The Air India aircraft(Photo: Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
The Air India aircraft(Photo: Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)

Curd-rice, jal jeera, mithai in Air India’s menu makeover

Air India is giving a complete makeover to the menu it serves passengers on its international flights starting on April 1.
By Faizan Haidar | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 27, 2019 07:22 AM IST

Curd-rice in place of green salad in the summers on flights to the US; round-the-clock coffee for business class passengers; sweets from renowned Indian confectioners; and traditional welcome drinks such as Aam Panna and Jaljeera in place of sweet fruit juices -- Air India is giving a complete makeover to the menu it serves passengers on its international flights starting on April 1.

The national airline has also decided to avoid fried foods and will replace them with Upma or Poha with tea, three Air India officials familiar with the plan said. The changes are being made keeping in mind both the health aspect and adding a traditional Indian touch to the menu .

“Our focus will be on better quality, taste, presentation and choice. Fried items will be avoided and changes will be applicable to breakfast, lunch/ dinner, high tea and welcome drinks,” said a senior Air India official, citing an internal note circulated within the airline. He asked not to be identified.

Air India, which spends around Rs 800 crore on catering services per year, has been experimenting with the menu for about two years. Initially, the airline stopped serving non-vegetarian food on domestic routes (to save cost), then started calling passengers to find out their food preferences in advance to avoid wastages. More recently, the airline started carrying food from India to long-haul destinations, in the process inviting criticism that it was compromising on quality and freshness to save costs.

“In welcome drinks, passengers can look forward to summer refreshers such as Aam Panna, Jaljeera, Masala Lassi and butter milk instead of the sweetened juices. Similarly in breakfast, sliced fruits are to be replaced with chilled flavoured yoghurt and bread roll are to be replaced with croissants. Also, instead of plain soft rolls, passengers will be served focaccia rolls and masala bread,” said a second airline official.

For lunch/dinner, the airline will serve two courses instead of three and salad will be replaced by mint green and ginger tomato chutneys. With high tea, instead of fried, packed food items, the airline will serve pao bhaji, cutlets/puffs, ragda pattice, vegetable upma or vegetable poha.

In some domestic flights, the airline has already introduced changes to the menu. On international flights, the changes will take effect on April 1.

First and business class passengers on long haul flights will also have a choice of chutneys and home-made pickles with their meals. Air India hasn’t forgotten desserts in the revised menu. High-quality sweets either prepared in house or procured from renowned sweet shops will be on offer.

“Curd-rice is actually light on the stomach and can help {passengers} stay comfortable during long flights. Drinks like Aam Panna and buttermilk or fresh juices are always a healthier substitute to tinned or packaged juices that are usually high on added sugar. It sounds like a healthier meal plan,” says Ruhee Sagar, Delhi-based nutritionist.

In August 2017, the airline stopped serving non-vegetarian food for economy class passengers aboard Air India’s domestic flights to save money and avoid wastage. It later decided to restrict the menu for business and first class passengers, too. The airline earlier used to offer six menus to business and first class passengers which it cut down to demand-based.

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