Miss airline food? Finnair selling business class meals in supermarket

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's national carrier Finnair FIA1S.HE has started selling its business class meals in a supermarket to prevent job cuts at its catering unit due to COVID-19.

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The airplane meals have quickly turned into a hit with 1,600 meals sold within days at the supermarket located near Finnair’s main hub the Helsinki-Vantaa airport, Finnair said. It plans to sell in more outlets.

“There are redundancies and layoffs going on already at Finnair and we are trying our best to find new innovative ways,” head of Finnair Kitchen Marika Nieminen told Reuters.

Finnair said last Tuesday it would cut around 700 jobs by March 2021.

Finnair Kitchen’s first main courses on the ground, for 12.9 euros ($15.2) apiece, comprise beef with teriyaki-radish sauce served with grilled spring onion and rice or smoked arctic char with chantarelle risotto.

“In this desperate remote work environment this is a small, nice taste of normal life,” Mika, a customer from Vantaa said.

In 2017, Finnair stopped outsourcing its catering services by buying LSG Sky Chefs, a company that operated at Finland's main airport, from a Lufthansa LHAG.DE subsidiary and renamed it Finnair Kitchen.

A year later, Finnair Kitchen produced some 12,000 meals a day but the numbers collapsed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit air travel.

Nieminen said Finnair planned to introduce new dishes, including reindeer meat from Finnish Lapland and Japanese-style pork shoulder, for supermarkets.

"We have had very much positive feedback from our customers and this product has become one of the best selling products in our store," Kimmo Sivonen, a shopkeeper at Kesko's KESKOB.HE K-Citymarket Tammisto in Vantaa said.

Finnair Kitchen head of product development Juha Stenholm said the food’s high quality justified the relatively high price for a packed take-away meal.

“Our unit is focusing on business class food so ... premium raw materials,” he said.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen and Attila Cser; editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise