This article by Chere Dannettel (’16) was published by Aviation Security International magazine.
Until the black swan event that is COVID-19, the airline catering market value was projected to reach £17.2 billion by 2025 due to an unprecedented rise in air passenger traffic. New trends and higher expectations of foodservice, in general, by an “on-demand” travelling public were pushing new boundaries and breaking old habits. Simplified, high-quality meals, upgraded beverage choices, Wi-Fi access, and onboard entertainment – who could ask for more? Inflight service passenger satisfaction surveys continually ranked “food and beverages” at the top of the list on par with “in-flight entertainment.” This is largely due to the fact that airlines were looking for new revenue opportunities and employing new strategies to differentiate themselves from the competition.
But then the pandemic happened. Airlines around the world shut down catering services and laid off 70% of their staff. Planes were parked with no estimation as to when they would be returning to full operation. As of April 2020, London’s Heathrow Airport passenger traffic was down 97%. As of July, US airlines carried 73% fewer passengers year-over-year.