This was on the menu if you flew KLM in 1965

As I have done many times before, I recently delved into a pile of old KLM Wolkenridder magazines and this time I found one from 1965. It contained an article about on-board catering, which was simply too good not to tell you about. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, sit back and wait to be served.

That doesn’t sound bad at all

The department responsible for on-board food and drink in 1965 bore the wonderful title “Civil Service and Catering for Aircraft Victualling”. Quite a mouthful. This department consisted of a number of smaller departments, which all shared the same aim: “To serve on a clean tray a meal appropriate to the time of day and the personal preferences of the passenger”.

What was carried on board?

To begin with, a bit about victualling, or, the provisioning of a ship or aircraft. There were three kinds of provisions on board an aircraft in those days. Permanent provisions included things like blankets, glasses and cutlery. The variable provisions depended on the number of passengers and included meals and perishables. And then there were special provisions, such as baby food and special-diet, kosher and halal meals. Passengers could state their meal preferences when they placed their reservation and these were then passed on to the kitchens.

Popular with women

The chefs who, in the 1950s, had prepared entire meals on board the aircraft, had disappeared by 1965. But the cooking was still done at KLM. On the ground, the “Civil Service” chefs knocked up meals for thousands of passengers every day. But these weren’t just any old cooks. Several of them had won international prizes for their culinary art. KLM’s catering department also supplied meals for around 20 other airlines. This department was apparently a very popular stop on a tour of Schiphol, “particularly with the women”, the Wolkenridder reported.

Roast chicken

I love statistics and the list below shows you why. It provides a wonderful overview of what was prepared for passengers every day in 1965:

  • 3,000 dressed cold dishes
  • 250 roasted and filleted chickens
  • 500 kilos of boiled, roasted or stewed meat
  • 3,000 eggs – boiled and peeled
  • 2,000 pieces of cake baked
  • 250 kosher dishes
  • 10,000 platters
  • 15,000 cups, dishes and plates
  • 50,000 knives, forks and spoons washed

The washing up

After the meal comes the washing up. In the 1964/1965 financial year, KLM carried 1.6 million passengers; in 2012 we carried 25.8 million. By ’65 a solution had been found for the washing up (disposable tableware wasn’t introduced until 1969). Washing-up facilities had only just been mechanised. Until that time it was all done by hand. That’s an awful lot of Fairy Liquid.

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Tony Sibbald

I flew KLM in July 1966 from Amsterdam to Buenos Aires. The memory of that flight includes superb food, pampered at being only 16 and a KLM certificate on crossing the Equator!

Frido Ogier

Dear Tony,
Thanks for sharing your lovely memory! Do you still posess that certificate?

Best regards,

Ekke Aandie strand

IK Ben met KLM in Oct 1964 naar Johannesburg gevlogen.Na 54 jaar woon ik nu in Namibia.Wat een ervaring was dat voor iemand so jong als ik. .KLM nog steeds het beste!!!Jammer dat het he duur voor ons geworden is.Zou best nog eens m’n geboorte land willen bezoeken.

Frido Ogier

Leuk dat u reageert. Aan de tarieven van KLM kan ik als blogger weinig veranderen, helaas. Maar misschien dat u nu, tijdens de KLM Werelddealweken toch gebruik kunt maken van een gunstige aanbieding van een vlucht Windhoek-Amsterdam. Ik hoop dat het u lukt!

hartelijke groet,


Rosemary Bailey

I flew from Rotterdam to London Heathrow every month from March 1965 to February 1966. Even on short flights such as this there was a free alcoholic drink and snack if you wanted it. Then in Spring 1966 we flew To Gran Canaria and catering was superb. I worked for KLM in the Time Table Department when Head Office was opposite Madurodam. I lived with another English girl in The Hague she was in the Publications Department doing Copy Work. KLM was a well respected Airline in those days.

Frido Ogier

Dear Rosemary,
Thanks for your nice reply and memory. I do hope that KLM is still that respected airline :-) Did you know that KLM’s former headoffice in The Hague is being rebuilt to appartments?

Kind regards,


Wendy Purvis

My mum used to do the packing in the catering department in 1965. I am trying to find out where it was . It was near Heathrow airport in England. Trying to trace a work friend of hers but need an address

Brad M Mackay

Hi Frido! Great post! I really enjoy articles that feature photos or videos from your archives. Is the KLM Archive(s) accessible to writers/researchers?

Hans Murris

As a school boy, I used to work at holidays time in the catering to help the cooks to prepare the meals, boil and peel the eggs, make little breads, do the “up deck”, washing the dishes, etc.
I remember having a good time, by then… who could know that time, that I later would become the Livery Design Engineer at KLM E&M so many years later and prepare the almost all the KLM liveries (including the big KLM 100 on the newest 787-10)?

Frido Ogier

Dear Hans,

That’s something to be really proud of! Nice to know who’s the man behind the KLM livery. :-)

Best regards,


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