Global Food & Beverage Director
Antony, who hails from Melbourne, oversees the strategic direction and design of the onboard food and beverage experience at Singapore Airlines. He has more than 30 years of global hospitality and culinary experience, spending time in North and Southeast Asia as well as Dubai. He was previously an international hotelier and worked with five-star luxury hotel brands before he moved into the world of flight catering.
Recently watched: Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
Favorite airport restaurant: Modern American Steak House at CPH
Passport stamp you wish you had: Antarctica — South Pole
The future of flight will be: Sustainable
In-flight meals have a bad rap. How can we change this?
Having spent years in the hospitality industry, I’ve learned this: The basics (techniques and processes) will always set you up for success – that’s why they are taught. In terms of food design, keep it relevant, authentic and use the best seasonal ingredients available. Talk to your customers to understand them and evolve with their insights. Consistency is king. Remove complexity and focus on delivering great food and beverage (F&B) experiences. Personalization helps, with passengers preselecting their meals through SIA’s Book the Cook menu, for example. Better aircraft cabin designs that improve humidity can also influence a passenger’s experience of a meal.
Which part of the passenger experience is most overlooked?
The post-flight experience. We should be reaching out to customers to keep them engaged and excited to book their next trip, ask them where they might like to travel and personalize offers specifically to where they want to go! This will help generate loyalty, improve retention and lead to the next purchase decision. Also, if something didn’t go right and if it was our mistake, we should own up to it and attempt to address and resolve the issue for the customer.
Singapore Airlines has partnered with AeroFarms in Newark. What do aeroponic farms mean for flight catering?
It sets a new culinary standard for sustainably grown produce and flavor and freshness. The greens are locally grown, pesticide-free, non-GMO and have consistent quality and year-round availability. Operationally, this means we can grow our greens according to demand using forecasted passenger loads. This reduces the likelihood of oversupply and waste and allows our customers to enjoy farm-fresh produce that has been harvested less than one day prior to our flight departure from Newark.
How has social media affected the food and beverage that airlines serve their passengers?
Social media is putting the global F&B community on a platform, calling out those who are not performing and supporting those who are great in their field. This means passengers on Wi-Fi can post live updates while in flight, and airlines can respond in real time. It drives the airline and F&B operator to be constantly on their game, as there is a greater need to ensure the consistency of in-flight experiences for all customers.
How can in-flight catering be more sustainable?
Airlines should try to source locally as much as possible, reducing waste while looking for opportunities to eliminate single-use plastics, and recycling where they can. They should also challenge suppliers to provide cost-efficient and neutral pricing so that the aviation community can afford to adopt these initiatives for the benefit of everyone’s future travel experiences.
What are some of the trends you have your eye on?
Kids’ meals: If children are happy, parents can rest easy, relax and enjoy their travel experience. Also, non-alcoholic distilled spirits: I would like to see where this leads us. And snacks that are healthier and higher in quality.
If you could hop on a plane for any meal right now, where would you go and what would you eat?I would go home to Singapore to fire up my barbecue and cook a dry-aged rib eye steak on the bone with béarnaise sauce, make a simple green salad and oven-roasted potatoes with garlic, rosemary and sea salt. And I would accompany the meal with an Australian red wine, the Henschke Keyneton Euphonium 2013.
APEX in Profile: Antony McNeil was originally published in the 10.2 April/May issue of APEX Experience magazine.