|Flight attendants serve meals on a Shandong Airlines flight from Qingdao in Shandong to Guilin, the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Food companies are trying to improve the quality of inflight food to cater to the taste of passengers. (Photo/China Daily)|
'Chicken rice or beef noodle?"
It may be the most familiar question for passengers on flights in China, and most frequent flyers are sick of the dull in-flight food.
The poor taste of airline food is coming under renewed criticism.
"I did not even want to smell the in-flight meals, during the period I traveled a lot," said Li Qi, a 28-year-old businessman who usually travels in North China.
Business insiders attribute the bad taste to the cold-chain processes, as the meal must be made in conditions below 20 degrees Celsius.
"It is very hard to make the in-flight meal delicious, because of the production process," said Liu Zhiqiang, general manager of HNA Group's food business division, which is the largest shareholder of E-food Group Co Ltd, the only listed in-flight meal maker in China.
Hot food is cooled to below 20 degrees as soon as it is cooked and reheated by an oven in the air for service.
"The oven-heated meals taste worse than the fresh, definitely," Liu said. Oven-heated is even worse than the microwaved food.
But the microwave oven cannot be used a lot in the airplane, as it may interrupt the communication systems, he added.
Imperial Airways, the predecessor of British Airways, introduced meals on its flights in May 1927.
Chinese airlines prepare their meals following Western processes, which is not suitable for Chinese food, Liu said.
"Most Chinese food needs to be reheated, which will destroy its good taste," he said.