Bon appétit!

We have probably all enjoyed an in-flight meal at some point. We’re given a small tray by the cabin crew, take the cutlery out, tear the cellophane off the meal and tuck in. But stop right there. What do you really know about in-flight catering? What had to be done before you could stick your fork in your food?

The logistical process is the least known aspect of catering and possibly the most complex. Because on one hand it’s about getting three meals from airport A to B, but on the other hand it’s about the 50,000 meals that are sent from Schiphol alone everyday.

KLM Catering Services

A key role in this complicated logistical process is played by KLM Catering Services (KCS), who carry out the entire distribution process. The whole food consignment arrives by lorry at the docking bays. Inside the halls and cold cells everything is collected, processed, reordered, combined, packaged and labelled. At the end, all the food – and other equipment such as the trays – stands ready near the platforms, neatly arranged on trolleys and ordered according to flight, ready to be taken by truck to the appropriate aircraft. Meanwhile, all the storage rooms are kept at the right temperature and there are constant quality controls.


To each its own

KCS is a well-oiled machine with about 450 staff members per shift who prepare 50,000 meals in myriad varieties – chicken, pasta, Chinese, Indian, Surinamese, vegetarian, religious, medicinal, children’s, and so on. Inflight Services is both the brawn and the brains behind the meals. They think them up and work with a number of parties to develop them into high quality products.

The passenger is key at KLM. The product managers continuously research what passengers want. A few examples: Americans prefer to eat beef, while a Dutch passenger flying back from Suriname might be yearning for pasta instead of rice. On the other hand, there may be Chinese passengers on the same flight who want neither beef nor pasta. So there have to be Chinese dishes on board as well. And on flights to Japan, Japanese specialities are served which are developed with the Japanese chef at the Amsterdam Okura hotel to ensure that KLM will provide what Japanese passengers actually want.

A monumental challenge

It is a monumental challenge to continuously anticipate the eating requirements of over 25 million passengers per year and to bring the knowledge, ingredients, recipes and tableware together to be precisely and efficiently assembled at KCS. All European KLM flights and all intercontinental flights that depart from Schiphol are catered at Schiphol Centre. Meals on incoming intercontinental flights are delivered locally but only after KLM’s product specialists have been to the outstations to decide on the meals and the way they should be put together, following the same rules as those that apply at Schiphol.


Heard it al before?

It’s quite possible you’ve heard or read this before. We’ve posted this blog a while ago in July 2011. So this actually is a repost. But not without reason: our great KLM Intern On a Mission recently made a funny and interesting vlog about KLM Catering Services. You can check it out here:

Posted by:   KLM  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Coen jansen

Mooi. Heel veel verandert sinds ik weg ben maar jullie blijven in mijn hart

Bryan Henar

Jij ook in die van ons, Coen!

vriendelijke groet,
Bryan Henar


It is a shame that I found turkey sausage in my vegetarian breakfast

Alice Ruthven Hughes

What can I say? I have always looked forward to the lovely food and lovely people on my KLM flight. We have travelled on many airlines, from Emirates to BA but still in our book KLM wins hands down. We love your packaging, from the bikes on the plastic cups to the little boxes of sandwiches, which are always fantastic. We fly regularly from the UAE and we now choose to fly with KLM. Your food is really nice and you take care of all the little things that mean so much on a flight. I remember flying to the Netherlands from Scotland over 30 years ago ( when we lived in voorburg) and getting silver cutlery! I also remember the staff being really helpful when I travelled with my then two small children. I think they got a special meal? Years later, my children are older ( 35 and 31) we are now flying on a regular basis on our own however just this year my granddaughter who is 6 is also experiencing the KLM food. Keep doing what you do best. In my world you are the best.


service is gewoon geweldig goed ook op kortere vluchten


I do”nt seh tickets to Mexico ??


Wonderful service! Is there a chance I could join you? I used to work as a host, waiter and as s steward but not at airlines. I speak many languages and an advanced PC user but mostly I like preparing and serving hot meals and cold snacks and beverages. I’m just seeing if there’s any chance I could contribute in your airline.

Thank you


A very interesting article thank you, I never realized how many aspects go into the planning of airline meals.




There are so many categories of people flying with KLM. I understand that it is a huge task to make everyone happy. So far I am very satisfied with the KLM staff on board, they are very friendly and dedicated.
I have just one request: It would be most comfortable, if the direct journeys to India should slightly adjusted, as far as the meals are concerned.

All categories have been modified, except this: Please Add these meals as well.
JAIN Meals: 100% vegetarian food, without onion and garlic.

Or I have to take my own food with me on board and eat it cold, or I have to fast.
Other companies have this meal, but I prefer to fly with KLM.

Thank you very much.

Robert Allen

I received an allergic reaction from the vegetarian pasta on flight KL0682 and had to use my Epipen and oxygen supplied by the flight attendant. I was wondering what the ingredients were for this dish? The attendants informed me that they had no knowledge of the ingredients or any information on the plane. I have a serious nut allergy as well as some unknowns. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

H. Jansen

Robert Allen,
What a shock reading this. It is so resentfull KLM attendents and meal cooks do not know about such a deadly allergy and ingredients (traces!!!). I know people with the same problem as you have; they do not eat at airplanes at all, but take their own food with them. Better than die! But it is a shame KLM does not do anything about this allergy (and more) while they do something with gluten, where people not going to die when they eat something. It is bad… but I presume you take your own meal with you from last year on? Unfortunately for now you
always remain allergic to nuts and always must have your Epipen with you (and your other meds) I wish you luck. (sorry for the bad Englisch and see my comment written before I read your comment….) H.

Beatrys Okyere

I would be interested to know that steps KLM ( and affiliated catering companies) are taking to reduce waste. From my previous experience, very few items on the food trays are reusable, recyclable or in any way used with the planet in mind. We are all in this together! Planet Earth needs us.

Scott George

Wonderful experience, amazing how food this good can be served at 11,00 metres and by such friendly staff…Keep going for another 100 years.

Truls Berggren

Hello. Allergic to garlic – serious. Is that a problem? Have ordered diabetes meal…but do not really need that.

H. Jansen

Mooi om te lezen. Jammer dat de KLM niets doet met allergieën waaraan je kan overlijden!!! Ik vind dat kwalijk. Glutenallergie ga je niet dood aan mocht je het per ongeluk binnen krijgen! Andere toevoegingen wel. Het zou de KLM sieren hier zich eens in te verdiepen. In Nederland zijn daar genoeg mogelijkheden voor. Het is niet zo moeilijk, net zoals gluten maar essentieel voor mensen met een dodelijke allergie!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *