Image: Marisa Garcia

AirBaltic brought foodies to Riga last Friday to learn about the airline’s customizable menus. Image: Marisa Garcia

APEX Insight: Last Friday, airline foodies gathered in Riga to learn how airBaltic infuses its customizable menus with fresh, wild flavors. The airline, which offers a host of fresh in-flight meal options prepared at a local LSG Sky Chefs kitchen, used the event as an opportunity to study the role local culture plays in in-flight menu personalization.

Food is a key element of airBaltic’s marketing strategy. “We do a lot of foodie events,” says Janis Vanags, vice-president of Corporate Communications, airBaltic. “Last year, we went to a restaurant here and did a food master class.” The airline’s latest food-related event took place last Friday in Riga, where Nik Loukas, creator of InflightFeed, brought airline foodies to learn how airBaltic infuses its customizable menus with fresh, wild flavors.

AirBaltic, which offers a host of fresh in-flight meal options prepared at a local LSG Sky Chefs kitchen, used the event to study the role local culture plays in in-flight menu personalization, making connections between Latvia’s flavors of home, the airline’s customizable menus and destination inspiration. “For us, it’s important to show our food culture. If you just look around here, this is a country where food is almost religious – especially wild food,” says Vanags. “We’ve been named a European region of gastronomy, the first in Central and Eastern Europe, because we are religious about food.”

Image: Marisa Garcia

Ilze Arkliņa, in-flight service manager, airBaltic (left), and Janis Vanags, vice-president of Corporate Communications, airBaltic (right). Image: Marisa Garcia

Focusing on taste-tailored in-flight menus does more than satisfy the palate, it also sends a message about the value the airline places on personalization, explained Vanags.  “Now we ask people to describe their favorite taste, our team will translate that taste into an actual pre-order. Ilze Arkliņa, in-flight service manager and ‘Boss of Food’ at airBaltic, can virtually take care of every customer who says, ‘I want to pre-order my food the way that I want it,’” Vanags said. “This boils down to customization, and that’s what we show here.”

Along with a tour of the LSG Sky Chefs kitchen, the group was treated to a taste-testing of mix-and-match dishes that airBaltic customers can pre-order. Included was a a special broth, sold as a quick meal to economy-class passengers. Developed by airBaltic’s “Boss of Food,” in collaboration with a local LSG Sky Chefs chef, the soup is crisp and filling, with thin slivers of zucchini, carrots and ginger, freshly snipped cilantro, succulent bites of chicken and bits of angel hair pasta. It’s prepared by flight crew on the spot using hot water from a thermos.

Image: Marisa Garcia

Image: Marisa Garcia

Nik Loukas, founder of airline meal review site Inflight Feed and the force behind successfully crowd-funded documentary The In-Flight Food Trip, shared his views on why in-flight dining is an important investment area for the passenger experience. “I’ve always said that food is a form of in-flight entertainment, especially in Europe, where a lot of airlines don’t have IFE,” he said. “If you don’t bring your own device and have movies to stream, your meal becomes your IFE.”

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.