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DVT – The Persistent Challenge

In 2001, the respected medical journal The Lancet published a bombshell analysis estimating that small blood clots form in the calves of in one in every ten airline passengers. The controversial study sparked heated debate.

Now, 13 years later, some important perspective on air travel-related blood clots, a clearing of the air if you will. Further research indicates they’re not so much a plague as a problem. Things may not be as bad as we once assumed, but the fact is Deep Vein Thrombosis remains a devilishly persistent issue that may be on the grow. One of the world’s foremost DVT experts, Dr. Nigel S. Key, chair-elect of the International Society of Thrombosis Haemostasis (ISTH), asserts, “It would be a reasonable supposition that as long-distance airline travel becomes more affordable – and as the population gets older – that DVT is becoming more widespread.”

Another renowned researcher, Dr. Suzanne C. Cannegieter of the Department of Epidemiology at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, roughly estimates that world wide there were some 250,000 cases of air travel-related DVT in 2012. As approximately 5 per cent of DVT cases are fatal, this would put the death rate at 12,500 last year.

That risk comes against the backdrop of a significant increase in people who fly these days. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) says some 1.639-billion of us took wing back in 2002. According to estimates by the International Air Transport Association that number ten years later (2012) is 2.977 billion.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says, “The actual incidence of travel-related [venous thromboembolism, which includes DVT and PE] is difficult to determine.” Still, CDC concludes, “Long distance air travel may increase the risk…by 2- to 4-fold,” noting that heightened risk is also present in car, bus or train travel – any mode of transportation where passengers are relatively immobile.

Anatomy and Consequences of Clots

Key says most clots from in the lower extremities, the legs and the pelvis. Sometimes they manifest themselves dramatically: “There are well-publicized cases of somebody getting off an Australia to [London] Heathrow flight and dropping down dead of a pulmonary embolism.” Then there are instances “where patients present several weeks later, ” he says. In the middle are flyers such as our Hong Kong to Chicago traveler, where preliminary symptoms – such as leg cramps – are followed in short order by something more attention grabbing. “I woke up and my leg was swollen and I couldn’t move,” she vividly recalls.

It’s when an extremity-lodged clot breaks off and travels to the lungs that all hell can break loose. “The majority [of patients] will present with Deep Vein Thrombosis rather than Pulmonary Embolism,” says Key. “That’s about a two-to-one ratio.” You may have time to stop potentially-fatal PE consequences from happening because “It could take a while for [the clot] to grow, propagate [from, say, the leg] and eventually obstruct – or embolize and travel to the lung.”

What You Can Do to Minimize the Risk

“Clots don’t form for one reason” alone he says. Many times, they’re the result of a perfect storm of factors, a malicious mélange of little things: age, immobility, recent surgery or hospitalization, long-distance flights or dehydration.

First, consider that statement of Key’s that more older folks are flying these days. They should take special care. For the overall population, Key says the risk of DVT is about one in a thousand. For people under 40 it’s one in ten-thousand. Then there are octogenarians. Live north of 80 and the chances of DVT increase ten-fold – one percent of that population.

This doesn’t mean older people shouldn’t fly; it just means they (and the rest of us for that matter) have to be acutely aware of DVT and how to keep it at bay: hydrate, avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine, choose an aisle seat (preferably in proximity to a lavatory), don compression hose or socks, get up and walk about when the seat belt sign’s not on. “All of that,” says Key. Then there’s awareness of the increased risk oral contraceptives pose, as well as recent surgeries. As for the latter, the good doctor says, “Better wait a good month or six weeks [after surgery] before undertaking a long trip.”

How about passengers with a history of DVT? Should they travel? Key has a patient who regularly flies to Nigeria for his work. He’s been hit by clots before. Key says, “There are some patients where we might give them a one-time, preventative dose of anti-coagulant just before they get on the plane.” That’s supplemented  by another dose within 24 hours after the flight, followed by a similar regimen on the return leg of the journey.

This internationally-recognized thrombosis expert is not suggesting this prophylactic prescription en masse. He’s merely saying the benefit-to-risk approach might work “on an individualized basis.”

As for taking an aspirin before you board, Key says, “it’s not known” whether that makes a difference. But for patients whose risk is “several deviations from the normal…we will say, ‘Why don’t you take this dose before you get on the plane, and maybe one after you arrive.’”

That’s the point of all of this: arriving at your destination in decent shape to wrestle the business at hand, or simply revel in those far-away-places with the strange sounding names. Neither is  accomplished from a hospital bed. 

All the way on China Southern’s new Boeing 787

Australians will soon be able to sample China Southern Airlines’ new Boeing 787 Dreamliners when travelling the Guangzhou-London route next week.

 

The 787 Dreamliner offers improved efficiency, quieter cabins, lower air pressure and larger windows,

 

It will start five weekly morning services from China Southern’s main hub of Guangzhou to Heathrow on September 10.

 

“This is extra exciting for China Southern because passengers travelling out of Sydney from October 28 will be able to fly to Guangzhou on one of our new Airbus A380s and then fly the rest of the way to London on the 787, sampling two of our newest airliners and a vibrant Chinese city in the one trip,” said China Southern Regional General Manager Australia/New Zealand Mr Henry He.

 

“We’re also rolling out the new 787s on our Auckland and Vancouver routes and now that our entire Australian fleet has been replaced with the latest Airbus aircraft, offering fully flat beds in Business Class and personal TVs throughout, it really is a great time to fly with China Southern.”

Four Days and $1 Million

The ultimate, million-dollar weekend break in Australia has been revealed by private jet lifestyle magazine Elite Traveler for ultra-wealthy jetsetters looking to get lavish Down Under.

This no-expense-spared trip of a lifetime, created as part of the New York-based magazine’s Million Dollar Weekend Getaway series in partnership with Australian luxury tour operator SWAIN, will set you back more than $1 million.

You will be treated to a private Harbour Bridge climb, an exclusive performance at the Opera House, numerous private jet jaunts, and the ultimate Great Barrier Reef experience.

“Our readers make over 40 trips per year, including 10 intercontinental trips so they are always interested in great adventures, and Australia provides the perfect backdrop for a spectacular weekend,” said Mike Espindle, Group Editor for Elite Traveler Media Group.

Highlights of the itinerary include:

* 4 nights in a 2-bedroom suite at the Park Hyatt Sydney, with panoramic views of Sydney Harbour, Opera House, and Bridge from the balcony
* A private bridge climb and private performance at the Opera House, complete with fireworks over the harbour ordered up just for you
* A private visit with koalas and kangaroos at an animal sanctuary open only for your entourage

* A helicopter trip to renowned Robert Oatley Vineyards, with lunch served by Australian top chef Neil Perry

* Private jet jaunts from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and lunch at top resort qualia, and to Ayers Rock, featuring a dinner party under the stars for you and your guests at the rugged yet refined Longitude 131°

* The gift of an authentic Australian black opal (the rarest and most valuable of opal) and an even rarer Australian pink diamond as a souvenir

To ensure you have complete privacy, every restaurant you dine in will be closed for the duration of your eating experience, while all ground transportation will be provided by Rolls-Royce vehicles filled to the brim with champagne.

It doesn’t get much better than this!

Etihad offers a Flying Nanny service

Etihad Airways has launched a dedicated in-flight child care assistance program for families, led by the introduction of a new Flying Nanny on board long haul flights.

 The Flying Nanny provides a ‘helping hand’ to families and unaccompanied minors. 

During the past two months, 300 Etihad Airways cabin crew members have completed enhanced training for the role. A further 60 will be trained in September and 500 Flying Nannies will be working on Etihad Airways long haul flights by the end of 2013.

The course includes in-depth training, from the world renowned Norland College, focusing on child psychology and sociology.

In addition, the course also covers many different creative ways the Flying Nanny can entertain and engage with children during flights.

Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Services, said: “Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travellers, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of our guests’ needs and our commitment to making the journey as relaxing and comfortable as possible.”

“The Flying Nanny will liaise with parents and use their experience and knowledge to make the travel experience easier. This includes helping serve children’s meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests,” Ms Tiedt said.

 The Flying Nanny will also inform families transiting at Abu Dhabi about the various baby changing and child facilities at the airport, as well as advising them of the children’s play area in the premium lounges and at Gate 32 in Terminal 3.

The ultimate test for planes

The view at 12,000ft above Queenstown is simply stunning for passengers aboard our Air New Zealand flight.

But in the cockpit, the pilots see a very different picture. They are about to land on a tiny runway nestled between treacherous mountains.

Heads are down scanning an array of screens that weave computer wizardry as the plane’s navigation system uses global positioning satellites to pinpoint the dangers that have claimed so many lives in the past or forced planes to divert.

Dubbed RNP (required navigation performance) and introduced in the late 1990s, the system allows pilots to fly in blinding cloud, rain and snow around mountains right to the runway and saves costly diversions. And its accuracy? A few metres.

Queenstown is known as one of the world’s most difficult and challenging airports for landing and take-off.

Air New Zealand’s Airbus A320 fleet manager Captain Hugh Pearce says RNP is complex and needs 25 different navigation systems and backups to work correctly. A single diversion can cost as much as $30,000, making the value of RNP compelling.

But it’s not just safe landings in airports such as Queenstown that are driving airlines’ push for RNP. Because of its high-precision capability, RNP can save airlines millions of dollars in fuel costs by using much shorter — and mostly curved — approaches to airports.

RNP is just one of many new technologies that have dramatically improved airline safety, resulting in the lowest number of accidents since 1945.

Last year, there were only 475 deaths from 23 accidents while the industry carried 2.9 billion passengers.

Compared with traditional cockpits, the improvements in computerised cockpits are significant with the elimination of up to 600 dials and gauges. And procedures are cut. If an engine has a fire warning, a pilot now needs to take four actions instead of 15.

Two of the greatest advances in the cockpit are the Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) and the Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS).

TCAS provides pilots with collision protection if there is a failure by air traffic controllers. It tracks all planes by picking up their identity transmission and warns of an impending collision and what action is required. It has saved thousands of lives.

EGPWS shows pilots the world’s terrain database on their computer screens and colour-codes mountains relative to the plane’s altitude.

And the gadgetry doesn’t end there. There is a 3-D weather radar that detects turbulence and an auto-land system that has an accuracy of just a metre.

Another critical aspect of keeping passengers safe is testing the planes, an extremely sophisticated and expensive process.

When Boeing built the 365-seat 777, it had to prove that the 777 structure could carry the maximum design load in the most extreme conditions over the life of the plane. Enter the ultimate torture chamber.

Applying the torture were 96 hydraulic actuators which punished the 777 in 120,000 simulated flights — double its expected life span. The most dramatic testing was done on the wing. After simulating two lifetimes of testing, engineers bent the wing upwards 7.31m — equal to a load of 120,000kg — before it fractured.

But testing wasn’t always that sophisticated. In 1932 the Douglas Aircraft Company used a steamroller to test the structural integrity of the DC-1 (DC-3) wing.

And there are a host of operational tests. One of the most impressive is the velocity minimum unstick test which determines the plane’s minimum lift-off speed. The test pilot tries to get the plane to take off at the normal speed, which results in the plane “sitting” on its tail before lifting off.

Another torturous test is rejected take-off.

The 777 was loaded to its maximum take-off weight and brought up to take-off speed. Without using reverse thrust, with worn brakes the pilot must bring it to a stop using brakes only. After stopping, the brakes became so hot they glowed red. However, no action can be taken for five minutes, representing the time taken to get emergency vehicles to the plane.

Another test is the cold soak, where the plane is left for three days in a blizzard before start-up.

And the engines that power these giants of the air have to endure even worse. General Electric’s GE90 — the world’s largest engine that develops 76,000hp — had to soak up 4.5 tonnes of water and 1.5 tonnes of ice a minute, along with an assortment of dead birds.

But testing is just one aspect. Maintaining a plane is extremely expensive. Airbus A380 tyres cost $92,000 each and must be changed about every six months. The A380 has 32 of them.

An A380 windscreen-wiper blade will set an airline back $1000 and a complete overhaul every five years lasts two months, takes 40,000 man hours and can cost more than $6 million.

The improvements in cockpits are significant with the elimination of up to 600 dials and gauges. 

AirAsia X expands

AirAsia X is boosting its Australian footprint with twice daily flights set to operate from Perth, Sydney and Melbourne later this year.

The airline will increase its 9 weekly flights from Perth to Kuala Lumpur to 14 a week on November 25th.

From Sydney and Melbourne the airline will increase flights from 12 weekly flights to double daily.

To celebrate the double daily flights, AirAsia X is holding a “Buy 1, Fly 2” sale which allows passengers to book with a friend.

The sale is available for booking online from August 26 to September 1st or till the sale runs out. The travel period for departures from Perth and Sydney is November 25th to August 5th 2014. From Melbourne it is October 1 2013 and August 5 2014.

In one of AirAsia X’s best deals yet, two people can fly from Perth to Kuala Lumpur from just $449 one way subject to terms and conditions.

There are also various Fly-Thru deals which allow passengers to easily connect between two different flights via the Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal without having to check in twice.

The fares are for two people one way.

From Perth to: Singapore from $479*; Phuket from $509*; Jakarta, Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh from $529*; Osaka from $539*; Tokyo from $559*; Seoul from $589*; Taipei from $609*; Chengdu and Hangzhou from $629*; and Shanghai from $639*.

From Sydney to; Singapore from $469*; Phuket from $509*; Jakarta, Bangkok, Bali and Ho Chi Minh from $529*; Osaka from $539*; Busan from $559*; Kathmandu from $579*; Seoul from $589*; Taipei from $609*; Hangzhou and Chengdu from $629* for two people one way.

From Melbourne to: Singapore from $479*; Bangkok, Bali and Jakarta from $529*; Osaka from $539*; Tokyo from $559*; Kathmandu from $579*; Seoul from $589*; Taipei from $609*; Chengdu, Hangzhou and Beijing from $629*; and Shanghai from $639*.

*Terms and conditions apply.

Renowned food editor and chef gives Qantas tick of approval

qantas sells catering to dnata
Photo: Qantas.

Flight: QF642

Sector: Perth-Sydney

Date: 25 Jul

Aircraft: Boeing 767

Class: Business

Seat: 5E

Departure: 1010 hrs (wst)

Score: 7/10 stars

The highly competitive domestic long haul business class sectors in Australia have resulted in service levels changing dramatically on the lucrative Nullarbor routes from Perth to the major Eastern States ports in Australia. Now, if you take a wide bodied service from say Perth to Sydney, you can recline in a fully flat bed (the old international business class pod), eat at your leisure from a menu and enjoy the linen-clad perks we’ve always experienced at the front of the plane, but delivered with new vigour and, it must be said, in the case of Qantas, significant and genuine enthusiasm from cabin crew.

If dining aboard is a matter of concern, then the food and wine service across the Nullarbor has also greatly improved.

A digression: One of the great innovations in aviation in recent years – TCAS, Cat IIIc autoland and carbon fibre fuselages aside – has been the button hole in the Qantas Business Class napkin. It’s also a primary newbie indicator (PNI) at the front of the plane. At first the new J Class flyer is clueless, then they see others with their napkins attached to their top button and, with a confected ennui, sheepishly follow suit. But it’s with some satisfaction that one sees the newbie patting the napkin down on to his Pelaco shirt front while a small smile of satisfaction crosses his face. Not knowing about the button hole makes eating in the air difficult and potentially messy. Why is it then that the very useful button hole napkin concept has not been extended into the non-aviation world? This truly is one of life’s big questions. Homewares stores, take note.

But I digress.

QF42 left on time, more or less, and with a 4.5 hour transit, service began at a leisurely pace. Menus, previously only available on international business class flights, were distributed. The trendy restaurant terminology “plates” has been appropriated at the Q kitchens: the menu had a “small plates” section and a “main plates” section. The term “entrée” or “starter” is just so last decade.

Sweet corn chowder with garlic croutons and a salad of slow roasted carrots with prawns, almonds, labne (cheese made from draining the moisture away from yoghurt) and the ubiquitous quinoa (pronounced kin-wah) were the two small plate options.

The carrot dish gets a big tick. The baby carrots were nicely al dente; the labne was well seasoned and texturally good (overly drained and it becomes gluey and cloying, underdone and it is too runny) and the garnishes lived up to expectations: crunch from the almonds and prawns which had retained moisture, a big win in airline cookery where overcooking is regarded as a sensible health and hygiene standard.

Mains – four of them to choose from – read well. The thought of braised beef cheeks didn’t do it, but the hot smoked salmon with green tea noodles and a sesame soy dressing was a hugely generous serve, even if it was, in fact salmon with potatoes and rocket. Presumably green tea noodles and soy went MIA on the day.

This dish was dramatically under-seasoned and bland. Apparently it’s difficult to excite taste buds at flight level three zero, but you’d reckon the kitchen would know that and overcompensate. Having said that, the hot smoked fish was first class and the spuds were nicely cooked and dressed.

Cheese is, well, cheese. The cabin crew deserves a big tick for ensuring that the cheeses were served at cabin temperature. Service of cheese fridge cold is a no-no in any restaurant, but it is attention to detail often forgotten on the ground, let alone in the air. And I have had Qantas cheese plates in the past that could set your teeth chattering.

But, by far the cleverest thing about this meal, was the introduction of an amuse bouche service as drinks orders are being taken. Business class meal service can take a long time, so if you’re in row 6, there’s every chance the economy cabin crew has fed everyone in Y class before the business crew get to you. For most of us, this matters little (it’s not as if you’ve got to be somewhere) but there are enough alpha male flyers who loathe waiting for anything for these delays to have become a problem.

The amuse bouche – in this case a flaccid, but well flavoured square of frittata – solves the problem. The alpha in 6F has been paid attention to; he’s been fed and he has a drink in his hand. Happy days.

Good psychology.

Good flight.

 
See the Virginn Australia review here: https://www.airlineratings.com/news.php?id=86

Easy as pie for Virgin Australia

Flight: VA691

Sector: Melbourne-Perth

Date: 28 July 2013

Aircraft: Airbus A330

Class: Business

Seat: 2B

Departure: 1730 hrs

Score: 8/10 stars

One probably doesn’t need the cheese course on a Virgin flight. The airline’s internationally renowned song and dance man, Richard Branson, is all the cheese you’d ever need. Unkind? Probably. But Branson is no stranger to the cheesy photo op or the cleverly pitched stunt. And, of course, it works. It has positioned Virgin as the freestyle outsider, the fun lovin’ alternative to the stuffy legacy carriers.

In Australia, this posture – pitched at the yoof – has been usurped somewhat by budget tyro JetStar with it’s perky TV ads and toothy models plucked from the ranks of its flight attendants.

And while Virgin hasn’t dumped its youthful tear-away image altogether, It is now a serious player in the business class market in Australia and it has had to, well, grow up. It’s doing a cracker job too. There’s still a bit of yoof culture about it, especially in the design of its major airport business loungers, but as Aussie business flyers discovered when they took advantage of the airline’s matching platinum-for-platinum, gold-for-gold frequent flyer promotion in 2012, this is one hell of an airline.

Culture in any organisation is important and it’s clear (as a first time Virgin business traveller) that the service culture at Virgin is superb. The staff are smiley and chatty and genuinely personable and yet they never cross the “too familiar – get out of my space” line. Nor do they have the vacant look and fixed smile of the ‘professional’ steward who delivers flawless service, but forgets the most important part – a genuine, welcoming attitude.

The Virgin business cabin is a nice place to be.

Its pod seating too is best in class and a real winner for Perth-Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane travellers, particularly on red eye flights.

So, what about that cheese course. Well, it’s good too, although on a menu specifically designed for Perth flights you’d expect a West Australian cheese to be on the card – the stunning Ringwould Dairy goats cheeses would be an obvious choice. Instead we get a three cheese list with two from the same producer in Gippsland and the other a supermarket cheese from KingIsland in Tassie. There’s nothing wrong with any of them, but, where’s the imagination?

Irish Australia larrikin chef Luke Mangan is the face of the food and he seems a good fit for Virgin. He’s a TV personality, man about town, cookbook author and knockabout bloke with a gleam in the eye and a cute turn of phrase. His menu on A330 flights is an extensive book’ titled “Chef’s Selections” specifically designed for what Virgin calls its “Coast to Coast” services.

From the starters list a beautifully plated Peking duck dish with spring onion and hoi sin riffed off the classic Beijing duck in a pancake, capturing the big, bold hoi sin flavours while not swamping the glazed duck slices. The crew have obviously been to plating-up school: the dish was perfectly presented completed with snipped micro herbs. Big flavour.

From the mains list, blue eye trevalla with steamed potatoes was the kind of well cooked, but ultimately uncomplicated dish one just loves to eat on a plane. Again, plating-up skills were superb. A plinth of perfectly cubed steamed spuds had been laid with care on the plate on top of which the trevalla – moist, hot, well-seasoned – had been set. It was topped with a punchy roasted capsicum sauce, adding yet more bold flavour to the construction.

We’re talking airline here. Had this dish been plated up in a restaurant on the ground, would we be raving quite so much. Arguably not, but it is one of the best executed dishes, I’ve eaten in the sky for quite some time (The best by the way is Neil Perry’s eight course degustation in the first cabin on the A380 service Sydney to Los Angeles – which I’ll review in upcoming editions).

The chocolate lava cake was a fail. It was acidic from too much bi-carb and just, well, ordinary.

The drawcard in this cabin is the wine list. One isn’t just offered wines from a trolley. An entire wine list is proffered along with the menu at the beginning of food service and it is lavish in scope (for an airline cabin that is) and with its tasting notes and explanations. It may sound all a bit wine-buffy, but in fact the list is more useful to non-wine buffs than experts. It gives them time to think about what they want to drink, so when the steward comes round for orders, it’s a simple conversation rather than the entire explanation for each passenger. Good move. And classy too.

But for those who like an aperitif before lunch, the inclusion of Campari on the liqueurs and spirits list is about as perfect as it gets.

One of the best.

These kitchens rule

Every day over 8 million people board 100,000 flights across the world. It’s a sign that flying has become an ordinary part of life for many people.

Far less ordinary are the mind-bogglingly complex systems needed to look after the millions of passengers. Keeping them fed and watered is a hugely important part of airlines’ operations as AirlineRatings.com found out when it visited two of the world’s biggest kitchens. See the video at the bottom of the page.

Jorg Kubisz and his team at Cathay Pacific’s kitchen in Hong Kong produce a staggering 63,000 in-flight meals every day. “We have very big numbers here on a daily basis: 15,000 portions of rice, 800 steaks, 80,000 bread rolls, buns and pastries and five tonnes of fruit, ” Mr Kubisz says.

The kitchen includes 17 different sections to produce most cuisines — western, continental and Mediterranean, Japanese, Korean, Indian and South-East Asian as well as a bakery and halal and kosher kitchens. The kitchens are a hive of quiet and controlled activity as everyone works to tight schedules.

A huge wok sizzles and throws up flames as a chef cooks 60 portions of stir-fry at once — 60 per cent of the food made in Cathay Pacific’s kitchen is Chinese food. A big vat of delicious smelling curry bubbles away as a chef uses a spoon the size of an oar to stir it.

Some tasks are done by hand — lettuce leaves are sorted, omelettes are flipped and pies are egg-washed. Other tasks are done with some help from technology. Two chefs stand at an intriguing contraption — it looks like something out of a Wallace and Gromit animation — which rotates a dozen hot frying pans underneath a nozzle which squirts oil, then an egg mixture that is cooked, flipped and dished up by the chefs. “We have to do this because we cook 8,000 omelettes a day, ” Mr Kubisz explains.

More important than what goes in the food is what does not or should not. With 63,000 meals being churned out a day, the opportunity for something to go wrong is big and the consequences even bigger. “Foreign objects in food are a reality,” Mr Kubisz says. “If a passenger notices, he will complain. Then we have to prepare a report and that number is captured in our performance.” Cleanliness procedures are tight. Regular hand washing is a must and everyone uses hair nets, face masks, white coats and bootees.

Cathay Pacific’s kitchens are impressive enough, but to the west in Dubai, Emirates airline is leading the charge on air travel expansion. Sprawled across one of the world’s foremost international airports is the world’s biggest kitchen, producing about 120,000 meals a day.

“Our biggest challenge is logistics. It’s putting it all together and getting it on to the plane,” head chef James Griffith says. The quantities he and his team handle are huge — 13 million croissants and three million muffins are baked on site every year, 300 tonnes of Australian lamb is cooked and 250 tonnes of watermelon is prepared.

With 1,000 flights taking off and landing in Dubai every day, the smooth running of the kitchens is crucial to keep flights on time. Emirates’ head of catering Duncan Davies says there is little room for error. “To help us handle the tremendous volume coming in at the peak period, one way is to automate and we have various automated systems, ” he says. “We have our team working around the clock, so if there’s a breakdown, immediately they can respond.”

Airline meals have long had a bad reputation as being inedible, flavourless fare. Terri Higgins, from Qantas catering, says times have changed, thanks in part to new technology. “I think airline food’s really changed from the stigma it used to have in the early 60s and 70s, ” she says. “The equipment we have on board nowadays, it’s not just ovens. We have toasters, toasted sandwich makers, espresso machines.”

But there are foods that don’t fly well and airlines have learnt to leave them off the menu. Anything raw, such as sashimi and oysters, is a no-no. So is anything liable to dry up when reheated or at altitude. “For your main courses, the best options are things in sauces — the stroganoff, the stews. Risottos don’t work well — they’ll go mushy or hard goop, ” Mr Griffith explains. Also, dry cabin air and high altitude means passengers lose a third of their sense of taste. It means, Mr Griffiths says, that the food has to be more intensely flavoured. “Tomato sauce works very well.”

Wine is also affected by weakened tastebuds, but there is another factor. Vibrations from the engines alter the wine’s structure. Cathay Pacific’s Charles Grossreider says consequently wines have less flavour when drunk mid-air, so he chooses more complex wines to be served on flights.

It’s costly for the airlines, which may make only $3 profit out of a $300 airfare. Faced with the huge task of feeding 8 million passengers every day, you could argue that it is these kitchens that really rule.

 

First flight for a 106-year-old man

A social organization was visiting Mr Rai recently when Mr Rai asked them to help him get on a flight rather than spend time checking on his health condition during the visit.

In response to his wishes, Yeti Airlines flew 106-year-old Mr Rai to Kathmandu where he stayed overnight at a hotel in Guashala. He was also taken on a tour of Pashupatinath by representatives of the airline before flying back home.

He was accompanied on his unique journey by his 75-year-old nephew Man Bahadur Rai.

On arrival, Mr Rai said that he was very pleased to be on a flight after 106 years. He also said he enjoyed the sweets offered in the aircraft and did not feel like he was flying while in the air.  

 “My wish has come true, but I did not feel like a bird flying or inside an aero plane. Now I have had enough, I want to go home,” said Mr Rai speaking to the media on arrival at the airport.

Born to an underprivileged family in the hilly district, Mr Rai never thought that one day his lifelong cherished dream of “flying in a plane up in the sky like a bird” would come true.

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