7 Surprising Things to Know about Airline Meals

Have you ever sat through a flight wondering how your inflight meals are prepared? Wonder no more. We spoke to Aaron Claxton, Head of Catering at Cathay Pacific, to get the lowdown on 7 fun facts behind wining and dining at 35,000 feet – some just may surprise you.

  1. Inflight dining menus vary for each region

“At Cathay Pacific, we always like to capture the local essence of a destination that we are flying to. As a result, there’s a lot of factors that we take into consideration when we design the inflight menus. This includes taking into account the passenger profile as well as cultural or religious requirements for a particular region. For example, on our flights going to India, we offer an Indian style menu across all courses. Think curries for mains with riata, paratha breads and traditional Indian style deserts. For flights to China, both Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon are very much focused on Chinese cuisine and are very authentic with what we serve on board.”

airline meals

  1. Hundreds of menus are in production at any one time

“Cathay Pacific is a global carrier and so there are often hundreds of menus in the production at any one time. In our Hong Kong catering facility, we can produce up to 140,000 meals a day! We have a different menu for each cabin (First Class, Business, Premium Economy and Economy) and a separate menu for the crew. These menus change every month on long haul flights and weekly on some shorter hauls. As we have a lot of passengers that travel quite frequently on long haul sectors, we believe there is a requirement to switch up the menus quite regularly.”

  1. Certain dishes will almost never make an appearance up in the air

“Ever notice why you don’t see dishes like deep fried fish and chips or battered chicken being served on board? That’s because deep fried foods don’t heat well up in the air. Additionally, due to strict hygiene regulations, oysters are also prohibited.”

cathay meals

  1. Food with sauces and a Bloody Mary is your best bet

“Foods cooked in sauces are always extremely tasty on board and so we tend to include them a lot. With sauce being a form of liquid seasoning, it allows the food to be encapsulated in delicious flavours, herbs and spices. Tomatoes also make a regular appearance because it’s one of those products that maintains its flavour very well, even at 35,000 feet. There’s a reason why so many passengers love to order a Bloody Mary!”

  1. The inflight dining experience is about to get a lot better

“There’s a lot of innovation happening in the aviation space which will have a direct impact on the inflight dining experience. For example, at Cathay Pacific, we are currently working with a high tech cutting edge company developing an innovative cooking method called sous-vide. This technique involves cooking meats and protein dishes slowly in water baths to break down the fibres. The result? You get food that tastes very soft and tender.”


  1. Special meals are on the rise

“Increasingly, passengers are requesting special inflight meal orders, such as vegetarian, vegan and lactose free meals. However, this trend is more about health-conscious passengers making a lifestyle choice, as opposed to requests being made for medical purposes. For that reason, we’ve recently partnered with celebrity chef, Daniel Green, to develop a range of light and clean inflight dining choices for our US routes.”

inflight menu

  1. Luxury dining at 35,000 feet and above comes in all forms

“There’s no shortage of luxury up in the air. At Cathay Pacific, caviar and champagne is a popular offering for our First Class passengers. We also feature luxurious seafood on our menus, like abalone, Boston lobsters and langoustine prawns. Interestingly though, one of our most popular requests in First Class is the classic Beef Burger. For our Business Class passengers, our Wonton Noodles are a signature favourite.”

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