The Future of Inflight Catering: How COVID-19 is accelerating innovation

Earlier this month, Retail inMotion had the pleasure of participating in a PEC Virtual Series Taste of Travel webinar, which was organized in association with Onboard Hospitality.

Our CEO Stefan Patermann joined a distinguished panel of industry experts to discuss the innovative solutions for onboard Food & Beverage that have emerged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Airlines move to meal boxes during COVID-19

More and more airlines are trying to reduce food waste but now that the industry has been crippled by the pandemic, the pressure to move away from boxed goods is bigger than ever.

Independent consultant Sarah Klatt-Walsh argued that boxed food will not be a sustainable choice once people start travelling again and the volume increases. Although pre-packaged food is considered the most suitable option given that the contact involved in serving the meals is greatly reduced, airlines will have to adjust again as demand starts to increase.

The topic of digitisation has been accelerated by COVID-19… The option to pre-order and pre-book will expand and help to improve sustainability.

Sarah Klatt-Walsh, Independent Consultant

One thing is certain: the airline industry will have to rethink the volume of products that should be loaded on planes, among other aspects. Loading digitalization will undoubtedly become part of the ‘new normal’ and pre-order/pre-select will support the safe return to flying for both crew and passengers whilst also ensuring customers can continue to experience the necessities and luxuries of the inflight experience. Retail inMotion has already developed a solution that predicts consumption on planes and fights onboard waste. Read more about this program here.

Why technology is key to enhancing passenger experience

Stefan Patermann discussed the increased demand for the pre-order/pre-select solution and emphasized the importance of having an easy-to-use front-end system, along with a strong back-end system. Individualization through different modules will enable the airline industry to rebuild the business.

For example, the extension of the pre-order solution to the in-flight phase of the passenger journey has been developed through the Order2Seat module of the RiM solution, which enables the passenger to browse, select and pay for products and services directly from the comfort of their own device with minimal cabin crew interaction.

Technology solutions that naturally support the minimisation of crew engagement with passengers at all stages throughout the journey are becoming more important than ever. Digital menus are also part of the ‘new normal,’ as airlines are doing everything in their power to enhance safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most menus have a QR code, so that passengers can download them and browse through them on their personal devices.

If we establish the process of pre-booking food throughout the whole customer journey, then passengers will quickly learn to use it.

Stefan Patermann, CEO Retail inMotion

It’s safe to say that technology is key to enhancing passenger experience; it allows airlines to navigate the “new normal” and adjust the business strategy to meet the passengers’ changing needs and demands in the time of COVID-19 and beyond.

“Investment in technology can unlock new revenue streams,” Stefan said during the webinar. The recovery plan for the airline industry will undoubtedly include technology investments, which will pay off in the COVID-19 battle and beyond.

What does the future hold for inflight catering?

All the panelists agreed that the future of inflight catering is bright, despite the current hurdles. Necessity breeds innovation, which is why the COVID-19 pandemic will push the airline industry to find new concepts to meet the passengers’ changing needs and demands.

“This airline industry has been hit by crisis before so it will survive the pandemic,” as Stefan pointed out. It won’t be easy to restart the activity and it will take time to see results but if we work together, we, as an industry, will be taking to the skies sooner, rather than later.


If you missed out the live webinar and Q&A session, you are in luck! You can access the full webinar recording here.