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Redefining In-Flight Catering

15 In-Flight Catering Tips for International Aircraft Operating to the United States

USA inbound ops

If you are planning a trip to the United States (U.S.) for the first time on a private jet, it is best to first familiarize yourself with some of the important differences you will face with in-flight catering. The list below provides the top 15 tips for understanding the nuances of in-flight catering in the United States. Have a tip you would add to this list? Let us know by adding a comment.

1. In general, food brought in from outside countries will be removed when brought into the U.S. Visit the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s website to learn what is allowed to enter the country.

2. Meal portions in the U.S. are quite different than in Europe. If you want European-style portions, be sure to specify by using weights. The U.S. uses a system of measurement that includes ounces and pounds, not the imperial or metric system. However, a good quality aviation caterer will be happy to do the conversion.

3. Tin (foil) sizes are different in the United States than abroad. Most U.S. kitchens carry foils that are 4x6x1.75 inches (100x150x45 millimeters), 5x7x1.75 inches (125x175x45 millimeters) or 6x12x1.75 inches (150x300x45 millimeters). If you need a particular size of foil, it must be specified as part of the order.

4. U.S. in-flight catering vendors do not typically have Atlas trays, so be sure to specify desired maximum tray sizes, if needed.

5. Set expectations with the caterer if you want a MOA (meet on arrival). Let them know if you are expecting dishes to be picked up (or carts), laundry service to be done, menu discussed or any anything else you may need.

6. If you have a large cabin aircraft and need the in-flight catering delivered directly to the aircraft, make sure to convey this during the ordering process. If you are requesting this service, the catering may or may not be subject to additional screening by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). There are typically charges for screening that are added onto the fuel bill, and are not included in the catering bill.

7. If you require a high-loader, you must make arrangements for it in advance. In many locations, even larger cities, private aviation caterers will not have a lift truck, and arrangements will have to be made through a third party.

8. There is a notable difference between private and commercial caterers in the U.S., although internationally in some locations it can be one and the same.

9. Most of the time, U.S. caterers will deliver directly to a Fixed-Base Operator (FBO). In the U.S., FBOs have refrigeration on-site. The only exception would be very small markets where, if you flew over from Europe, more than likely your aircraft would be too big to land anyways. The crew will have to ask the FBO staff for the catering. In most cases, it will not be put onboard automatically without the crew member asking for it.

10. The catering company will typically deliver the catering prior to requested delivery time and will not be present when crew arrives to inspect the catering, unless it is specifically requested.

11. International newspapers and publications are very hard to get in many markets, even larger cities. To circumvent this, international papers are available via a newspaper printing service at many in-flight catering kitchens throughout the country. Your caterer may charge a fee for this service.

12. International trash must be disposed of according to government regulations. In certain locations, a local kitchen may be certified for this, but often times it must be arranged through the FBO/third party.

13. Alcohol regulations vary from state to state and vendor to vendor. Alcohol regulation in the U.S. is stricter than in some other countries, availability can be limited by days of the week, hours, holidays and even locations. Because of this, make sure to place any requests for alcohol as soon as you have them.

14. Even if you do not have the full catering request or know exactly when you will be leaving, place part of the order in advance. This is especially helpful for very large orders since it provides ample time for shopping and procuring specialty items. Always provide specifics of the aircraft that you want the caterer to know (i.e., oven versus micro) and cover any questions you have.

15. Most importantly: Plan ahead! Almost all problems can be solved with thorough communication.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this article or about in-flight catering in the United States, contact me at jenniferwalton@airculinaire.com.

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