Emirates catering gets facility boost

Emirates’ onboard meals from Dubai are now supplied from a new, purpose-built flight catering facility that is one of the most modern and the largest of its kind in the world. The US$120 million unit, with a design capacity to produce 115,000 meals per day, became fully operational at the start of this month.

The new flight kitchen is exclusive to Emirates while the existing one, adjacent to it, continues to serve all other airlines. Both are operated by Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC), which is 90% owned by Emirates and 10% by Dubai’s Department of Civil Aviation.

The new unit covers a total area of nearly 50,000 square metres, spread over four floors, and services around 95 departures and 90 arrivals per day.

It has been designed by the EKFC management team in consultation with i+O, the German industrial design company specialising in inflight catering facilities, and incorporates the latest systems in hygiene, energy saving, food production and automated equipment handling to ensure that Emirates passengers enjoy onboard food that is totally fresh, perfectly cooked and absolutely hygienic.

Gary Chapman, President Group Services and Dnata said, “An inflight catering facility is like a Rubic’s Cube; there are so many processes that all have to come together at the right time and in the right place.”

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At EKFC, the answer to managing huge demand is automation. That includes an electric monorail system for meal carts, a bin conveyor system for equipment and a vacuum waste disposal system throughout the facility.

Hygiene is ensured with Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) in which food safety hazards are assessed and means of control defined and implemented. Temperatures are constantly monitored using infrared guns that register the temperature of anything at which they are ‘fired’ while the unit’s in-house laboratory continually carries out random tests of food and equipment.

A customised computer module for core flight catering operations has been developed by Oracle. This integrates completely with other standard modules for forecasting, procurement, inventory control and catering order processing.

The kitchens incorporate preparation areas for Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Arabic and Continental meals, a special kitchen for Emirates’ range of 24 special meals, a training kitchen and one that produces staff meals. Despite the varied range of dishes produced, however, no pork or pork products ever enters the facility and all meat is halal.

EKFC’s fleet of 98 high loader trucks (with another 31 on order) include a special vehicle for the Airbus A380 aircraft which is currently used for training, They operate from 37 outbound and 34 inbound docks.

Catering facilities at Dubai International Airport date back to 1975 when production was 2,000 to 2,500 meals per day. In 1985, Emirates Airline was established. In year 2000 the Emirates Abela Catering Company was founded and in 2003, it was renamed Emirates Flight Catering. Currently, the company serves a total of 110 international airlines with 82,000 meals per day (62,000 for Emirates) and employs nearly 5,000 staff.

Other EKFC services include a bonded stores, laundry service and food outlets in the airport terminals. Currently, Emirates Flight Catering produces 26 million meals per year, a number that is expected to rise to 45 million in 2014. Not only meal numbers are increasing; the company’s asset value, at present Dh900 million, is expected to almost double to Dh1.6 billion in the next seven years.
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