An airline meal tray with bottle of champagne

In Conversation Transcribed: Airline food with Nik Loukas

John Walton: Hello and welcome to Runway Girl Network In Conversation, a deep dive into aviation and the passenger experience. I’m RGN deputy editor John Walton and today I’m in conversation with Nik Loukas from InflightFeed as we talk about all things catering. But first thanks to our sponsor. In Conversation is brought to you by Boltaron, a Simona Company, purveyor of high-performance thermoplastics for tomorrow’s aircraft interiors. Next time you settle into your seat on the airplane and pull the window shade closed, consider the color, thinness and opacity of that material design precisely to keep the sunlight out so you can rest. That’s Boltaron: learn more at boltaron.com. Now Nik, welcome to In Conversation.

Nik Loukas: Thanks for having me, John. I’m very excited to be here today.

Walton: Well, and we’re talking about one of my favorite topics, inflight food. What’s new in the world of what we eat on the plane?

Loukas: Oh, there’s lots happening at the moment. I guess one of the biggest top hot topics is sustainability and we’ll probably delve into that during our conversation.

Walton: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m finding really interesting at the moment as well. You know, just how much can we do in terms of both recycling — in terms of reuse — and then of course in terms of avoiding waste. Let’s break things down a little bit further to start with. It seems to me there’s a real distinction to be made between what low cost carriers are doing in terms of food and then what full service airlines are doing. Let’s start with LCCs: what’s new in that world?

Loukas: With the LCCs, what I’ve seen is there’s a really big push for the design actually of the inflight menu to really entice the passenger as soon as the they’re on the aircraft and they’re rummaging through the seatback and having a look at what’s available. There’s also quite a number of airlines, low cost airlines, that are now moving into the the preorder meal spectrum so to speak. You know, you can preorder now with easyJet, with Ryanair. And predominantly these kind of preorder meals you could only get if you were flying with Austrian or with say KLM who were some of the first to come out with these upgraded meals in economy class. There’s also quite a bit of a competition between on board and airports. And I’m noticing that generally the price points on board aren’t always the best value, but I’m seeing a lot more sort of value deals being offered to passengers to kind of entice them to spend their money on board.

Walton: So what are these new meal types like, the ones that that sort of evolved from the Austrian, KLM kind of model? What does that look like on the plate?

Loukas: Look, when we’re talking LCCs it’s nothing compared to what you’ll get if you’re paying your 15 euros flying with Austrian. I should work in their PR department. I absolutely love the Do & Co preorder meal. I think there’s some of the best high spec, fantastic value meal that you can get, paid for, in economy class. If you flying with easyJet, you’re probably pre-ordering a bacon baguette, so slightly different. But at least you’re getting your first choice. I’m flying with American Airlines, not really an LCC, but they sort of operate an LCC model domestically within the States and I was able to actually preorder a meal with them for a flight in about two and a half weeks time. So it’s quite interesting to see that some of the so-called full service carriers also are doing this as well.

Walton: Yeah, it’s been really interesting for me, being based in Europe to watch the US carriers go very much to the buy-on-board model. Right. I mean not I think since Continental, has anyone offered a full meal on board. Is that right?

Loukas: I’m not familiar with what Continental did back way back…

Walton: I mean it’s a long time ago now, isn’t it? Showing our ages!

Loukas: I know, I know. I remember flying them in ’88 from Melbourne to Honolulu and I still remember the potato gems that I had in my economy class and I was nine years old. No, look, I mean again, these meals in the States, they’re not as fantastic as what you’d get say here in Europe or even in Asia. I think I’ve managed to order like maybe a cheese platter and a salad or a sandwich or something. Delta years ago, years and years ago, I think maybe 2012, 2013 had the Dine Up program, which was… And I think it was created by company called Air Meals if I’m not mistaken.

Loukas: And they were proper meals. But I haven’t seen much about that. I think that was just kind of put to an end a couple of years ago and no one’s really talked about it since. Interestingly enough though, I mean you have airlines like Aircalin and Sri Lankan Airlines who are now offering economy class the option to upgrade their meal and even Malaysia Airlines now in economy class offering to passengers on flights from KL to London. The option to preorder their main meal, their free main meal that they’re going to have in economy class.

Walton: And what does that look like in practice? Is it the business class meal on an economy class tray or is it something entirely different?

Loukas: No, it’s just your standard economy class meal, you know chicken or fish and you basically preorder it before you fly. But it’s only on the KL to LHR flights. And I believe Qantas have also been doing that for a little while with the Snack on Q program that they have. So you can also preorder your main meal in economy class. I could be mistaken, but they’re the only airlines I know of that are offering your premium and economy class to be pre-ordered before you jump on the flight.

Walton: And what’s the benefit of that for the passenger? I mean, how does it work? Do you get served at the same time as they bring out all the special meals so before the trolley starts rolling?

Loukas: I believe so, yes. It guarantees your meal option. I mean, imagine if you’re not a frequent flyer, you’ve zero status and they’ve popped you down that row 105 right near the toilet. By the time the crew get down to you, normally you don’t have an option. So it’s nice for the passenger to be able to have that option. But I think what we’re looking at here is airlines and caterers working together to reduce wastage onboard. Obviously to give people what they want, but at the end of the day it’s the caterer and the airline that are probably benefiting the most here.

Walton: Yeah, no, no, fair enough. Let’s just jump back a bit quickly to the world of LCCs because I’ve noticed this sort of slightly shiny or slightly snazzier menu going on. How do you structure a menu if you’re an LCC? Do you go to your caterer and say I would like X sandwiches, Y paninis and a wild assortment of long-life snacks? How does that process work?

Loukas: Yeah, look, I mean it’s a lengthy process. I think most LCCs are working on their… What are we now… They’re working on their summer menus probably in the next month because they will be coming out sort of April, May next year.

Walton: But that feels very positive and delightful thing to be doing in October. You know, sort of planning for the next warm season.

Loukas: Yes. Yes, exactly. But what they’ll generally do is… I mean I think right now I could be misquoting Ryanair here, but I believe that they once tweeted that they were one of the biggest sellers of ham and cheese paninis in Europe. I’m not sure if that’s true or not. But anyway, basically look what an airline will do is they will work with their inflight catering concessionaire, whoever they’re dealing with. You know there’s a couple in the industry, there’s three or four I can think of right away here in Europe. And they will work with their inflight caterer to kind of give them the specs that they’re looking for. So the price point for each of the items, they’ll look at their previous sales history. They will cull products that are not selling well, they’ll probably keep the ones that are selling well and maybe even increase the loadings of those on the aircraft if they’re sort of running out of stock because a lot of airlines are now tracking. The crew can even tell the airline that a particular product was a missed sale so to speak.

Loukas: So they’ll work with the caterer over their price points. They’ll do their taste testing, they’ll do a couple of menu presentations and then they’ll decide on the final product. Most of the time the products, they’re either looking at what the bestsellers are in what you and I are buying at the supermarket, perhaps, like the sort of the top 10 SKUs.

Loukas: Otherwise they also get, I mean, I hear from airline buyers, I mean inflight catering buyers from airlines and also caterers that they’re having a lot of people that are pitching their products to them all the time. So you might find that they might trial a product and then decide that that doesn’t work so they kind of de-list it. It’s quite interesting to see how they operate and there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes when you’re sitting there at 35,000 feet, you don’t really think about all these things that are going on. But there’s a big process and that takes a really long time and I sort of understand why they have the price points that they do. At the same time, I also think there’s a lot of airlines that perhaps could be offering us better value for money as well.

Walton: Yeah, I mean, and what does that better value for money look like to you? Is it better things for the existing money or is it just simply cheaper stuff?

Loukas: I think better quality in the product, but that’s just me. I mean I flew with Scoot for example from Athens to Singapore last year, and a pre-order meal on their flight was 35 euros. And for that price I got one hot meal and a drink and a little chocolate snack bar in the first service. And the second service I was handed a vegetarian panini. Now, to me that doesn’t really seem like good value at all. I think about the Do & Co meal, that I paid less than half what I paid with Scoot, and I definitely got value in that meal and a much better passenger experience as well. I think things like that perhaps probably leave a bad taste in passengers’ mouth. I don’t know, for me anyway it was quite disappointing. Other people may think it’s quite acceptable, but I also understand that an aircraft has limited space in the galleys and they’ve got to get the margins that they need on the products that they’ve got in those carts.

Walton: Yeah, it’s fascinating to hear you say that. You know, last time I flew Scoot it was, oh a good few years ago now. But I flew in economy from Sydney to Singapore. That sort of actually quite nice sort of long afternoon flight and I thought the food was pretty good and relatively well priced. So they’ve obviously changed up their model. I mean it wasn’t anything super gourmet. But it was well thought out in terms of the sort of food that you put on the plane. So it was a really nice braised chicken, a really flavorful sauce with some little, like, mini eggs, I’m assuming they were either quail eggs or sort of not really quail eggs, but sort of a chicken egg reformed into a thing that looks like a quail egg or something.

Loukas: Fancy.

Walton: Yeah, it was super good. So that’s really interesting that they’ve gone well not exactly downmarket but they’ve been sort of playing the idiot with pricing. Because I’m sorry, 35, did you say $35, Sing dollars?

Loukas: 35 euros.

Walton: 35 euros? Yeah. Well, yeah, nah.

Loukas: It’s following what Norwegian have been doing. And you know, I again, I don’t think Norwegian or Scoot offer the passenger a great… I think it’s a basic dining experience that you pay a lot for and a lot of people decide to go without. And I just kind of think, “Well if I was the airline, I’d be trying to… If it was my airline, I’d be trying to offer better value because at the end of the day you’re going to get more sales.” But you know, maybe they don’t have the room for it. And, and like I said before, they’ve got to take what they can get.

Walton: Yeah. So if they’re not doing a great job, who is in the LCC world?

Loukas: LCC world, who’s doing great? I love Pegasus. The Turkish-based LCC. Again, they work with Do & Co, And have been for years, but they have a scaled down version of what you will get on Austrian. I think on board you can pay about 10 or 11 Euro for a similar meal to the Austrian kind of schnitzel that’s quite famous.

Walton: Oh, the famous schnitzel. Yep.

Loukas: Yes, yes. And you know, you can even get it on board. You can preorder it. I think if you preorder, they give you about 20% off. Very good value for money. But again, it’s Turkey so you know you’re going to get good value there. Other LCCs that I think sort of doing well, I saw some… Well, maybe not really an LCC, but Air Europa had these bao buns on board last year, which I thought was really interesting. Because again, it’s not something that you think about at 35,000 feet: I’m going to have like a bao bun or even like the sushi that Pegasus have as well.

Loukas: Interestingly enough with the sushi, they’ll only do it on flights ex-Turkey because they need to maintain the freshness and they obviously don’t want to double cater their flights and have people sick on the way back into Turkey having sushi on a plane all day. That sort of stuff is, you know when you see meals like that on LCC, you kind of think, “Gosh, I wish some of the other guys didn’t… Like put profits aside and really thought about the passenger experience and what they can do.” One other airline, interestingly enough, not really an LCC, but you know Swiss out of Geneva. I don’t know if you’ve, have you flown with them out of Geneva before?

Walton: Yeah.

Loukas: Have you sampled the inflight menu?

Walton: No, I haven’t. It’s always been that sort of flight that’s slightly too short for me to bother.

Loukas: Ah, okay. So I sampled it in March this year, first time. And I think it had been flying for a little while. I can’t remember when they launched. Because I was working in the industry up until two years ago and I sort of stopped. So I lose track who’s doing what. But they did have a fondue, they took it off. Unfortunately I never got to try it. But they have also one of the best buy-on-board menus I’ve ever seen in Europe. Really high quality product in collaboration with one of the supermarkets here, Globus. Well priced for Swiss prices.

Loukas: I mean that’s not going to be the cheapest buy-on-board that you’re going to come across, but you’re getting really good quality product. And I was really happy with what I had on board. I had a little cheese and sort of like a little tapas platter. And I got to take home with me the wooden platter, which had a Swiss aircraft sort of etched into it. Really nice and to be able to take something home like that also and have that memory of the flight. And every time I looked at it in the kitchen, I kind of think, “Oh nice, I remember that flight.”

Walton: Yeah. That reminds me of, so I was flying Finnair I think late last year it was, out of Japan. And this was in business class, but they had the starter was presented in this really gorgeous, almost balsa wood box, which absolutely you’re supposed to take with you. And it’s now sitting in my desk holding pencils. Right. But every time I open it, “I think, oh yeah, I remember that flight.” You know? And it’s that sort of feeling of positivity towards the airline.

Loukas: So did the crew, did the crew let you take it home or did you just kind of slip it into your bag?

Walton: Oh, I asked, I was like, “Can I take this with me?” And they said, “Yes. Absolutely.” Yeah. Yeah. It’s been this… It’s obviously a sort of thing that could either be very easily disposed of slash burned slash recycled or just taken home with you. But it’s really good. Speaking of Japan, have you ever flown Peach?

Loukas: Yes, I have actually. And that’s another, you’ve just, yes. So there’s, there’s another LCC that does buy-on-board really well. I loved flying with them, but it was about, oh gosh, about four years ago now.

Walton: Yeah. What I love about them is that they’re Osaka-based and Osaka is sort of Japan’s, well, one of Japan’s many sort of foodie capitals. Right. But in particular it’s a street food capital and that’s kind of thing that goes really well on a plane. So you’ve got things like okonomiyaki, which are the savory pancakes, which actually reheat really well. And they have in a very sort of traditional Japanese way, they have time-limited ones, that will have the spring okonomiyaki, the summer okonomiyaki and so on.

Walton: They also the takoyaki, which is the sort of octopus in dough, which are very moreish. But also they’re really smart because they have 50 different things you can buy that are peach flavored, whether that’s a peach chu-hi. So it was like a sort of a peach alcopop. Or a peach Danish or they have a special limited edition Cocoro? Cororo? These sort of almost sort of exploding gummy sweets, which are sort of only just jellified liquid. And they’re just, it’s so, A), it’s a kind of thing you can’t get anywhere else. And if you enjoy the peach flavor, it’s fantastic. But it’s also so well done with the branding that the… It’s always really fascinated me how well they do it.

Loukas: Oh, I still remember my flight. And when you were just talking about the okonomiyaki, I believe that was with the restaurant chain Chibo, it may have changed by now. I’m not sure, but I know that they’ve partnered up with them and they had done quite a bit of testing in order to get that right for in-flight. And I remember having, I think it was winter, so the peach that wasn’t on board, but I had a peach… Like a pink or purple eclair or something. Yeah, again, you’ve just taken me down memory lane actually though. That was one of the nicest buy-on-board LCC experiences I’ve had. Definitely in the top three.

Walton: Look, I mean Japan does a lot of things around travel really well, so perhaps it’s unexpected or perhaps it’s not unexpected, but moving across the world again and sort of edging slightly further towards the full service carrier side of things, what’s your thoughts on the British Airways menu now that that’s had a year or so to bed down?

Loukas: You know, I still haven’t flown them and I’m finally going to fly them, I think in about two weeks. I’m only doing a Zurich-London, but I booked up the front just in order to to see what they’re serving in business class. And I’ve seen so many photos of the new Do & Co meals. I was quite curious to check them out. I need to take a flight with them long-haul. I think if I’m correct, I think they were concentrating at the front of the aircraft first and then going to move down to the economy.

Loukas: I’m not sure if the economy has actually launched yet or if they’ve made many changes. Because I know that the pre-order meals and upgrade meals in economy class is still pretty much the same. But from what I’ve seen online, it’s sort of 50/50, a lot of people in economy saying it’s great. That I see full, I see big meal trays, which you know, it’s starting to sort of disappear and the trays are getting smaller and smaller. And I see a lot of snacks and a lot of food on the tray. But then I also see other people complaining. So one airline that I’d really like to jump on soon to check out in economy.

Walton: Yeah. I mean, so on the Europe side of things, so I mean obviously they’ve got the almost entirely different service concepts in Europe and then on long-haul. So I’ve been flying for various reasons, a lot of British Airways. Like it seems like every time I have to fly long-haul I have to go through London at the moment. And so I’ve been flying it a lot. So it was a huge step up from the old meal concept in Club Europe. Right, so the European business that was just atrocious. I mean it was just awful. This one is a lot better and the basic concept is you get a little pot of a sort of saladystartery thing. The quality and inventiveness has been going down a bit. So like it started off being like an interesting, not just like a of couscous or a pot of hummus with nothing to dip the hummus in, right?

Walton: And then main course usually chilled salad plate thing. But actually really well done, like they’re doing a lot of ploughman’s lunch, which is that sort of British wedge of cheese, hunk of ham, maybe a half a scotch egg and some salad. And then actually a really good little dessert pot of some form. Their tiramisu is actually remarkably good, especially if you get them to brew a hot and strong cup of coffee with it. That works really well.

Walton: But I actually, I almost prefer their buy-on-board food down the back. That Marks and Spencer menu that they put together what is now a year or so ago, actually really interesting. If you have a chance, I highly recommend that — they have every sort of autumn winter period they have a sort of Christmas Turkey sandwich. That is absolutely fantastic. Always. I haven’t had this year’s yet, but absolutely something to take a look at. And sort of the kinds of things that grownups still love and kids definitely love. So like Percy Pig, they’re sort of very classic Marks and Spencer notionally strawberry flavored gummy pig. Yeah, the kind of things that you would never buy it on a normal day, but if you see it on an inflight menu, you would absolutely go for it. Right.

Loukas: It’s funny that you mentioned the Percy Pigs, because I get emails from people all the time as you would with queries about, “Oh I had this on the flight and can you find out what it was?” And one of the things was that they’d had this lolly and they didn’t know what it was and they sent me perhaps, maybe a picture or… No, they, they told me what flight they were on and they said, “Can you find out what that lolly was that was served to us on this particular flight?” And I said, “Sure, I’ll see what I can do.”

Loukas: And I reached out to someone that I knew there and within about a week I got an answer back saying it was some Percy Pig, something or other, and then this person went online and bought a whole lot of them and sent me an email saying, “Thanks so much. It was a surprise for someone and yada yada.” And I just thought, geez, it’s so funny we sort of get attached to particular things in-flight. I just wonder though if the crew on my flight and a couple of weeks are going to let me buy anything off the buy-on-board menu. Even if I’m up front.

Walton: Yes they do. I can own 100% confirm it. That has allowed. Because their business champagne is so terrible that if I’m feeling flush in terms of frequent flyer miles, I will spend frequent flyer miles on the little half bottle of economy class champagne. It’s a Cattier or a Pannier something rather than the Nicolas Feuillatte, which I much prefer and it’s usually cold unlike the business class one, which is sort of only as cold as the galley has been.

Loukas: Okay, thank you for the tip. I’m going to do that then on my upcoming flight.

Walton: Yeah, a giant pile of Christmas sandwiches and Percy Pigs. So we not even, we started touching on the full service side of things as well. I think one of the biggest things in recent years for me was when Qantas kind of went to that one big main course concept. Which I kind of liked as an idea, but also it does cut down some of the food as inflight entertainment factor. Right. If you just have one thing to unwrap and take the lid off, that’s less exciting, I feel, that there’s sort of fifteen things to unwrap and take the lid off. What’s your take on that?

Loukas: Yes. I’m 100% with you on that. Look it’s interesting because there’s so many airlines doing this or mimicking this service. So Qantas started and then I think LATAM on flights over seven hours have started doing something similar. Condor, German airline Condor, have started using the same tray that LATAM are using for their sort of preorder meals. I heard from friends that when it first launched at Qantas, the crew were complaining because they had to do a lot more work and their backs were hurting.

Walton: Wait why? I mean I wouldn’t… My assumption would have been that it’s either less or the same given that the tray’s predone. What’s going on?

Loukas: There’s apparently a lot more bending, getting up and down a lot more handing out things. And it was kind of initially in the start it was a bit kind of messy. I think that’s kind of subsided now. But look, they’re not… Like, Qantas kicked it off. I think, and don’t quote me on this, but I know Saudia were working on something similar in economy class and Etihad also have that sort of same bigger main meal, less side dishes, less fresh options. The problem I have with the Etihad concept is that I think they also used it as a cost cutting measure and removed probably too much food. And you know you don’t really get anything sort of fresh, so to speak, to eat.

Loukas: Interestingly enough, in a couple of weeks I’m flying Delta and I think on the 5th of November they launched a similar concept to what Qantas and co are all doing in economy. Bigger main choice, better choices, main meal options in economy class, welcome drinks or after take off drinks I should say for economy class. So I’m looking forward to seeing how that works on Delta, and I’m not doing it on the launch day. I decided to book the flight I think two days later. I’ve just kind of thought, well there might be some… They may delay it. I don’t know. And it’s better just to sort of go a few days later and see how it goes.

Walton: Yeah, no, I was exactly the same way. I actually just got back from Toronto on British Airways’ new A350 and I’m actually really glad that I didn’t go on the first flight. Just because it’s good to give it a look once people have had a bit of time to for it to all settle in. But yeah, look, I’m fascinated. It’s really interesting to see so much of the Virgin Atlantic cross-pollinating up into Delta in terms of that sort of welcome drink slash cocktail-mocktail thing. Because what does it, is it a Bellini they’re doing?

Loukas: Yes and it’s a peach Bellini. And that item I think is served in Saudia’s business class as a welcome drink.

Walton: Hang on. So Saudia is obviously can’t be alcoholic if Saudia is serving it right?

Loukas: No, no, no, no. It’s not alcoholic. It’s not alcoholic. And I’m not sure if it’s… I believe it’s a peach Bellini on Delta. It could be the same brand. The one on Saudia is differently, yeah, nonalcoholic.

Walton: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I remember when Virgin Australia started doing their signature mocktails and they’d sort of walk around with a mocktail and then also like a little handful of miniatures of vodka in case you wanted to make your mocktail not quite so mocky.

Loukas: Oh wow. Was this long or short haul?

Walton: Short haul business.

Loukas: Ah, okay. Okay.

Walton: Yeah. Which was pretty interesting. But yeah, I’m starting to find it really interesting how many airlines are really focusing on this mocktail concept. Not necessarily a premixed one, but just in terms of encouraging people to do the wellness thing on the plane, to not drink quite as much. So Virgin Atlantic had some really interesting ones when I was flying them recently, British Airways was focused on and it’s…

Walton: I wrote a piece about this a couple of years ago saying, look, there are some airlines that do this really well. Right? So Singapore Airlines, even in business class they have a list on their drinks list of things that they can make for you from the standard drinks trolley, right? Your ginger ale, fruit juices, 7-Up. And there was one that I remember which was a sort of tomato juice, orange juice, pineapple juice and a spritz, which was the most refreshing thing. Well yeah because if you think about it, tomatoes are often eaten as part of a fruit course, particularly in Chinese culture. So yeah, if you go sort of sweet rather than savory with a tomato juice. Yeah, I found that really interesting and something I definitely wouldn’t have thought to do before.

Walton: So that’s what you’ve got that, of course there’s the signature Cathay Delight, that sort of milky kiwi deliciousness, which I really like. And I also saw coconut water on Cathay as well last year, which was pretty cool. But yeah, it’s fascinating to see that and to see how airlines are really trying to reduce the amount of stuff that people are drinking onboard in terms of the booze factor.

Loukas: Yeah. It’s funny you just actually reminded me of something I saw at the TFWA expo in Cannes a couple of weeks ago. I came across this cocktail that was in a sachet or sort of like a little box, very thin. And the company was called Needs Ice Only. And they were telling me, and I didn’t know this and I haven’t looked into it since, but now that we’re just talking about cocktails, you just jogged my memory. They’re an Italian company and he was telling me, and I said to him, “What sort of airlines are you listed on?” And he said, “Oh, we’re in Air Italy, in the business class.”

Loukas: So basically, I’m not sure if this is… I think it’s a great thing because airlines are reducing the weight of the galleys, you know, fuel burn, better for the environment, better may be a be able to load others things, but these are just pre-made cocktails. I haven’t actually tried it yet. I’ve got to find it. But it was interesting to see that this product in a box like a wine kind of, remember like the wine boxes: they still around?

Walton: Well like the little ones in a tetra pak kind of thing. Maybe single serving mini box of wine.

Loukas: Yeah. So something like that, even thinner, like super thin, about one centimeter thick. And it’s in this little clear plastic, one centimeter thick sort of box. And yeah, and they’re being served on Air Italy business class. And I said to him, “Well it’s quite amazing, you just chuck in some ice and it’s the perfect drink.” And I sort of wonder how with all these airlines that have, like you were saying before, having all these signature drinks, will these guys kind of come up with something or you know, will we sort of start seeing more of these kinds of drinks onboard flights.

Walton: You know, I think we will. I can’t remember who it was, but somewhere I was flying last year somewhere and they had a signature drink of some form. And I was like, “Wow, do you guys mix that in the galley?” And the flight attendants sort of picked up this large jug of it. And was like, “We certainly do not sir. Here is the four liter jug that we pour out into a nicer…”

Walton: But that I definitely think this is the future. And I’m thinking of the United Manhattan for example. Which is also a pretty popular. Is it Manhattan or is an Old Fashioned, it’s an Old Fashioned. Yeah and so it’s premixed so you don’t have the sort of crunching crystals of sugar at the bottom, all that sort of thing. But yeah, now this does of course raise the question of are we putting little pots of plastic onto the plane that we then have to figure out some way to properly recycle and or treat responsibly.

Walton: So let’s talk about the environment and particular in terms of the, of the footprints that aviation and catering in particular has on it. What’s new here? What are people talking about at the moment in this side of the industry?

Loukas: Look, I’m seeing a lot of companies that maybe 10 years ago weren’t really sort of even considering… Or let’s talk about the airlines first considering bamboo was too expensive or, you know, suppliers in the industry who are now sort of gone the other way and everything. They’re looking at what they can provide to airlines that’s sort of sustainable because it’s something that everybody’s looking at. I mean, look at what SQ are doing out of New York with the… Is it AeroFarms?

Walton: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Loukas: You know, having sort of, trying to be more sustainable and obviously it’s a fresher product, but you know they’re saying that it’s a more sustainable option for the airline. I mean, I know Qantas had their, wasn’t zero wastage flight because there was a little bit, but it was literally just a little bag of waste that they had from their flight and they recycled everything. And Etihad, was it Etihad that… Maybe not Etihad…

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Walton: I think Etihad did do something, like a zero plastics flight as did Hi Fly.

Loukas: Yeah, right. Yes they did too. And yes, that’s correct. So look, I think we’re going to see, especially because there’s this movement now, especially in Sweden with the whole — they don’t want people flying, take the train and ground transport’s better and the airlines are kind of the devil at the moment. So I think anything that they can do to help …mitigate, well not only to sort of offset all the bad press, but also to be ambassadors and to do better things. There’s definitely a push, at least from the supplier side, I’m seeing that I did that I saw about five or six years ago at trade shows and no one was interested in looking at these people’s products. And overnight you’ve now got all these airlines jumping on the bandwagon. So I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Really good thing.

Walton: Yeah, no, I fundamentally agree. You know, I was talking recently with the Airline Catering Association, which is a fairly new grouping of the big main caterers, right? And they were looking a little bit askance at the new single use plastics regulation coming forward in the EU. Because they’re keen to be more responsible, right? They’re keen to exchange a plastic cup for a paper cup. But the way that the laws are written at the moment, this forthcoming law is that anything, even if you have a paper cup with a small coating of plastic, that is still a single use plastic. And that’s really interesting, especially in the aviation context where so much of the international waste has to be either burned or put into a certified landfill for human health and biosecurity reasons. And all that sort of thing.

Walton: It’s really interesting to see… I feel that there’s perhaps not enough sympathy or not a lot of sympathy. I’m not sure whether enough is the right word. Certainly not a lot of sympathy for aviation in terms of: well does it have enough carve outs for its environmental credentials here?

Walton: But yeah, it was really interesting to hear them talk about it and them saying, “Look we could do better, but what you have to understand is that all of the stuff has to either be burned or put in certified landfills. It’s not us killing the sea turtles with straws.” Which is, look, I just want to sort of recognize that this not the straws that are killing the sea turtles, it’s the large amount of plastic netting, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Walton: But it was a really interesting discussion. And as you say, when I was walking around the IFSA expo, it was only last month. It feels about three years ago! In Los Angeles. I was really, really noticing how much of the onboards… Not only onboard catering but the onboard blankets and how everything is really starting to look like people have thought about it from an environmental impact point of view. And that’s very reassuring in a way.

Loukas: Oh, for sure. I mean about time too. I mean, if you think about the amount of airlines, the amount of plastic that blankets being wrapped in. I mean, I get hygiene reasons and stuff, but wasn’t there an airline recently that decided to start wrapping the blankets in paper? Can’t remember who that was.

Walton: Yeah. There’ve been a couple of those. Yeah.

Loukas: So you know, like it’s good. It’s starting. So let’s hope that more jump on the bandwagon.

Walton: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, Nik, it’s been a really interesting conversation. Thank you very much for joining us. An listeners we certainly hope you enjoyed it and we’re always keen to find out what you think. Please feel free to email me at john@runwaygirlnetwork.com with any suggestions. Thanks for our guests, Nik Loukas. Nik, where can folks continue the conversation with you online?

Loukas: They can follow me on Instagram @inflightfeed and they can also drop me an email if they like, eat@inflightfeed.com

Walton: Fantastic. Well as ever, you can find me on twitter @thatjohn and everything from RGN on Twitter @runwaygirl and of course at runwaygirlnetwork.com. If you’re enjoying these conversations, please leave a rating and review wherever you get your podcasts — and thanks for listening!

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