‘Smart’ meals in the air


A large Dutch airline catering company wanted to put an end to food waste and at the same time offer their flight crews more choice. Additionally the company wanted to be smarter with its use of personnel and robots with the assembly of airline meals. To answer these needs Marviq built two systems for them.

Client: Big airline catering company

Question: How can we make the meal provisioning for our passengers and cabin crew more efficient?

Solution: An online ordering tool, coupling of systems and an algorithm for the automation of meal assembly by robots. 


Marviq developed an online order system for the cabin crew

– less waste, more choice

Depending on the working hours and flight duration the cabin crew may have the right to an in-flight meal. There are a few special cases to take into consideration, for instance the pilot and co-pilot may not eat the same type of meal, due to safety concerns. The work around for this was simply to provide more meals than necessary to always ensure that there was enough choice. The downside is that you already know in advance that this will lead to food waste.

Marviq developed an online order system for the cabin crew. Coupled to their work roster crew could, until two days before, choose which meal they would like to have during their flight. The system took care that the pilot and co-pilot never ordered the same meal. Additionally each crew member could supply meal preferences so that even if they didn't choose a specific meal for a specific flight their preferences would get them the meal they wanted. The advantages: less waste, more choice. With the expansion of this system passengers could also give their meal preferences to the airline (special diets, extra deluxe meals etc.) prior to the flight.

The in-flight meals are prepared in a special facility outside of the airport terrain and then at Schiphol they are assembled. On production lines people and robots take care that the right meals end up on the right flight and for the right passengers. Marviq developed an Application Programmer Interface (API) that would retrieve flight and meal order data to ensure a logical and appropriate distribution of meals across the airline's flights.

We wrote an algorithm to provide the robot with the correct input to be able to do its work effectively. On a display terminal it was possible to see exactly what the robot was up to at the exact moment. The advantage being that the customer needed less people to provision the meal orders.