NEW DELHI: In a bid to cut catering costs, Air India will carry meals from India on some of its international flights for the return routes as well. The airline has started this on flights between Delhi and Stockholm, Birmingham, Madrid and Copenhagen. This means that at Delhi IGI Airport itself, the Boeing 787s flying on these routes will stock meals for, say, Delhi-Birmingham and also for the return Birmingham-Delhi flight.
Unlike the other two full-service Indian carriers — Jet and Vistara — AI as of now does not have any plans to introduce a lower category of economy fares where meals will need to be bought separately. The airline also currently has no plans to restart non-veg meals for economy flyers of its domestic flights.
“Our annual catering cost is Rs 600-800 crore, a significant amount. Catering costs in the west are much higher than India and also the taste for Indian palate that the inflight caterers here give is unmatched. Aircraft have chillers where food trays for return sector are kept which ensure that the taste and quality remains impeccable when served on the return sector, which are almost all quick turnaround flights,” said a senior AI official.
The airline is planning to start this practice from flights between India and the Gulf, Southeast Asia and Europe. However, US non-stops will get catering from there only on the return flight due to the flying time involved.
“As of now we cannot estimate how much we will save with this move as we have just started it. But if it goes well, the cost should drop drastically. We have no plans as of now to sell meals on board and will continue our famed inflight catering at no extra cost for passengers,” said the official.
The cash-strapped airline has been looking at all possible means for cost-cutting and catering is also being examined closely. A few months back, it had halved the quantity of cheese board carried for premium passengers on its international flights cut its catering cost by Rs 2.5 crore per annum with this one move.
“Inflight caterers load cheese boards on flights. The cabin crew later sets them in a plate and serves them to premium flyers. There was a lot of wastage of cheese as a flyer may not want certain types of cheese being served. Instead of taking this item off the menu, we have halved the quantity being uploaded and the annual saving is expected to be Rs 2.5 crore,” a source had said last October when the move was implemented.
Three decades ago, American Airlines famously saved $40,000 (a big amount then) by removing one olive from each passenger’s salad plate. The Maharaja is also aiming to do the same.