Air India’s international soft product has been mostly good, and that’s what wins them brownie points from the Indian passengers. Its broken hard product is a different story altogether. Over the years, Air India has implemented several cost-cutting measures like going vegetarian on domestic flights, round-trip catering for short and mid-haul domestic as well as international flights and so-on. Air India spends around INR 800 crores (USD 116 million) annually on catering.
Air India is known for offering good Indian meals onboard. While the airline may not be the best but it gets the job done. According to reports, Air India is moving towards a “more healthy” and Indianised menu on-board. So what are the changes that Air India is proposing to make on domestic flights?
Air India will provide Indian beverages like Aam Panna (a drink made from raw mango), Jal Jeera, Masala lassi or buttermilk instead of sweetened juices. Most of the beverages mentioned above are summer drinks and are known for heat-resistant properties. An excellent move from Air India to beat the summer heat.
Air India will replace sliced fruits with chilled fruit yoghurt from brands like Mother Dairy. Since Air India provides both yoghurt and sliced fruits in Business class, I guess this move is for the Economy class. Both have added sugar so not exactly healthy.
Bread rolls will be replaced with croissants and focaccia rolls. Masala bread will be served instead of plain soft rolls. Air India currently provides croissants and oats bread roll in Business class. In the economy class, they already serve croissants or plain bread rolls depending on the flight.
Well, croissants, focaccia and masala bread rolls aren’t healthier than plain bread rolls. But they are still better than cold plain bread rolls so good move.
Air India will provide Indian options like rajma (red kidney beans curry) with rice, kadhi (made with chickpeas and curd) with rice, chole with rice and so-on along with stuffed parathas and plain yoghurt. So Air India is moving from 3 main items on the tray (two mains plus rice) to just two main items (one main dish plus rice). They are eliminating one main dish like daal or curry as a part of the new cost-cutting initiatives.
Instead of salad, passengers will be given the choice of tangy chutneys like ginger tomato and mint green. It has cost-cutting written all over it. Not to mention, Air India already provides mint chutney on domestic flights wherever required.
Air India provides a lot of fried food as a part of their high tea service on domestic flights.
Air India has proposed to avoid fried items on the menu. The high tea will have pav bhaji, cutlets and puff, ragda patties, vegetable upma, vegetable poha and so on. Again, some of this runs away from the “healthy” line they are trying to toe. Cutlets, puffs, all of that stuff is fried again. Air India already provides vegetable puffs and some of the above items for high-tea so not exactly a change.
Long-haul International flights
In case of long haul flights, first class and business class passengers will be served different types of chutneys like mango, ginger mint, homemade pickles and papad to ‘enhance’ the dining experience.
Additionally, on the India – USA flights, curd rice will be provided instead of green salad. This is a debatable move. Curd rice is not exactly healthy again, and not a replacement for a green salad. But it is light for the stomach and tasty if prepared and served right.
In addition, it was mentioned that for long-haul flights, first class and business class passengers will also get special tea and coffee service along with special cookies from brands like Starbucks and Barista. Wonder if this is actually true? Air India already provides a “regular” tea/coffee with cookie service on long-haul flights.
It was mentioned that high-quality sweets and chocolates prepared by in-house caterers or procured from renowned brands will be served. So no more cake/brownie as dessert in Economy? As a point of comparison, an airline caterer offers a chocolate dessert for about INR 30 (USD 0.44), kheer for about INR 12 (USD 0.17) and chocolates cost around INR 5 (USD 0.073).
According to Air India’s PRO,
Quality food, leg space and extra baggage are unique qualities of Air India. That’s why on the basis of feedback of the crew we changed the menu. This time the menu is more indigenous.
Air India’s network is complex. Catering on domestic flights will vary with origin airport. They have many several international tag flights operating in the domestic network. These flights usually have a better menu and food offering than the rest of the domestic flights. Air India’s Domestic as well as International flights reflect the menu changes from April 1 already.
What totally misses the point is how will, having a more Indian menu serve the purpose of an airline which is so proud of its Star Alliance membership that they punctuate every sentence with their membership to Star Alliance, and also, their global patrons from all the other countries where they fly to. Like try telling about the importance of Curd Rice to a Nordic passenger of Air India.
But there will be one international passenger who will surely be happy with this “Indianisation” of the Air India menu.
Or perhaps the airline switched to this food only to make sure it looked even closer to what they shared in the commercials?
[Editor’s theory: Air India Indianising the menu is their comeback against all the airlines in Asia which count fish in vegetarian and hence making the Indian passengers have an empty stomach for their flights]