Grounded Beef: Asian airlines are selling in-flight meals directly to the public

Nostalgic travel junkies are actually buying them.

Most travellers see the food as one of the least palatable aspects of air travel. Rubiyanto Haliman is not most travellers. A worker at an Indonesian shrimp hatchery who flew four to six times a month before the pandemic, he collects in-flight menus, magazines and tumblers, and likes to post pictures of aeroplane food to his Instagram feed—not in an ironic way. The past few months, with airlines largely grounded, have been difficult for him. He so misses the experience of flying that a couple of weeks ago he bought a few in-flight meals from Garuda, the national carrier. The food, which was delivered to his home, was packaged in white plastic containers and served with plastic cutlery, on a tray, just as it would be on a plane. The dishes—spinach and pastrami quiche and nasi daun jeruk (rice infused with coconut milk and lime leaf), each costing 30,000 rupiah ($2)—actually “taste better than normal in-flight meals,” he says.Garuda is not the only Asian airline to flog its food to the land-lubbing public. Santan, owned by AirAsia, a big low-cost carrier, sells two Malay staples, nasi lemak and beef rendang (each $4) at its main hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Thai Airways offers stir-fried tiger prawns ($8) and tandoori lamb chops ($9.25) in Bangkok. Hong Kongers can pick up $5 “stir-fried beef strip” and “Indian curry fish” from Cathay Pacific’s catering arm. Australians can choose from the voluminous menu of SnapFresh, an airline caterer, or buy a mystery meal from Gate Gourmet, a rival which sells “main meals combination” or “vegetarian combination” in bulk packs.

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