Inflight Catering Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2021 - 2026)

The Inflight Catering Market is segmented by Food Type (Meals, Bakery and Confectionery, Beverages, and Other Food Types), Flight Type (Full-service Carriers and Low-cost Carriers), Aircraft Seating Class (Economy Class, Business Class, and First Class), and Geography (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Middle East & Africa). The report offers market size and forecasts by value (USD billion) for all the above segments.

Market Snapshot

Inflight Catering Market Bar Graph
Study Period: 2018 - 2026
Base Year: 2020
Fastest Growing Market: Asia Pacific
Largest Market: Middle-East and Africa
CAGR: >5.7 %

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Market Overview

The Inflight Catering Market is projected to register a CAGR of more than 5.7% during the forecast period (2021-2026).

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a full-scale crisis with the imposition of travel restrictions and the suspension of flights in a global effort to contain the spread of the virus. The aviation industry is in survival mode, crippled by the loss of traffic and revenues. According to the latest updates from IATA, ICAO, the Airports Council International (ACI), the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the international air passenger traffic in 2020 was expected to experience a drop of about 50-55% compared to the 2020 baseline. Airline Revenue-Per-Kilometer (RPK) was anticipated to drop by 48% compared to the 2019 value. The airlines are expected to record potential losses, amounting to between USD 289 million and 387 billion in gross operating revenues. Europe and Asia-Pacific are anticipated to be the worst hit in terms of international passenger traffic and revenues.

Though food practices have always been the priority of the caterers, the pandemic has brought a new dynamic and essential safety protocols to professional commercial kitchens as the old protocols were designed for fending off foodborne illnesses only. The pandemic is also responsible for elevating catering standards in food safety, cleaning, and sanitizing, but resulting in inflight caterers incurring additional expenses to ensure the optimized standards. Additionally, with the competition among the airlines growing, they are opting for certain strategies to enhance the inflight dining experience. These strategies range from the process of ordering to food serving. Such developments will have a long-term effect on the prospects of the market in focus during the forecast period.

Scope of the Report

Inflight food is the food served to passengers on board a commercial airliner. Specialist airline catering services prepare these meals and usually serve them to passengers using an airline service trolley.

The inflight catering market is segmented by food type, flight type, aircraft seating class, and geography. By Food Type, the market is segmented into Meals, Bakery and Confectionery, Beverages, and Other Food Types. By Flight Type, the market is segmented into Full-service Carriers and Low-cost Carriers. By Seating Class, the market is segmented into Economy Class, Business Class, and First Class. The Other Food Types segment comprises condiments and other related add-on supplements, such as jams, sauces, salt, pepper, margarine, sugar, etc., which are supplied in small sachets.

The report also covers the market size and forecasts for the Inflight Catering Market in 20 countries across major regions. For each segment, the market sizing and forecasts have been represented in value (USD billion).

Food Type
Bakery and Confectionary
Other Food Types
Flight Type
Full-service Carriers
Low-cost Carriers
Aircraft Seating Class
Economy Class
Business Class
First Class
North America (United States and Canada)
Food Type
Flight Type
Aircraft Seating Class
Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and Rest of Europe)
Food Type
Flight Type
Aircraft Seating Class
Asia-Pacific (China, India, Japan, Australia, and Rest of Asia-Pacific)
Food Type
Flight Type
Aircraft Seating Class
Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, and Rest of Latin America)
Food Type
Flight Type
Aircraft Seating Class
Middle East & Africa (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Rest of Middle East & Africa)
Food Type
Flight Type
Aircraft Seating Class

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Key Market Trends

Competition in the Industry to Enhance the Inflight Dining Experience

With the competition among the airlines increasing, they are opting for certain strategies to enhance the inflight dining experience. These strategies range from the process of ordering to food serving. Additionally, airlines are using different service strategies on different classes on the same flight to comply with hybrid operational scenarios while providing service to the customers. For instance, while providing high-level services at a premium price to high-value customers (in business and first-class), airlines are also offering lower price alternatives to passengers in economy class, thereby establishing tier-based complimentary onboard services. To make the process of ordering the food easier for the passengers, airlines are providing options like meal pre-selection, meal pre-order, and mixed buy-on-board/ complimentary catering to the passengers. The provision of pre-ordering meals has also helped to enhance the confidence of consumers in favor of inflight food services. Pre-orders are significantly on the rise, with the provision of ‘free’ pre-order programs for the business and premium economy classes. However, in Asia-Pacific, paid pre-order is still generating lesser revenues, especially for the economy class. Some vendors have reduced the number of their pre-order offerings for the economy class. Nevertheless, there have been a variety of new options devised in the paid pre-ordering of meals. 

The inflight catering market is expected to witness impressive levels of growth as carriers consider options to improve the quality of food served on planes, which is a matter of concern in today’s inflight catering industry. The versatility in cultural dining always adds to the comfort and interest of the travelers. For instance, in international flights flying to regions where there is a huge level of diversification in food habits, such as the Middle East, caterers are designing meals in accordance with their understanding of the tastes of destination flyers. Therefore, the commuters appreciate the cuisine of the upcoming destination, helping them familiarize themselves with the taste of the new culture.

Inflight Catering Market Key Trends

Asia-Pacific to Dominate Market Share During the Forecast Period

Asia-Pacific is a vast inflight catering market in terms of culinary habits, and passengers from different regions vary in their culinary preferences. Though India and China are neighboring countries, the culinary food habits of people in these two countries are significantly different. Food habits of passengers from the north vary from those of the south in the same country. These variations are likely to help the catering suppliers invest more in these diversified menu types, thereby leading to the high growth of the region during the forecast period. As per IATA, during 2019, the airlines operating in India witnessed a 5.1% YoY growth in air passenger traffic, indicating a relative slowdown from its 2018 growth statistics of 18.9% on account of several factors, including the bankruptcy of Jet Airways and weakening economic activity. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically affected the aviation sector in the country, with air passenger traffic shrinking by 65% on average during 2020.

However, the pandemic has caused slight modifications in the inflight catering services provided by the airlines. For instance, IndiGo, one of the leading LCC operators in the country, now offers only pre-ordered meals, and it has removed the provision of any inflight purchase of meals. Prior to the outbreak, IndiGo offered a selection of food and beverage for sale onboard, including vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Healthy juices, lemonade, and aerated beverages were also available for sale. Besides, a wide choice of sugar-free health bars and drinks were also offered at competitive prices. The customers who upgraded to Indigo Plus at the time of booking were also offered advanced seat assignment, along with a choice of meal (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) and a non-alcoholic drink. The absence of a regional policy on COVID-19 recommendations may hamper the growth of the market. However, several country-wise recommendations have been made as per the state of the pandemic in each country. On this note, in August 2020, the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India revised its recommendations pertaining to domestic and international air travel as per the revisions in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) of handling the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the latest guidelines, the airlines are permitted to provide onboard meal services and pre-packed beverages to the passengers depending on the policy of the concerned airline.

Inflight Catering Market Growth Rate By Region

Competitive Landscape

Five major players dominate the market for inflight catering. However, when it comes to supplying from small and medium-size airports, the market is fairly fragmented with the presence of regional players. Demand for food with high quality and safety was the main reason for airlines to prefer catering from major manufacturers to the regional players. Furthermore, these big players have increased their R&D spending exponentially to integrate innovation with culinary excellence. This has resulted in premium quality food for airline inflight catering. Gate Gourmet, LSG Sky Chefs, and SATS are some of the leading companies in the inflight catering market.

Recent Developments

In October 2020, Alaska Airlines resumed limited food and drink services on flights longer than 350 miles. On such flights, beverages were limited to soft drinks and coffee, while complimentary red wine and beer were made available only to the business class and first-class passengers. In addition, the first-class passengers were also offered an assortment of snacks from a snack basket.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Air India offered a wide variety of alcoholic offerings like scotch, vodka, wine, gin, and beer. Since September 2020, the liquor service on Air India’s international flights has been limited to beer for all seating classes. Additionally, pouring service has been suspended, and beer is served in disposable glasses or cans. The airline is also trying to resume hot meal services on its international flights and is currently drafting an SOP for the same. ​

Table of Contents


    1. 1.1 Study Assumptions

    2. 1.2 Scope of the Study




    1. 4.1 Market Overview

    2. 4.2 Market Drivers

    3. 4.3 Market Restraints

    4. 4.4 Porter's Five Forces Analysis

      1. 4.4.1 Bargaining Power of Buyers/Consumers

      2. 4.4.2 Bargaining Power of Suppliers

      3. 4.4.3 Threat of New Entrants

      4. 4.4.4 Threat of Substitute Products

      5. 4.4.5 Intensity of Competitive Rivalry

  5. 5. MARKET SEGMENTATION (Market Size by Value - USD billion)

    1. 5.1 Food Type

      1. 5.1.1 Meals

      2. 5.1.2 Bakery and Confectionary

      3. 5.1.3 Beverages

      4. 5.1.4 Other Food Types

    2. 5.2 Flight Type

      1. 5.2.1 Full-service Carriers

      2. 5.2.2 Low-cost Carriers

    3. 5.3 Aircraft Seating Class

      1. 5.3.1 Economy Class

      2. 5.3.2 Business Class

      3. 5.3.3 First Class

    4. 5.4 Geography

      1. 5.4.1 North America (United States and Canada)

        1. Overview

        2. Food Type

        3. Flight Type

        4. Aircraft Seating Class

      2. 5.4.2 Europe (United Kingdom, Germany, France, Russia, Italy, and Rest of Europe)

        1. Overview

        2. Food Type

        3. Flight Type

        4. Aircraft Seating Class

      3. 5.4.3 Asia-Pacific (China, India, Japan, Australia, and Rest of Asia-Pacific)

        1. Overview

        2. Food Type

        3. Flight Type

        4. Aircraft Seating Class

      4. 5.4.4 Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, and Rest of Latin America)

        1. Overview

        2. Food Type

        3. Flight Type

        4. Aircraft Seating Class

      5. 5.4.5 Middle East & Africa (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Rest of Middle East & Africa)

        1. Overview

        2. Food Type

        3. Flight Type

        4. Aircraft Seating Class


    1. 6.1 Vendor Market Share

    2. 6.2 Company Profiles

      1. 6.2.1 Gate Gourmet

      2. 6.2.2 LSG Sky Chefs

      3. 6.2.3 Sats Ltd

      4. 6.2.4 Cathay Pacific Catering Services (H.K.) Ltd

      5. 6.2.5 Dnata

      6. 6.2.6 Flying Food Group

      7. 6.2.7 Emirates Flight Catering

      8. 6.2.8 IGS Ground Services

      9. 6.2.9 Jetfinity

      10. 6.2.10 Newrest International Group SAS

      11. 6.2.11 Journey Group PLC


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Frequently Asked Questions

The Inflight Catering Market market is studied from 2018 - 2026.

The Inflight Catering Market is growing at a CAGR of >5.7% over the next 5 years.

Asia Pacific is growing at the highest CAGR over 2021- 2026.

Middle-East and Africa holds highest share in 2020.

gategroup, LSG Sky Chefs, Sats Ltd., Cathay Pacific Catering Services (H.K.) Ltd., Dnata are the major companies operating in Inflight Catering Market.

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