Thailand: Thai Airways caters to Pakistan’s needs

Established in 1960, the airline’s catering unit now produces 60,000 meals daily, 18% of which are halal. 

BANGKOK: The international aviation industry is heading for a halal revolution, as Thai Airways – one of the largest airlines in the world – becomes the first Asia-Pacific carrier to offer halal food to all passengers flying to and from Pakistan.

“Earlier we had to make special requests for halal food on board our flights. Now, Thai Airways offers halal food by default on all its flights originating from Pakistan,” says a passenger travelling between Karachi and Bangkok.

“With this service, we no longer have to worry about in-flight meals,” he adds.

Flying to 75 destinations with a fleet of more than 80 aircraft, Thai Airways has taken the leap towards halal in-flight catering by investing in a fully certified and accredited halal catering unit at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok.

“Thai Airways has been working on offering maximum facilities to our customers. The idea of serving halal food came about due to a growing demand from passengers, particularly from Pakistan, where we have been serving passengers for the past 38 years,” says Polapat Neelabhamorn, country manager for Thai Airways in Pakistan.

Commenting on the service, Thai Airways Pakistan Sales Manager Asad Farrooqi said the carrier now shuttles over 100,000 passengers every year from Pakistan. “The switch to all-halal meals on board flights from Pakistan has added to the volume of passengers,” says Farooqi.

Established in 1960, the airline’s catering unit now produces 60,000 meals daily, 18% of which are halal. Based at Suvarnabhumi Airport and covering an area of 87,000 square metres, the catering building consists of three main compounds for offices, operations and production, as well as for equipment repository.

According to a senior catering official, the airline’s catering unit also services up to 10 other regional and international carriers, with their halal meal requirements.

“We do our best to ensure all standards are met while preparing halal meals,” says Piamboon Kungvarlvongse, duty manager catering at Suvarnabhumi Airport.

“Many travellers have special health or dietary restraints. The airline employs best standards to meet them. We now serve meals prepared according to halal rules as regular meals on flights to and from Pakistan. Passengers are not required to make a request for Pakistan routes,” adds Kungvarlvongse.

Airlines across the world have long made such meals in smaller parts of their kitchens, but Thai Airways will be the first carrier based in a country without a sizeable Muslim population to switch to making its main kitchens halal.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Founding Director of the Halal Science Institute Chulalongkorn University Dr Winai Dahlan explains that under Islamic dietary laws, consumption of pork and alcohol is forbidden, as are animals with talons, fangs, or tusks. The halal section at Thai Catering processes food in accordance with Islamic dietary laws and that the airline has received halal certification for its kitchen facilities.

The airline has two catering facilities at Suvarnnabhumi and Don Muang international airports in Bangkok. Both acquired Halal certification on Jan 1, 2008  and July 29, 2011, respectively. The certifications have been provided by the Islamic Committee of Samut Prakan province.