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‘Air travel is booming … but things have changed, people want more options for in-flight meals’

India’s Rs 1,500-crore (annual turnover) flight catering industry is staging a smart recovery from the dark days of March 2020 when it had ground to a halt for some time, as air traffic makes a smart comeback. Arun Batra, executive chef of Tata Group’s TajSATS that dishes out over half the flight meals in India, tells Saurabh Sinha how the stratospheric gastronomic experience is going to soon change. Excerpts:

On an average, how many meals were you preparing pre-Covid and when did the business start coming back during the pandemic?

Before March 2020, we used to dish out about 75,000 meals daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks across several categories. About 60-70% of them were for domestic flights and the rest for international flights. By the end of March 2020, this number dropped to zero for a very few days, after which we started preparing meals for the medical fraternity, security personnel and evacuation flights. Business started returning from October 2020 as air traffic picked up. Now domestic meals are back to pre-Covid level. International meals are at 70%-plus levels and we hope to be at 100% this winter.

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