Ever wanted to know how an airline goes about the mammoth task of creating a first-class inflight meal? During a recent trip to Zurich, I had the chance to take a behind the scenes look at how first and business class meals are created by Swiss International Airlines and their catering partner Gate Gourmet.


For a newly hired flight attendant at Swiss to work in First Class they must first complete a minimum of three years of service with the company, but due to the popularity of working in first class the actual wait time can be up to seven years!

On a yearly basis the airline goes through the following amounts of products:
Over 138,000kg of cheese
Over 15.5 million pieces of those delicious Swiss chocolates you receive inflight.
Over 1.6 million Movenpick ice creams.
Over 256,000 bottles of wine in business class.
Over 69,000 bottles of wine in first class.

Now speaking of wine four times a year wine expert Chandra Kurt comes to the headquarters of Swiss to select all the wines that First and Business class customers will pair with their meals.


Pictured Above – Blueberry slice with chocolate crumble and Appenseller beer ice cream.


Nine months before launch

First-class airline meal planning can take up to nine months, and it usually starts with the airline giving a briefing to their caterer of what they would like to see served inflight. Once the brief is received selected chefs will begin to research, get inspiration and create menu ideas.

Five to Six months before launch

Six months before the first meal is to be served inflight the chefs will start to cook the first ‘sample’ dishes of their ideas. Five months before the airline caterer will invite Swiss to their facility to see the whole menu selection that the chefs have created, it is here that the Swiss product team get to taste everything that will feature on the new menus.

Three months before launch

Approximately three months before launch more staff from Swiss are invited to an inflight meal tasting session to make sure everything will be perfect for the new meals, and to iron out any problems.

The day before launch

Before the very first meals to be served inflight, everything on the menu is yet again created to specifications and taste tested again and again. These meals that took nine months to develop will be served inflight for about 12 weeks, and during this time chefs will continually taste test every single thing that is created in their kitchen.


Currently, specialties from Appenzellerland in Eastern Switzerland are gracing the tray tables of First and Business class passengers. I was fortunate enough to sample some dishes during this tour, the one that stood out was the Blueberry slice with chocolate crumble and Appenseller beer ice cream.

The airline has even decided to load real beer kegs on all flights from Quollfrisch, which will be served fresh to passengers from the tap on flights to San Fransisco and Los Angeles.

A big thanks to the product team at Swiss and the lovely folks at Gate Gourmet for allowing me to film and take photographs of their facilities at Zurich Airport.


About The Author

Founder of Inflight Feed

Nik has been running Inflight Feed since 2012, and since then he's taken well over 500 flights for work and pleasure. He documents his inflight meal experiences right here; he's also a freelance writer covering inflight meal trends, he has written for CNN and has regular columns in leading industry magazines. He's been featured in Vogue, QZ, Lifehacker, The New York Times plus many major news outlets across the globe.