Flights of culinary delight with SWISS Airlines


Veggie or ragout?

The worst, the men agree, is risotto. Rockhard is how it arrives at the seat: you’ll never get it “all’onda” at 33,000 feet. “We strive to offer the quality of a restaurant: as wide a choice as possible, top-notch products, and for our First and Business Class customers even regional dishes specially created by some of Switzerland’s finest chefs,” explains Felix Kaufmann, Head of In-Flight Services at SWISS.

“At the end of the day, though, we’re faced with certain limitations in an aircraft cabin.”

As a result, Felix and culinary specialist Jan Trachsel have to ask themselves a series of key questions. Their fundamental challenge: what can we cook that can be reheated and still tastes great? And how do we produce that in logistical terms?

Given these core considerations, it’s hardly surprising that mashed potatoes, polenta and ragout often end up on the passenger’s plate. They all keep creamy, they retain their taste and they’re not oversensitive to the processes involved. And most customers like saucy meals, too. Some 40 per cent of passengers also opt for a vegetarian meal, which explains the usually meat-free alternatives. And anyone who might assume that tomato juice is the preferred drink aloft would be wrong: still water is the most popular in-flight beverage.

Meal under 4.5 centimetres

It takes more than nine months to turn a culinary idea into a meal on a plate.

“The planning is one of the most important elements of all,” Jan says. “So we can’t just go to the market and gain our inspiration there!”

Zurich airline caterer Gate Gourmet and its partners around the world develop new menus every six months. Variety is essential:

“Passengers won’t have the same meal on their outbound flight as on their return,” Felix affirms.

On European services the menus are even changed every week. In logistics terms, too, life is never dull for the SWISS food team. Is the filet less than 4.5 centimetres thick, so it will fit on the trolley? Can we attend to several hundred passengers in just a few minutes?

Is the sauce thick enough to stay on the plate in turbulence, too? They’re all questions that a restaurant will hardly ever face. On night flights the crew also take care to serve the meal promptly after take-off, to give their passengers ample time to rest. “On our daytime long-haul flights people tend to spend more time enjoying their meal,” Felix observes. The catering uplifts are adjusted accordingly: sometimes it’s 100 per cent, sometimes less.

“Food waste is something we take seriously at SWISS, too,” Jan confirms.

Cheese from Switzerland

Customers’ wishes are becoming more and more individual, the SWISS team have observed. Some people want to enjoy their whole flight experience; others just want to get to their destination as cheaply as possible. In response to these trends, SWISS is increasingly offering individual food options that can be booked along with the flight.

“This way, our customers can enjoy a little sushi above the clouds if they wish,” says Felix. “Or, of course, tailor their meals to any allergies they may have.”

However individualised SWISS’s in-flight food offer becomes, though, some things will always stay the same. Like the Swiss chocolate, or a piece of good Swiss cheese.

“Wherever our flight is headed to or coming from, the cheese it carries is always from Switzerland,” says Jan, with not a little pride. During winter, the First Class cabin will be even treated to fondue, stirred by the crew. “We even tried making our own cookies in the in-flight ovens,” Jan recalls. “But some of our flight attendants turned out to be better hosts than bakers – thank God!”




New Qantas APP gives Travellers a virtual experience of Australia before they fly


Qantas has launched a new virtual reality app – Qantas VR – giving travellers an interactive new way to discover and explore destinations before physically travelling there.

Available for iPhone, Android, Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive devices, the app showcases Australia’s distinctive landscape through a series of immersive videos, including never before seen aerial footage of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

The app offers two modes: split screen for those who have a compatible headset or Google Cardboard and 2D landscape for viewing directly on a smartphone. Users can also book Qantas flights to the featured destinations directly from the app.

Qantas first offered virtual reality to customers last year, trialling an industry-first virtual reality experience with Samsung Gear VR headsets in its First-Class cabin and Lounges.

Qantas Group Executive Brand, Marketing, Corporate Affairs Olivia Wirth said the app is an innovative way for travellers to plan their trip to Australia.

“Our aim with the new virtual reality app is to connect with travellers by showcasing parts of Australia they may not be familiar with.

“Customers loved our trial of VR headsets last year, but we wanted to take it to another level and make it more accessible. Anyone with an iPhone or Android phone can take a virtual tour of Kakadu National Park, for instance, then book a flight directly from the app and see it in person.” said Mrs. Wirth.

The app was created by the Australian virtual reality company, Start VR. CEO and Creative Director of Start VR, Kain Tietzel, said the app opens up new opportunities for prospective travellers researching destinations.

“The app allows us to share the story of Australia to an international audience in a way that is more intimate, engaging and interactive than we have been able to tell it before. The amazing audio and visuals offer international travelers coming to Australia a new insight into our culture, heritage and local stories,” said Mr. Tietzel.

The app launches today with thirteen videos with additional content to progressively roll out over the weeks. The app can be downloaded free from the App Store (opens in new window), Google Play (opens in new window), or compatible headset app stores. For more information, visit (opens in new window).

Videos available on the Qantas VR App include:

Northern Territory – Tourism Northern Territory and Voyages were key tourism partners for the development of the Northern Territory content, which includes videos of Field of Light, Ormiston Gorge in Alice Springs, Kata Tjuta, and a bike ride around Uluru. Working in partnership with Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board and the Film and Photography Consultative Committee, Grainger Films captured a rare glimpse of one of the most recognisable natural rock formations in the world – the first time a drone had ever been allowed at the site. Additional videos include:

• Kakadu National Park – Relax on a sunset river cruise at Yellow Water Billabong, experience a guided tour of Australian Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr and swim in the water holes at Maguk and Gunlom Falls in the outback.

• Field of Light – Uluru – Experience Bruce Munro’s internationally acclaimed Field of Light art installation at iconic Uluru.

• Helicopter Flight – Uluru – Experience an aerial view of Uluru – one of the great natural wonders of the world. Take a seat and enjoy your access to all areas with this scenic helicopter flight.

• Indigenous Dance – Uluru – Experience an indigenous dance from Anangu –traditional owners of the land.

• Hot Air Balloon – Alice Springs – A hot air balloon ride is a fun way to experience the marvellous landscape of Alice Springs and surrounds. Come and join the ascent and enjoy the panoramic landscape of outback Australia.

• Ormiston Gorge – Ormiston Gorge showcases the spectacular geology and wildlife of the West MacDonnell ranges. Experience the native fauna and flora and the waterhole – all which form to create a unique experience.


• Hamilton Island Escape – Fly with the pilots in the cockpit of a Qantas jet as it lands at Hamilton Island airport, relax at Qualia resort, swim in the Great Barrier Reef, enjoy a helicopter tour and sail to Whitehaven Beach.

New South Wales

• Experience Sydney Harbour – Stand on the shores of Circular Quay, enjoy the iconic sights of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, fly above Sydney Harbour and along the Sydney coastline.

• Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge – Take in the sights and sounds of the city as you climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Watch as the traffic and boats pass below you and celebrate the view with your fellow climbers at the top.

• Experience Vivid Sydney – Vivid Sydney, the festival of Lights, Music and Ideas illuminates Sydney each winter. See the Sydney harbour Bridge and other icons become an outdoor gallery of lighting sculptures

Qantas Qantas


Lufthansa welcomes the Airbus A350-900


On 19 December 2016, the Lufthansa Group will receive its first A350-900, which is the most modern long haul aircraft worldwide and which will be based at Lufthansa’s Munich Hub. The first regular commercial flight will be from Munich to Delhi on 10 February 2017. Tickets are available now.

“We are looking forward to welcoming our first A350-900 shortly before Christmas. And already in February, our passengers will be able to enjoy a higher level of comfort on their flights to Delhi as we have now made further improvements to key components of the A350-900’s cabin interior. This includes, among other things, a newly designed self-service area in Business Class, new seats with ergonomically designed cushions in Economy Class, larger screens in all classes and improved broadband internet services”, says Thomas Winkelmann, CEO of the Munich Hub.

Once Lufthansa has taken ownership of the aircraft on 19 December, the A350-900 will be transferred to Munich during the week leading up to Christmas. Lufthansa Technik in Munich will then install the cabin interior including the new Premium Economy Class as well as other features so that the new flagship aircraft will be ready to be presented to the public at the beginning of February.

From February 2017 onwards, Lufthansa will station the first ten Airbus A350-900 aircrafts in Munich. The first flight destinations are Delhi and Boston. The aircraft will have space for 293 passengers – 48 in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy and 224 in the regular Economy Class section. The A350-900 is the most modern and environmentally friendly long haul aircraft worldwide and uses 25 percent less kerosene and produces 25 percent fewer emissions. The A350-900’s noise “footprint” is up to 50 percent lower than that of comparable aircraft types.

Lufthansa Lufthansa

Hawaiian Airlines

Makaha Sons and Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant Lehua Beltrame-Tevaga honoring Pearl Harbor Veteran

A group of Hawaii musicians and a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant provided special inflight entertainment to a Pearl Harbor survivor flying home from a ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the attack.

Ray Richmond, 97, and his family were the last passengers to board a flight from Honolulu to San Diego on December 8 said flight attendant Lehua Beltrame-Tevaga, who is also the reigning Mrs. Hawaii America. She noticed that the family seemed a little upset, so during takeoff she and some crew members brainstormed about a way to cheer them up, she said.

Also on the flight were the three members of well-known Hawaii group, Makaha Sons. So Beltrame-Tevaga asked them if they wouldn’t mind singing for Richmond.

With an hour left in the flight, they went to the row where Richmond was sitting with his family. The lead flight attendant announced that Richmond was a Pearl Harbor veteran. Beltrame-Tevaga took a lei from around her neck and placed it on Richmond.

Mark Yim of the group played the guitar while Jerome Koko and Kimo Artis sang “Papalina Lahilahi.” Beltrame-Tevaga danced hula next to Richmond’s seat.

Richmond thanked the performers and Beltrame-Tevaga said he told her “it was the best part of his whole trip.”
The performance felt like a natural thing to do “out of respect,” Beltrame-Tevaga said after returning to Honolulu from San Diego on Friday. “It’s a gift — something genuine, only Hawaii can offer.”

Passenger Brooks Onishi, a loan officer for Veterans United Home Loans who was seated behind the Makaha Sons, filmed the performance on his phone.

“This was just so much aloha for our veteran. Just pure and simple, that’s what it was,” he said.
Richmond was one of the survivors who returned to Pearl Harbor Wednesday for a ceremony marking the anniversary of the attack that plunged the United States into World War II and left more than 2,300 service people dead.

“It was just a good feeling, not only for Makaha Sons, but for everybody on the plane,” said Koko, the group’s leader. “People came up and started to kiss him and crying and thank him for all his service. So that was really nice.”

British Airways Gin

British Airways is introducing its very own exclusive brand of gin for premium customers.


British Airways Gin
British Airways Gin is just the Tonic

The specially made tipple – British Airways Gin – will only be served to the airline’s First customers, from the bar of the prestigious Concorde Room at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.

It has been blended for British Airways following extensive taste tests with First customers at the Concorde Room bar in London, by the award-winning Cambridge Distillery, the world’s first ‘gin tailor’.

The main botanicals used in the exclusive herbaceous gin (aside from juniper) are basil, rosemary and thyme, which are all grown in the distillery gardens in Cambridge.

A gin and tonic is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks served on British Airways flights – the airline’s customers sip more than three million of them every year.

Troy Warfield, British Airways’ director of customer experience, said:

“We know how popular a gin and tonic is with our customers in the air and we are sure our new British Airways Gin will go down a treat with our customers flying in First.

“The Concorde Room is the epitome of exclusivity on both sides of the Atlantic, so what better place to raise the bar and serve up this delicious new bespoke British Airways Gin to our most premium customers.”

William Lowe, master distiller and owner of the Cambridge Distillery, said:

“British Airways customers deserve the best, so we are thrilled to offer those flying in First this amazing new British Airways Gin, served exclusively from the Concorde Room.

“We take enormous care making our gins. For British Airways we collected the basil, rosemary and thyme from our very own gardens and distilled them separately to ensure the temperature of distillation of each botanical was just right, then carefully blended them to make British Airways Gin.

“We label each bottle with the British Airways Speedmarque and wax seal them by hand here in Cambridge to create a truly unique product.”

The Cambridge Distillery is among the most highly awarded in the world and has come first in every single international competition it has entered.

As well as making British Airways Gin, the Cambridge Distillery also make a blend especially for The House of Lords, which is on sale in Parliament.

Another specially-made blend includes a variety named the world’s most expensive gin – Watenshi Gin – using a refined technique, which sells for an eye-watering £2,000 a bottle.

Customers flying in First with British Airways can enjoy dedicated check-in and Fast Track access to a network of exclusive luxurious lounges around the world – including the prestigious Concorde Room in London’s T5 and New York’s JKF airport – to relax, dine and drink fine wines and champagnes before their flight.

From next year customers flying from T5 will be able to use The First Wing entrance, a brand new and enhanced private check-in area for First customers, offering an exclusive security lane, direct to the British Airways’ Galleries First lounge and through to the airline’s flagship Concorde Room.

Once on board, customers have their own private, spacious suite, with a fully flat bed, complete with mattress and a crisp white cotton duvet, ensuring a very comfortable night’s sleep.

Or they can unwind watching thousands of hours of the latest movies and TV shows thanks to British Airways High Life Entertainment on widescreen TVs, and enjoy delicious five star in-flight dining served by attentive cabin crew at 35,000 feet.

Cambridge Distillery

Founded by husband and wife team William and Lucy Lowe. William is the distillery’s Master Distiller, who personally tailors and blends bespoke gin recipes. His career in the drinks industry spans 19 years. His wife Lucy is responsible for the distillery’s branding and marketing.

The Cambridge Distillery has won the title of “World’s Most Innovative Spirit”, an unprecedented three times. Their unique production methods have resulted in them creating gins for double Michelin starred restaurants such as Midsummer House, famous institutions including the House of Lords, and internationally recognised brands like British Airways. Cambridge Distillery are pioneers of innovation within the spirits industry, driven by their Master Distiller who is a true expert in alcohol – judging international wine and spirits competitions, teaching spirits education globally, short-listed for this years “International Spirits Communicator of the Year” award and part of the prestigious Master of Wine programme.

BABritish Airways Gin

Alaska Virgin

Different works: uniting two airlines to create one great flight experience

Alaska Airline

Bacon on a donut. Electricity and guitars. Labradors and poodles. Men in Black’s Agent J and Agent K.

Throughout history there have been countless tales of unusual pairings coming together to accomplish something great. (Just search “buddy comedy.”)

On December 14 Alaska Airlines and Virgin America officially joined forces and are now the latest odd couple that, as Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden said, is on the verge of greatness.

While the two companies may seem very different on the surface, Tilden says there’s more in common than you’d think, and together they’ll keep challenging the status quo to make flying better for everyone.

Airline consolidation over the past decade has led to the big four airlines controlling more than 80 percent of the market, making it harder for smaller, lower fare airlines like Alaska and Virgin America to grow.

“We’re here to shake things up by joining forces with an airline that has been disrupting the industry since it started flying in 2007,” says Tilden.

Separately, the two companies are strong. They each consistently win awards for customer service and performance, and are known for their low fares, innovative approaches and caring employees. For the past couple years, Alaska and Virgin America have been ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the Wall Street Journal’s annual airline scorecard.

Together, the sky’s the limit.

More flights

Today Alaska and Virgin America have an expanded route network with nearly 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations across North America, Costa Rica and Cuba. Today Alaska also announced new flying from San Francisco to Minneapolis, Orlando and Orange County.

With a combined network taking West Coast customers to the top destinations they want to fly, and backed by an award-winning frequent flier program, Tilden says together Alaska and Virgin America are poised to do great things for customers. That means more choices and lower fares, more rewards, and more to love.

More rewards

Beginning Dec. 19, Virgin America Elevate members and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members can earn rewards on either airline. On January 9, Elevate members will be invited to activate new accounts in Alaska’s award-winning Mileage Plan, giving them access to:

  • Alaska’s network of global partners that, together with Alaska, serve more than 800 destinations around the world
  • A faster path to elite status compared to other airlines
  • A program that rewards a mile flown with a mile earned
  • Mileage Plan status-matching for Elevate Silver and Gold members, which will unlock generous benefits like complimentary upgrades on Alaska flights

More to love

Today, the combined airlines offer customers a bigger network, more flights and more rewards.

“Like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ characters in Men in Black, the personalities of Alaska and Virgin America are quite different,” says Alaska’s chief commercial officer Andrew Harrison. “But together we can achieve greatness and we’re confident that ‘different works.”

In the eight months since Alaska and Virgin America agreed to merge, employees of both airlines have shared countless stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter about meeting and welcoming their future colleagues.

“I’ve spent the past seven months getting to know Virgin America and its employees,” says Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s chief operating officer and CEO of Virgin America. “I’ve seen firsthand the passion Virgin America teammates have for their jobs, their airline and their customers. It’s the same passion I see in our own employees at Alaska, and it’s what will help us accomplish our shared mission: creating an airline that people love.”

Both airlines are leaders in customer service. Alaska has received top marks for its customer satisfaction scores for nine years and counting, while Virgin America regularly receives top accolades in rankings of best domestic airlines. And according to Tilden, it’s only getting better from here.

“Our employees are the proof of what we suspected: that together we’re stronger than apart. Think about all those famous odd couples whose differences made them stronger – and allowed them to change the world,” says Tilden.

Alaska Airline Alaska airline

When merging cultures, here’s how Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are working to get it right

When Alaska Airlines and Virgin America announced plans to merge earlier this year, one of the biggest questions was how the two airlines would blend their distinct cultures.

“Culture has been a real challenge in many mergers, so we’re working to do things differently,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska President and COO who will also become CEO of Virgin America today. “We are being very thoughtful about culture and are working to create an environment that reflects who we are and where we’ve been, that also enables us to work together, be bold, and succeed in a rapidly evolving industry.”

On the surface, Alaska and Virgin America might seem very different. Culture, however, isn’t defined by how the airlines look to the outside world. Culture is defined by the people behind the airlines – their customs, beliefs, attitudes, behaviors and the ways they work together.

While some teams are working hard to integrate the nuts and bolts of the airlines – the systems, processes and procedures – another group is focused on merging cultures.

“You can’t create a culture solely from the top down,” Minicucci said. “Our employees and our teammates make culture happen. The leadership team and I are fully committed to leading our cultural movement. I’m confident that we are going to learn so much from each other as we work toward creating an airline people love.”

On the inside, the cultures of Alaska and Virgin America are very similar. Employees and teammates work together, focus on their customers and do what it takes to get the job done. Both airlines have always been about doing things a little bit differently to offer something better for travelers.

When merging these two cultures, the trick is doing it in a way that makes them stronger together.

How the airlines are coming together

Each company’s unique culture has formed over time, built on a history of shared experiences, priorities, and lessons learned by overcoming adversity.

When it launched only nine years ago, Virgin America started out to be different and challenge the industry. Virgin America is a disrupter, with employees working hard to create an airline people love. That new approach quickly gained a loyal following.

Some of that basic grit – being resilient, blazing a trail, building a reputation – is also part of Alaska’s DNA, and it’s why the airline has been successful for almost 85 years. Alaska has had to reinvent itself many times over the years, while aspiring to be innovative and showing its caring heart.

The two airlines have many shared traits, which gives them an advantage when it comes to merging cultures.

Both Alaska and Virgin America are airlines that have always shared a relentless dedication to our customers. Both airlines have racked up a ton of awards for customer service. They both place an emphasis on innovation and technology to improve the travel experience.

Despite these similarities, there are some cultural differences. For the merger to be a success, each airline’s culture will have to evolve – Alaska, Virgin America and Horizon Air’s employees will have to lean into one another’s culture.

A thoughtful approach to culture

In a study of 162 executives involved in mergers, 69 percent said the top challenge was integrating two organizational cultures.

So to integrate the cultures, Alaska and Virgin America are depending on the people who know best: employees and teammates.

Ever since the merger was announced in April, collective feedback from employees has helped identify how the Alaska and Virgin America cultures match up, and how they want to align our cultures moving forward. Alaska, Horizon and Virgin America employees have been part of surveys, focus groups, online discussion forums and meetings.

The information is being used to help integration planners identify similarities between the airlines, as well as areas to work on as the two airlines integrate.

“We anticipate a smooth integration, but we are not naïve,” said Stacie Baker, who is leading the culture work. “We will have bumps along the way. One thing we are striving for right out of the gate is building trust with each other. Over time, we believe that will lead to amazing things.”

Shaping the conversation around culture

Here are some of the ways that people from Alaska, Horizon Air and Virgin America have helped shape the culture conversation.

Step 1: Teams come together to set our focus

In early May, about 60 leaders from Alaska and Virgin America came together in Seattle to kick-off the integration effort. With the goal of making this the best integration ever seen in the airline industry, the team agreed that two vital areas of focus are company culture and guest experience.

Step 2: Listening to employees and teammates

In June, all employees and teammates at Alaska, Horizon and Virgin America were invited to take an online culture survey.

Also in June, integration planners conducted a series of focus groups with Alaska and Virgin America employees and teammates to learn more about the cultures of the two companies.

“One interesting take-away from the Alaska focus groups is that we asked participants, ‘What advice would they have for their fellow co-workers?’ The overwhelming response was that we all need to be open to change as we move forward,” said Baker.

The culture team interviewed 16 senior leaders for their thoughts on culture. The team also spoke with some of Alaska’s most tenured employees who joined the airline via Jet America in 1987. The team also interviewed Horizon employees to get their perspective – Alaska Air Group bought Horizon in 1985, and combined many back-office departments in 2011 when Horizon shifted to an all-capacity purchase agreement business model.

Step 3: Online discussion forums

In August, Alaska employees and Virgin America teammates were invited to share their opinion on company values. The “Values Jam” was an online discussion forum where employees of the two airlines shared thoughts about what company values are important to them.

Step 4: The Culture Champions

In September, about 100 people from Alaska, Horizon and Virgin America met in Seattle to talk about the important role that culture will play in the success of our proposed combination. The role of these “culture champions” is to make the cultural integration of the organizations as smooth as possible. Over the next year, they’ll let leadership know what’s working and what isn’t – by sharing, listening, talking, role modeling and bringing feedback to leaders as well as their peers.

Step 5: Building “Momentum” and creating “LIFT”

For after the merger, Alaska and Virgin America have created “Momentum,” an employee experience to welcome Virgin America teammates and build relationships at the two airlines. The daylong event will be held in Burlingame, California, at a venue next to the Virgin America headquarters. All 3,000 Virgin America teammates and 500 to 600 Alaska Airlines employees will attend.

A program for company leaders, called “LIFT,” will bring together 300 Virgin America leaders and 30 Alaska leaders around alignment and expectations.

Step 6: Measuring results

How will leaders know whether the culture work is successful? There are a lot of ways to ensure the airlines are hitting the mark. The first is for us to watch to see how employee groups interact with each other. When employees enter a break room, is Alaska on one side and Virgin America on another? Over time, are employees connecting with their roots or are they embracing the future? Is teamwork happening across groups? Leaders will also be paying close attention to measurable results in Alaska’s annual engagement survey.