Airline Caviar Service in First Class
In Part 1 we spent some time discussing what makes Caviar Caviar, with a capital C, and what makes everything else caviar with a lower-case c. We also talked about taste profiles and traditional serving methods. With all of that knowledge, we’re ready to launch into a look at the Caviar/caviar service available on airlines offering International First Class Service.
As part of the research of Airline Caviar Service in First Class I bought full fare First Class tickets on each of the airlines discussed in this article. (I had you going for a minute there, didn’t I?). No, not really. I did reach out to their PR/Marketing departments with the following questions:
1) What brand of caviar do you serve in First Class?
2) What do you traditionally serve with the caviar (blini, sour cream, egg whites, etc.)?
3) Do you serve champagne with the caviar? If so, what brand, designation and year?
4) Do you offer cold Vodka in shot glasses with the caviar? If so, what brand and which specific offering?
5) Will you please provide a picture of your caviar as plated for the First Class passengers?
6) Do you have any interesting anecdotes about your caviar service? (Number of pounds served per year, the most interesting experience shared with passengers, etc.)
When we had an opportunity to include multiple pictures, we did so that different serving styles, sides and time frames could be discerned.
For starters, Lufthansa was totally responsive to our requests for information. That’s a good sign right off the bat. I also got some great pictures from Chris Kilroy, who has flown on every airline in this article. Lufthansa has changed their caviar service in recent years, so we have pictures from 2016 and older pictures where caviar is offered as part of a more complete offering reminiscent of a tea service with tiered serving trays.
Lufthansa – The Details
Lufthansa offers two different kinds of cultured (farmed) caviar:
- Agroittica Lombarda S.p.A. Italy (NOTE: You’ll see this name and Calvisius appear several times in this article. They are the largest sturgeon farm in Europe and utilized by several airlines.)
- Kaluga Queen“ from China. They arrive in bulk form and are then packaged into 100 gram tins.
- Caviar service is offered on the following routes (HKG/NRT/PEK/PVG/JFK/LAX/EWR/SIN/OSA/NGO /SEL/DEL/BOM )
- Annual consumption is about 1.5 metric tons.
They do not name the specific provider on their in-flight menus.
They provide all of the standard sides including lemon, finely chopped egg white, egg yolk and crème fraiche. Finely chopped onions are optional. Toast points is their bread/blini/starch choice.
Champagne offerings change every two – three months with the following available as of July 2016:
- Cuvée Grand Siècle, Champagne Laurent-Perrier, France
- 2007 Champagne Taittinger Brut Millésimé, France
- Champagne Pommery, Cuvée Louise 2002, France
- Comptes de Taittinger rose 2006
- Grey Goose
Interesting stories and anecdotes – None were shared.
Singapore Airlines (SQ / SIA) always appears in lists of “The World’s Best Airlines” and with good reason. Their aircraft and trim level are top notch, the food is always excellent and the quality of service is fantastic. I’m a little bit biased as I’ve been flying with them, off and on, for the last twenty years. The ME3 have come on strong lately, but SQ is a perennial favorite. They were also very responsive to our requests.
Singapore – The Details
Singapore (SIA/SQ) serves Agroittica Lombarda, a farmed caviar from Italy. (See note above.)
They offer blini, sour cream, egg whites, egg yolks and green onions/scallions as sides. There bread/starch choice is melba toast. The picture also shows what appears to be garlic toast which would be a strong counterpoint to serve with caviar.
Singapore is famous for their choices of champagne and fine wines. The choice of Dom Pérignon and Krug Champagnes in First and Suites Classes it touted as an exclusive offering.
- First and Suites Class:
- Dom Pérignon (2006 vintage)
- Krug Grand Cuvée is served in First and Suites Class,
- Business Class:
- Taittinger Prelude Grands Cru is served in Business Class.
- SIA offers Belvedere on many routes.
Interesting stories and anecdotes – SIA serves approximately 194,000 bottles of champagne on Singapore Airlines flights annually. They also feature Grand Cru Burgundies on their flights.
JAL really does a marvelous presentation of caviar. While offering traditional service, they also create other platings that look (and taste) wonderful. They were responsive to our requests and provided these amazing pictures as well.
JAL’s caviar comes from UMAC CO., LTD. They are a privately held Korean company but the caviar they offer comes from Germany and is branded as “Crown Jewel”.
- First Class
- “Champagne SALON 2004”
- “Henriot Brut Rosé Millésime 2008”.
- JAL First Class passengers have the exclusive privilege of savoring the latest “Champagne SALON” vintage in the air.
- Vodka is offered on special request and their premium brand is Absolut.
Interesting stories and anecdotes – They serve approximately 19,000 servings of caviar each year. At 20 – 100 grams per serving that is a LOT of caviar. Some Japanese passengers request an original menu of caviar, which passengers call “Caviar Don” meaning “Caviar on white rice in a bowl”. Cabin attendants will try and meet these kind of requests based upon amount of caviar available on board for one flight.
I’ve not had the pleasure of flying on Cathay Pacific but every time I read a review of their First Class offering I keep telling myself, “You really need to fly with them.” They were very responsive to our requests for information.
Like, Lufthansa and Singapore, Cathay Pacific also serves Calvisius caviar which they describe as “pasteurised sustainable farmed caviar of Siberian Sturgeon (Acipenser Baerii). 20gm serving size.”
The caviar service was modified in 2014 where an individual portion of caviar (20gm Tin) inside a caviar bowl with a caviar spoon will be offered, traditional accompaniments of blinis, chopped egg, crème faiche and chives will also be served.
Krug is the champagne brand offered on long haul flights including between Asia and Europe and Asia and North America. (Note: They also serve Krug on the ground as a pre-departure beverage. In some countries, particularly the United States, this has to do with taxes and fees charged.)
Belvedere in First Class. Passengers would be offered Vodka if they prefer Vodka to Champagne.
Other facts – Annual usage around 2,730 pounds
Noteworthy Items – Cathay Pacific also has offered Balik Salmon along with their caviar service. Unfortunately, they stopped serving it a couple of years ago, but it has piqued my interest. Here’s what I learned. Balik or back fillet salmon is a delicacy on it’s own, and enjoys a rich history dating back hundreds of years.
From the Bailik site – “After 1918, following the death of the tsar family, this culinary delight sank into oblivion. But 30 years ago, the secret recipe was rediscovered, and today the world’s most noble smoked salmon comes from the Toggenburg. In the Balik smoked salmon manufactory high up in Ebersol, a small village nestled snugly in the midst of an unspoiled hilly landscape, the “King of Fish” is smoked by hand and exported to countries around the world. Numerous royal families in Europe – from Denmark to England and Spain – are regular and loyal clients. Today, Balik is synonymous with the traditional salmon smoking method as practised at the court of the Russian tsars. The manufactory smokes and refines selected salmon cuts according to the secret recipe of the last purveyor of the imperial court. The recipe was entrusted to Hans Gerd Kübel in 1978 by Israel Kaplan, the grandson of the purveyor to the imperial court.”
Emirates is the latest I airline I have most recently sampled on a trip from Dallas to Dubai on their A380. This was just prior to their switching to a 777 on this route, so it was the complete Emirates FC experience. Emirates did not respond to our requests for information but I will provide as many of the details I personally observed or can ascertain through other sources.
On the ground in the United States, Emirates offers Moet-Chandon. This is probably due to the taxes and fees they have to pay. Once airborne, they start popping the corks on the highly celebrated Dom Pérignon 2005. A word on highly branded champagnes and your taste buds at 35,000 feet. Your taste buds and perception of taste change at altitude and with differences in temperature, humidity and background noise. Even with cabin pressures offsetting the altitude, you are still one to two miles above sea level. All of the food that you eat has had its spices adjusted to accommodate for this difference. They can’t do the same thing for wine and spirits. The flavors and aromas will be somewhat tamped down. It’s not magic. It’s science. So whenever, I read about travelers extolling the differences in adult beverages at altitude, I have to furrow up my brow a bit.
OK, all things considered, Dom Perignon 2005 is a damn fine champagne to have as your default beverage. One other fun part of the Emirates First Class experience is hanging out at the bar in the back of the upper level of the A380 just behind the business class seats. When I went back there, they asked me what I was drinking and I realized I had left my empty glass back at my seat. I leaned over to the bartender and said I had been drinking the DP 2005. They offered to go get me my own bottle. Talk about service!
We did not hear back from Qatar Airways directly but have some information provided by fellow travelers.
We did not hear back from Air France. Well, we did hear from them to say that we had not contacted the correct department and no other information other than, “Call the main number.”
The caviar picture above is Black Pearl “caviar” from the United States and labeled as Paddlefish Caviar which Wikipedia defines as “The American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) is a species of basal ray-finned fish closely related to sturgeons in the order Acipenseriformes.” OK then. Close but no Caviar nor Sturgeon.
Just a picture of the Qantas Amuse Bouche
We also requested information from Etihad but did not receive a response. Their website did not yield much information suitable for inclusion in this article. We will update when and if we get more data.
One other thing before we close out. I started thinking about blini. They’re like pancakes but the consistency is a bit different. Kind of halfway between pancakes and bread. I reached out to my chef friend, Norm King, and he was kind enough to share this recipe so we can make our own.
Airline Caviar Service in First Class. Is there a clear winner? I really don’t think so. I really liked the Cathay Pacific offering that comes with caviar and Balik salmon, but that’s no longer offered. The same can be said for the older Lufthansa offering with the full tea service stacked trays. The JAL caviar service is the most beautiful to my eyes. In truth, any and all of these caviar services are winners.