Air China teams up with Ritz-Carlton to create in-flight ‘gourmet experience’


On 26th July, Air China Limited hosted a launch event for its new in-flight catering partnership with the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Beijing, as part of the company’s strategy to transform customer needs into a gourmet onboard experience.

By consistently upholding its brand positioning as a “professional, trusted, internationally respected Chinese brand”, Air China not only focuses on the convenience and safety of its passengers, but also their customer experience, making sure its company motto of “Enjoy Flying” has been worked into every single detail. Through breaking down different passenger requirements by route and gathering experiences and recommendations from frontline cabin crew, Air China has come up with a variety of ways to improve its onboard catering options.

This has led to the airline joining forces with the Ritz-Carlton Beijing to develop a brand new in-flight food menu. As a world-leading luxury hotel brand, the Ritz-Carlton places the same emphasis on classic elegance as it did since its foundation in the 19th century, and it shares Air China’s dedication to the pursuit of ever-better quality. Barolo, the Italian restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing, is named after the famed winemaking region in northern Italy. Here, the focus is on the perfect pairing of delicious food and delectable wines, with head chef Amedeo Ferri creating a distinctive fine dining experience thanks to his unparalleled sensitivity to ingredients and flavours and unremitting quest for innovation in the kitchen. These qualities have all come to the fore in the development of Air China’s new in-flight gourmet options.

The biggest obstacle was that, due to the nature of the industry, airline catering is subject to a whole host of requirements and restrictions in terms of production, storage and transportation. For example, airline food is part of the cold chain and needs to be re-heated up on the plane; affected by high cabin pressure, a passenger’s senses of taste and smell are less sensitive in the cabin, which means that the same food will taste differently in the air than it does on the ground; and the choices of possible ingredients are even more restricted in high-altitude enclosed cabin environments. Spiced prawn salad, tomato and basil soup, braised beef tenderloin with prosciutto, and panna cotta for dessert. Air China wanted these Italian classics to be part of its new gourmet meal range, but in order to take them from the restaurant to the clouds, it had to enlist the help of a specialist airline catering company. This is where Beijing Air Catering Co. Ltd stepped in.

Beijing Air Catering was established in 1980, and is now one of China’s biggest airline catering specialists. Since its foundation, the company has developed and implemented food safety regulations that go beyond the bare minimum required of them by law, and it provides high-quality catering services for over 50 domestic and international airlines as well as clients on the ground. It has its own dedicated R&D kitchen for in-flight food, is capable of real-time interaction with Lufthansa and many other leading global airlines, and allows its clients to monitor the entire development and production process via video link. Bearing the cultural connotations behind culinary creativity in mind, Air China worked closely with head chefs from Beijing Air Catering to develop these dishes, before teaming up with Mr Ferri to discuss ingredient selection and flavours. From all of this groundwork, Air China was finally able to craft a delicious menu that meets all airline catering standards and is suitable for mass production without compromising on quality or taste. And this menu will soon be available for all Air China first class passengers on China to North America routes.

Air China has been reviewing and restructuring its food offerings on more than 40 domestic and international routes since early 2016, rolling out localised dining options that best suit the dietary preferences of passengers from different parts of the world. On its Shanghai routes Air China has introduced six new international meals for gourmet dining in the clouds, on its German routes there is quality caviar alongside six nutritious, seasonal Western meals so passengers can “taste the seasons from their seat”, whereas Air China has rolled out some exquisite typical Japanese dishes for its Japan routes. And travelling over the holidays is even more special thanks to hand-made multicoloured dumplings for Chinese New Year, sticky rice parcels for the Dragon Boar Festival, and children’s gift boxes for Children’s Day. The new gourmet Italian dining option will be available in all first class cabins on routes between China and North America from 1st August. Air China will continue to work tirelessly in the future to deliver improved service and higher quality for a friendly, comfortable and luxurious onboard experience.