Either folks miss air travel more than I thought, or Japanese regional airlines have way better in-flight meals than I’ve ever encountered! Nagoya Air Catering Co. has entered the market for cute lunches through an inspired pivot: repurposing in-flight meals as bentos (the modular boxed meal that hails from Japan).
This is no simple reallocation of food resources, as we saw on a smaller scale early in the pandemic with home cooks turning extra milk into so cheese. Nagoya Air Catering is straight-up serving its most popular in-flight meals to hungry supermarket shoppers, and commuters at a pop-up kiosk near the massive Nagoya station. From The Japan Times:
“The daily number of in-flight meals made and shipped by Nagoya Air Catering Co. at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, fell from 6,000 to around 100 as passenger demand dropped sharply. The plummeting sales numbers forced the company to make efforts to find a new market. […]
On sale are three kinds of bento featuring Japanese, Asian and European cuisine, as well as a Kobe beef bento and beef fillet sandwiches originally intended for business-class passengers. […]
Nagoya Air Catering is considering making the in-flight meals available at convenience stores as well. It is also planning to launch a baguette meal that was originally for cabin crew members.”
I’ve looked into a bit of the science behind in-flight meals — namely, how catering services bump up the salt and sugar content to compensate for the dry air and white noise of a plane cabin affecting the way we taste. I wonder if Nagoya Air Catering has dialled down these flavours in their earth-bound bentos — or maybe the blast of seasoning is all part of the charm? While I wouldn’t cross the street for one of Air Canada’s offerings, I’m intrigued by the popularity of these lunches… I’ll put them on my list to sample when — if — I’ll be able to visit Japan!