Parents flying with children of any age face the sometimes harrowing dilemma of keeping everyone happy. Best-case scenario, kids spend the entire time quietly occupied by in-flight entertainment, games or books—or even take a nap. At mealtime, the food an airline serves can greatly influence a child's experience. Plopping down a plate of gooey mystery meat in front of a hungry five-year-old can turn the flight into a warzone for not only the parents, but, potentially, anyone else within earshot.
Knowing that keeping kids happy during the flight goes a long way toward enhancing the experience for the entire plane, British Airways has established some clear guidelines for their kid-friendly amenities as part of their Height Cuisine program. Children have the option to order special, age-appropriate, healthy and satisfying menu items ahead of time. The policy to "feed families first" helps hungry children keep their cool in situations where they may otherwise have to wait longer than usual for their food, especially on long-haul flights.
"Caterers design kids meals around our child meal style guide," says menu design manager Sinead Ferguson. "We incorporate healthy and nutritious ingredients along with some fun things to achieve a balance so that both child and parent are happy with the offerings." The British Airways culinary team gathered information about what their youngest passengers would like to eat by assembling a group of regular child travelers and their parents as the official "British Airways Kids Council." Council meetings helped establish a proven strategy to providing the best options approved by every member of the family.
"When we carried out our research, the parents told us they wanted the children to recognize the food they were eating," says Ferguson. "There had to be an element of fun, and above all it had to be nutritious." Not surprisingly, chicken nuggets were revealed to be a consistent favorite among kids, and a go-to meal for parents to serve. On British Airways, however, tenders are homemade from fresh chicken breast. Another perennial favorite, spaghetti, hides vegetables in the bolognese. Plus, points out Ferguson, all children's meals include yogurt or cheese and a portion of fresh fruit.
Another secret BA learned from talking to parents and kids about how they survive air travel—it's all about the treats. Cool Hunting contributor, frequent traveler and mother of two Julie Wolfson lets her girls order ginger ale when they fly, and, she says, "I pull out a candy surprise just at the moment when the flight begins to seem a bit long." On BA, kids' meals come with a small candy bar or chocolate-dipped strawberry for a little sweet reward for patient sitting still. Another frequent-traveler parent, Matt Anaya, points out that his daughter, Zoe, loves to fly. With decent meal options that justify the all-important small treats, not to mention her own tray table, she sees the experience as it should be—her own personal adventure in the air.