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When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

Seat 1A aims to provide savvy travellers with advanced industry based knowledge to enhance the air travel experience and take off from the crowd. By arming you with an understanding of the systems, processes, rules and structures that define modern air travel, Seat 1A strives to give you the upper hand by examining real experiences from abroad.

Whether traveling in ultra-economy or first-class, with or without frequent flyer status, knowing how the operation works will keep you moving in front of the masses, especially when things don’t go as planned. Seat 1A provides tips and tricks on how to make your travel experience as smooth and efficient as possible. Our goal is that you'll be in Seat 1A all the time!

We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

The Seat 1A Podcast also relies on feedback from listeners, offering the chance to take real experiences and analyze them, breaking them down to understand what happened, where things went well or wrong and what can be learned from it. If you have a story, question or experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Experience 025 Show Notes. Opening the mailbag - Part 2. Inflight meals - second service. The Seat 1A Podcast.

Nov 25, 2019

Recorded 21 November 2019

Written by: Geoff Dahl & Vinod Viswalingam

Listen to this experience wherever you download your podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play and Overcast.

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Well, would you look at that – it's the 25th recorded experience. We'll have a celebration soon when it's the 25th experience that both Vinny and Geoff have recorded together.

We give a shoutout to the Layovers podcast for recently reaching their 100th episode – great job Paul Papadimitriou & Alex Hunter!

In this experience Vinny and Geoff go back into the mailbag for a second meal service.

We take a look back at when meal service really started to take off (sorry) on intercontinental flights...and then we divert to Vinny's cutlery drawer – which airlines are in there?

As we fast-forward to today, we have to remember that your senses work differently in the pressure and (lack of) humidity at 30000 feet. Airlines must produce meals in massive production kitchens and try to match flavours from the ground to the air. How long ahead do they make the meals? How do airlines set up bidding with caterers?

As we step onboard the flight, how are the carts and trays set up? We'll look at examples from long haul flights. The airline has to ensure that there is maximum cleanliness and hygiene of the carts, but also that they're available. How does the airline line up meals on the trays on a cart shelf? We look at an example of a 2 meals service flight. Are you the first meal off the cart – you're probably getting it quickly. Why does there seem to be a lot of hand motions and dinging during meal service with flight attendants? Vinny shares his Qantas garlic bread experience from LAX-MEL. Your meal is frozen at takeoff, how do they get it hot for you at cruising altitude? Second round of food, yes there are even more carts stored away. But where do they keep the food? What happens if there is a delay or diversion? What's that dripping from the overhead bin? (hint – it's not gravy). What was that smell that Vinny had to deal with in Cuba – and did the passengers get their meal? How does the airline keep cold food fresh? When customers handed back trays, Vinny had a very specific pet peeve. What was it? How did others get around the problem that so irked Vinny?

What happens to waste after landing – especially after international arrivals?

Questions from listener Alana H. Be prepared if you're on an irregular operations flight, sometimes the crew's timings may be off, or choices can go awry. Are alterations allowed for inflight meals? How long should you give advance notice for special meals? Check if your special meal is actually available. Be aware of the meal service that is being provided on your flight. What if you miss pre-ordering? What if you miss a meal? What if you fall asleep before meal service? Ice Cream – yes and wait until you hear of the service Vinny got from IAH-GIG on United (UA). And don't get too hungry after hearing about Vinny's "Book the Cook" experiences on Singapore (SQ).

News Items:

  • Flyertalk article "United Has a New Burger, and People Are Raving About It"
  • liveandletsfly article "My Odd Experience Pre-Selecting A Meal On Delta Air Lines"

If you have a meal story, a question or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at




NEWS ITEMS | United Has a New Burger, and People Are Raving About It (21 November 2019)
"...United’s Choice Menu offers plenty to satisfy the hungriest of passengers, but for Live and Let’s Fly, the airline’s new burger is positively praiseworthy. In fact, the outlet says the bun alone is worth raving about. The burger is $10 and can be purchased on most of the airline’s domestic services..."

liveandletsfly | My Odd Experience Pre-Selecting A Meal On Delta Air Lines
"...Last week I flew Delta One (business class) from Los Angeles to New York. Before the trip, I took advantage of Delta’s pre-select meal option. At least I thought I did..."





  • What's in this experience? [00:00:47]
  • Experience 025! [00:01:34]
  • Shoutout to Layovers for their 100th episode. [00:02:02]
  • How our sound has gotten better. [00:02:36]
  • Bring out the second meal service. [00:03:23]
  • A bit of history about aviation meal service. [00:03:46]
  • What airlines are in Vinny's cutlery drawer? [00:04:15]
  • Fast forward to today. [00:04:48]
  • Remember that your senses are different at 30000 feet. [00:05:20]
  • Meals are prepared in massive production kitchens. [00:06:04]
  • How do we replicate tastes from the ground in the air? [00:07:07]
  • How far in advance are meals made? [00:07:43]
  • Airline bid process with caterers. [00:09:07]
  • Cart and tray setups. [00:10:12]
  • Looking at long-haul examples where there is a tray service provided. [00:10:31]
  • Cart cleaning, hygiene and availability. [00:11:16]
  • There are slight differences with cart design. [00:11:47]
  • How does an airline line up their trays on a cart shelf? [00:12:15]
  • Looking at example with 2 meal service (or plane going somewhere, turning and returning). [00:13:14]
  • Clarification about tray setup. [00:13:47]
  • First round of service out of a cart is typically fast. [00:15:15]
  • Pay attention for call bell dings and silent gestures. [00:16:05]
  • Qantas experience with garlic butter bun injections from LAX-MEL. [00:16:55]
  • Your meal - from takeoff and frozen to cooked at cruising altitude. [00:18:03]
  • The convenience of the first drink round on an intercontinental flight give time to cook the meals. [00:19:17]
  • Here comes the second cart service. There's a second set of carts ready to go. [00:20:00]
  • Meals for second service may appear in a number of ways, stacked in the galley or where else? [00:20:20]
  • Now what happens to those stacked meals if there's a delay or diversion? [00:21:31]
  • Drip, drip, drip, drip from the overhead bins. [00:21:54]
  • Vinny shares a story of crewing a flight in Cuba after it was delayed at least a day. What is that smell? [00:22:53]
  • Airline had to source local food provider in Santa Clara, Cuba since pre-packed food was not edible. [00:24:24]
  • Passengers got hot sandwiches instead sourced from Cubana - cheese all over. [00:25:10]
  • Often meals are carried underneath in the belly. [00:25:44]
  • Keeping fresh sandwiches cold for Vancouver-Hawaii-Vancouver. [00:26:19]
  • Seat 1A tip for when you hand your trays back. [00:27:03]
  • Vinny's pet peeve with a certain way that passengers returned the tray. [00:28:00]
  • Please. DO. NOT. STACK. YOUR. TRAYS. [00:28:33]
  • Some flight attendants get around the tray issue with a two-bag solution. [00:29:34]
  • But what happens when you get back to the galley? [00:30:27]
  • Shoutout to all crew members who have their own way with the cart. [00:31:16]
  • What happens to carts and waste after landing? [00:31:26]
  • What happens to food waste if you're arriving internationally? [00:31:46]
  • Even if the food takes off from Canada, goes international and returns, it's still international waste. [00:32:46]
  • Listener questions about meal selection and special meals. [00:33:40]
  • Generally for short haul you can go online and check buy on board options. [00:34:00]
  • Meal selection from standard choices should be fine, but there are times it can go awry. [00:34:41]
  • 3 items on offer, crew only offered 2 to Vinny's wife, but later flight attendant offered third to others. [00:35:34]
  • Sometimes the crew forgets what is on offer. [00:36:28]
  • Can you have alterations for inflight meals? [00:37:14]
  • Make sure you advise the airline at least 48 hours in advance of special meal requests. [00:37:30]
  • Remember that all the special meals may not be available on all routes. [00:37:52]
  • Be aware of what types of meal service is being provided on your flight. [00:38:29]
  • If you miss pre-ordering, you'll usually have to deal with what's on board. [00:39:23]
  • What happens if you miss a meal? [00:40:16]
  • Sometimes if you leave your tray down and you're asleep the crew will leave your meal. [00:40:52]
  • Sometimes the airline runs out of proportion and has to serve whatever is left. [00:41:17]
  • I scream, you scream for inflight ice cream. [00:41:38]
  • How does ice cream keep in the galley? [00:43:11]
  • Airline partnerships with local or national food sources, chefs, restaurants, etc. [00:43:36]
  • Singapore Airlines and Book the Cook. [00:44:27]
  • News Stories. [00:47:30]
    • United Has a New Burger, and People Are Raving About It. [00:47:38]
    • My Odd Experience Pre-Selecting A Meal On Delta Air Lines. [00:48:32]
  • Ensure that you are particular with your terminology about the food service. [00:50:02]
  • Show Wrap-up. [00:51:00]