The real ‘milestones’ in the development of airline meals

As you probably know I have an interest in airline meals, and I’ve just come across this article “17 Milestones in the History of Airlines’ Inflight Meals”.  It provides some insight into how that product and its delivery has changed and developed over its life cycle.  It also provides some useful links to other sources of information, as well as a 1958 video on onboard service as it was then.

Smith’s list of 17 ‘milestones’ is somewhat eclectic.   In my view, it includes some things that were not truly game-changing, but misses out some others.  Here’s my suggested changes to the list:


  • 1973 appointment of Raymond Oliver
  • 1985 start of Ryanair (a European copy of the real game-changer South West Airlines)
  • 2009 Oliver Beale’s letter to Sir Richard Branson
  • 2011 Heston Blumenthal
  • 2013 report on the pricing of onboard food and drink items
  • 2013 KFC served on Japan Airlines


  • 1927 Air Union put stewards onboard to serve a ‘full’ meal for the first time
  • 1930s setting up of Imperial Airways ‘catering centre’ in UK
  • 1934 outsourcing of meal provision to specialist inflight meal suppliers such as Dobbs in USA
  • 1950s introduction of jet aircraft provided sufficient spare power output to enable food to be reheated onboard (usually from frozen)
  • 1958 Stan Bruce develops the meal trolley (pretty much unchanged since then!)
  • 1960s development of specifically designed high lift trucks to load aircraft
  • 1960s adoption of cook-chill food technology
  • 1990s merger or takeover of regional inflight caterers to create two truly global suppliers – LSGSkychef and Gate Gourmet

Note how nearly all of my revised list are either new technologies or new logistics capabilities.  It’s these that really had an impact, not publicity stunts or media hype.

This entry was posted in Chap 03 Processes and life cycles, Sector: Hospitality & Tourism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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