Redefining In-Flight Catering

In-Flight Catering for Pets

inflight catering for pets

Unless you have devoted a good part of your career to specializing in flying with people who bring pets onboard, you probably haven’t given much thought to catering for our “furrier” clients. When a pet shows up on your trip sheet, you hope the “pet parents” bring whatever the pet needs and that is pretty much it.  If you think about it, we do not take that attitude with any of our other guests, so why drop the ball when it comes to the pet family members?  Pets present an opportunity to elevate your level of service and show you care. Here are a few tips to show you how easy it can be to make each flight truly extraordinary for pets!

Planning your Pet-Friendly Catering

When you realize you are going to have a pet passenger you have an opportunity to shine, or not. You can hope for the best (not), or order some high-end kibble (not really), or make a wonderful meal for your guest (shine!). Keep in mind that most pets won’t even eat on short flights, and always check with their people first. With that in mind, if you are on a longer flight and you are presenting a beautiful service to the people onboard, you somewhat lose the mood when you plop a bowl of dog food down on the floor. Quite often the catering you are serving to the humans can be adapted for the pets onboard.

The following entrée was created with food ordered for the humans and consists of a stacked rice and pea pilaf topped with sliced turkey. Sliced carrots and apples garnish the plate, followed by pumpkin/yogurt sauce drizzle. Knowing I was having a pet on board, I simply combined canned pumpkin with plain yogurt the night before in a squeeze bottle and brought it with me. The plate is created exactly as you would plate an entrée for a human. It does not have to be complicated to be awesome!  This is much nicer than a can of food plopped in a plastic bowl.

Always serve on a placemat, which looks nice and protects the surrounding area since dogs rarely know which fork to use!

inflight pet meal example

What to Avoid when Catering for Pets

Now that your mind is getting creative, and you feel good about creating great meals for your pet passengers, it is important to go over the ground rules and know what you cannot feed a pet. Stay away from these food items, and you should be fine. If you have doubts on a food item – don’t use it or check online first!

  • Avocado
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Grapes and Raisins
  • Hops
  • Macadamia Nuts
  • Moldy Food (if you won’t eat it, don’t give it to the dog)
  • Onions and Garlic
  • Xylitol (non-caloric sweeteners)
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Bones
  • Peaches (the pit contains cyanide)

Great Options for Pet-Friendly Catering

  • Carrots
  • Green Beans
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Apples
  • Zucchini and Sumer Squash
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Cooked Rice/Pasta
  • Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Salmon

Preflight Check for a Pet-Safe Environment

On the day of your flight, be sure to take a little extra care when setting up your cabin for your guests when pets will be joining you. If you usually have a snack basket or pre-departure snack tray out, be sure it is pet-friendly or pass it around rather than leave it where pets can help themselves. Think you found a place that a pet cannot reach?  If humans can reach it, so can a determined pet!  Look in your snack basket… Do you have sugarless gum, macadamia nuts, chocolate, raisins or fresh fruit (including peaches and grapes)?  We don’t even look at those baskets any more do we?  Are you putting flowers in the cabin?  With pets, it’s best to have a beautiful artificial orchid or two to place around. If you have to have real flowers, be very careful about placement and flower type. The following plants are the most poisonous to pets that we are likely to use on a plane:

  • Lilies
  • Amaryllis
  • Chrysanthemum
  • English Ivy
  • Tulips/Hyacinths
  • Daffodils

For an exhaustive list, visit the ASPCA’s page about toxic plants.

Working with your Caterer

If you are working with a caterer, you’ll be surprised how many of them truly enjoy assisting you when you tell them you want some amazing pet catering. Some in-flight caterers have ideas of their own that they suggest!  Otherwise, when your client is ordering food that might not be suitable for Fido, explain that you would like a small container of plain rice (or rice with peas) and some steamed or grilled chicken or fish. Add some steamed vegetables, and plate beautifully. If you cannot order rice in a small enough container, use a ramekin on the plane and pack the rice in there to create your rice “stack” for presentation. Order a simple yogurt sauce, place in a plastic baggie (if you don’t have a squeeze bottle), cut the corner off and drizzle the sauce on the plate to create a meal your human clients will be craving! Communication is key. Treat pets as you would any passenger with special food requirements/preferences. Communicate clearly that all items must be unseasoned, and you will do just fine.

Enjoy the Ride!

Now that you are armed with some ideas to make your catering fabulous for ALL of your guests when pets join you on board, relax and enjoy the ride. There will be smiles all around because nothing makes a pet parent happier than a little extra attention to their furry one. The nice thing is, you never have to worry about washing any silverware for the pets either!


If you have any questions about this article, contact Carol Martin at

This is an article by guest author Carol Martin of Sit ‘n’ Stay Global, LLC. Carol is an industry expert in animal safety and care as it relates to business aircraft operations. Any thoughts expressed in this article are entirely Carol’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Air Culinaire Worldwide.

If you would like to be considered for becoming a guest author, please contact

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