create new dishes, tradition and authenticity remain at the core of Indian cuisine.”
Airline food is known to be on the expensive side. One school of thought opines that this is due to intense fare competition that makes airlines offer discounted rates and hence, food becomes an additional income stream. The other reason is the limited supply to airports due to a variety of security reasons.
IndiGo’s ready-to-eat meals are served with a beverage of choice and can be booked in advance or bought for Rs 400. Snacks like nuts, cookies and croissants are available for Rs 200. Akasa’s cafe menu includes a range of beverages that starts at Rs 100. Snacks range between Rs 200 and Rs 350. Desserts like New York cheesecake and vanilla muffins will cost you Rs 375, while pre-booked meals, served with a beverage, are in the price range of Rs 500-Rs 650.
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