In-Flight Dining: What did you expect, Crêpes Suzette?

In-Flight Dining: What did you expect, Crêpes Suzette?
(Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash)

In the hiatus imposed on many avid international travellers in these trying times, airlines might well make use of downtime by making a few improvements for their passengers’ comfort.


A letter from your favourite airline regarding customers’ complaints about the food they serve on board.

Dear Passengers,

I write on behalf of the airline in response to the many letters of complaint about the food we serve on our flights. We thank you for your observations and would like all of our loyal passengers to know that we hear you, and indeed have held extensive discussions involving much hand wringing at our annual corporate conference where we took a fresh look at our offerings to see where and how we can do better.

Rest assured: we have heard you and we will endeavour to improve the standard of our cuisine and our service. To this end, a number of innovations are in store for you, our valued customer, when we are all flying again to our favourite destinations.

With immediate effect, we are grounding our entire fleet of 125 Boeing 747s in order to refit the upper decks and transform them into fully fledged kitchens. This will be a mammoth undertaking, especially in light of our customers hailing from the 150 countries we serve and that this requires that we meet each and every need of every passenger, no matter where they come from and what their national cuisine might be.

As a consequence, each of our new kitchens will need to accommodate everything from a wok station and a pizza oven to tandoors, a robata grill, a tagine section; potjies, a vetkoek station and a shisa nyama for our South African passengers, and a fish and chips fryer and bacon butty section for our British passengers. In addition, our kitchens will need to cater to a host of national and regional preferences, with all of the religious and cultural protocols that this will require. Certain of our aircraft, for example, will be fitted with entirely halaal kitchens, with menus devised accordingly.

Once the new flying kitchens have been fitted, we will be employing a team of 30 chefs per aircraft and introducing an à la carte menu offering you a choice of 10 starters, six grills, four fish courses, 10 speciality dishes, and eight desserts (not including our innovative five-tiered trolley service, about which more later). In addition, we will introduce speciality menus for vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and Rastafarians, as well as sundry alternative menus for the gluten-free, the lactose-intolerant, the wheat-sensitive and the downright annoying.

You, our esteemed passenger, can also expect the highest quality and freshest bounty of our oceans prepared for you in-flight and served at your seat. In our live crustacea tanks that we are installing alongside each of our new kitchens, lobster, crab, freshwater crayfish, eel, scallops, abalone and other delights of the sea will be selected and prepared for you on demand.

We will also be advertising soon for a fleet (haha, so to speak) of waiting staff to see to your every need at your seat side and ensure that you have a tip-top dining experience in the air.

Lest we nevertheless fall short of our customers’ requirements when flying with us, there will be five spheres of additional trolley service:

At the commencement of dinner service (for which a dinner gong will be rung), four soup trolleys will commence serving a choice of four soups from each end of the aircraft, offering two hot and two cold soups made with the finest quality ingredients. These will be offered with swirls of cream or yoghurt and garnished with leaves and/ or croutons of your choice.

Once the hors d’oeuvres have been served and the dishes cleared away, and while the à la carte serving staff are delivering your chosen main courses to your seat, the four carvery trolleys will be dispatched from each end of the craft. Each two-tiered trolley will offer beef, pork and lamb roasts with all the expected trimmings, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, condiments, mustards, cranberry and mint sauces, horseradish and the like, each sauced expertly with a traditional jus from the country of origin. We took the idea from Simpsons of the Strand, famed worldwide for its fabulous carveries served from roaming trolleys, and we do hope you appreciate this exciting innovation.

A third dinner trolley service will run concurrently with the seat-side carvery offering. Five minutes after the carvery service has commenced, a similar number of trolleys will begin serving Chateaubriand to those customers who wish to order it.

These will be flambéd at your seat.

Which brings us to our fourth trolley service offering. Once main courses have been served, and the crockery and cutlery all cleared (all of which will be finest Spode and Villeroy & Boch), dessert service will commence. For this, trolleys will depart from each end of the passenger cabin to offer your choice of Crêpes Suzette or Bombe Alaska at your seat side, flambéd in the traditional manner naturally. We must however request that when ordering your choice of these two classic desserts, you avoid saying the word “Bombe” out loud, to avoid instilling panic in the other passengers. “I’ll have that one please,” while pointing to your choice of dessert, will suffice.

Finally, the fifth trolley service of the flight will begin. The cheeseboard trolleys will contain 300 of the finest cheeses, representing the best there is to offer in each of the 150 nations we serve. In addition, there will be fresh fruit (flown in, haha, if you’ll pardon the expression), relishes, nuts and a choice of 30 savoury crackers or biscuits.

A small side matter. It has been made clear to us by our aircraft interior designers that the current width of space of our passenger aisles is inadequate if we are to fulfil our commitment to bring you this necessary improvement in our service, and that our five-tiered trolley service will not be possible with the current narrow trolleys, which were designed for the needs of less demanding passengers in simpler yet arguably more halcyon times. To this end we have ordered double-tiered dim sum trolleys from Hong Kong which have the requisite capacity to keep our customers satisfied.

Unfortunately, and unavoidably, because of these innovations, all of which are designed to meet your every demand as our loyal and esteemed passengers, the introduction of our five-tiered trolley service will necessitate some structural changes to our carriers’ seating arrangements. As a consequence, our entire fleet of 125 Boeing 747s will soon benefit from the installation of new, improved aerodynamic seats which, while being in many aspects truly state of the art, will unfortunately be 6 cm narrower than our existing seats in order for the trolleys to pass by. Please rest assured that every effort will be made to ensure your comfort while introducing this groundbreaking innovation. We apologise especially to our more substantial customers for any inconvenience this necessary intervention may cause.

Cabin staff will be hired and trained to provide service in these very particular circumstances, and maitre d’hotels employed to oversee the operation on each of our 125 Boeing 747s. 

The costs of these innovations and increased staff complement will be assimilated into our costing structures in due course.

Moving on swiftly. We request that you keep your seats upright and pull in your knees in order for the staff to push past this way and that between the aisles in order to efficiently serve the passengers on either side of you and to allow their colleagues and their trolleys to pass by in either direction. We are offering intensive training to our waiting staff in how to do all of this without spilling sauces or for that matter entire plates of meat and vegetables in your lap.

For reasons to do with safety, we must, however, ask you to remain in your seat for the entire duration of the dinner service, which given the extensive nature of our board of fare will take approximately four hours from start to finish. During this time no passenger will be permitted to leave their seats for any reason whatsoever, given that it will be difficult enough for the fleet of serving staff, each balancing plates to serve or returning to the kitchen with your used plates, to serve you at all without passengers elbowing past them on their way to and from the lavatories. We apologise for any discomfort in this regard, but we feel it is important that we please our loyal passengers and meet their endless demands for better and more varied food while in transit.

We are sorry that our previous efforts to feed all of the thousands of passengers we transport safely to their destinations every day with a simple hot meal devised according to international airline safety protocols was insufficient to meet with their approval.

Please do not hesitate to approach us should you have any concerns as to the nature and variety of our new dining options. We are here to serve you and to always, as we are sure you will appreciate, get you to your destination safely and without injury. Touch wood.

Yours sincerely,

Bernie Sears

Your In-Flight Food and Beverage Manager. DM/TGIFood


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