Skift Take

There's been a lot of press about airports becoming destinations in themselves. But, what about airlines? If Air China's Beijing Duck in first class is as good as the airline promises, and flight attendants can deliver, then the carrier is becoming a way for the passengers up front to experience Chinese culture, as well. Of course, economy passengers will have to settle for rice, noodles and burgers from a bevy of catering companies.

Air China’s in-flight-cooked Beijing Duck is savory and, after some lessons with experts, the airline’s flight attendants have become “more Beijing-duck savvy.”

That’s the word from the Star Alliance carrier, which has started to serve Beijing Duck in first class on its routes to Europe and the U.S. so it can deliver a more “authentic Chinese flavor” beyond existing fare of crab meat dumplings, and steak with mushrooms in cream.

Air China states that it has been working with the Quanjude restaurant group, founded during the third year of the Tongzhi of Qing dynasty i.e. 1864, to hone the in-flight preparation of Beijing Duck.

“Air China sent its flight attendants to Quanjude to make them more Beijing-Duck savvy,” the airline boasts. “They learned about Quanjude’s history, watched the whole process of Duck’s preparation, and learned the way Duck is served.”

Southwest Airlines, which has no flights to China, is dealing with 80 job applications per minute for 750 flight attendant slots, but if haute, historical cuisine on high is your thing, Air China may be the place to be.

In addition to Air China’s first class passengers, Star Alliance members Air Canada, United and Lufthansa, among others, may benefit from the new menu because of their relationships with the China national flag carrier.

US Airways, which is bolting the Star Alliance for oneworld, will be out of luck — and duck.



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Tags: air china, first class, in-flight

Photo credit: Beijing Duck is prized for the thin, crispy skin, with authentic versions of the dish serving mostly the skin and little meat, sliced in front of the diners by the cook, as shown here. Air China believes it has come up with a way to cook the delicacy in-flight for first class passengers, and dispatched flight attendants to to a restaurant group to refine the technique. Bernt Rostad /

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