a group of plates of food

When the basil in that pasta or salad hits differently, it’s fun to find out why.

Leading restaurants are proud these days to show off their herb gardens, or signify on menus how produce comes from local farms within a certain radius. Many restaurants actually insist on growing their own vegetables, to ensure quality.

It all gives great food a uniquely individual joy, knowing that the tastes can’t identically be recreated elsewhere. Kinda like the concept of travel, right? Just ask any winemaker how different a vine from one side of the road can be from one on the other.

And by now, you’re probably wondering where airports, or British Airways tie into this. In a really cool move, British Airways is starting to grow its own ingredients for lounge food in lounges and airports themselves, using revolutionary new sustainable growing techniques.

a group of plates of food

British Airways Launching Airport Farms?

I recently watched Stanley Tucci’s incredible television series “Searching For Italy”, which chronicles his quest for absolute knowledge on Italian food and its historical origins through war, famine, volcanic eruptions and more.

One thing I found highly amusing, was that the “true” San Marzano tomatoes which are famous around the world for their place on Margherita pizzas, are grown under an overpass next to a busy highway.

The setting for these world famous tomatoes is less rolling hills, more screeching tires.

That’s kind of why I think British Airways lounge farming concept is so cool.

It’s taking a place — the airport — not at all known for sustainability, deliciousness or food farming, and putting those two things at the very forefront of the proposition.

By doing so, the airline could be the first in history to introduce “locally sourced” menu items, with local meaning a few feet away. Of course, over time, ingredient costs could drop as a result, with quality going up too. To an airline, that’s a winning combination. Big time.

Instead of a bunch of herbs and vegetables being loaded onto a truck many hundreds of miles away, then being driven by a series of companies, the food is already there. A watchful eye can ensure best practices, rather than relying on partners.

It’s better for the environment and for chefs who care about little details. I believe, to the best of my knowledge, this is a world first for an airport.

a group of plants growing on a white wooden structure

British Airways JFK Farm Already In Place

Speaking to teams at JFK and browsing LinkedIn updates, I found that British Airways has already installed a micro-farm at New York JFK Airport! British Airways is already using this farm to help supply elements of dishes.

At London Heathrow, a new market table dining concept has also been introduced in the Galleries First Lounge.

Think fresh, Ottolenghi style dishes for all tastes. Word is that a substantial Heathrow farm is on the way and if that proves true, British Airways will instantly be among the most progressive airlines in the lounge hospitality game.

That’s not something anyone would’ve been caught dead saying just 5 years ago.

Better, Sustainable Food Coming Soon?

Details are scarce so far, but it appears British Airways is making good on promises to push sustainability. With food, that doesn’t mean compromising taste or quality.

It’s often the opposite actually, with better ingredients served with greater freshness thanks to a lack of transportation tim, or adverse conditions en route. Think heat, or freeze along the way.

The more British Airways can repurpose spaces for vertical farming or other indoor and outdoor methods, the more it can do to eliminate transportation elements which make food less sustainable and often, less tasty too.

If you’re telling me British Airways can become more sustainable, while making lounge food taste better, I really can’t argue with that. Plus, anything to freshen airport air.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. BA is unable to operate flight or keep their IT running but they can farm inside airports. oh, boy. Talk about misplaced priorities.

    1. The priorities of a lounge team would have nothing to do with the priorities of an operations, IT and fleet team. These are separate. Would you rather the people looking after lounges and the soft touches did nothing and twiddled their thumbs in the meantime?

      1. Those members of staff could presumably come out and help the departments which are struggling? Not that I can see anyone in the lounges twiddling their thumbs! If BA have actually pushed this out as a press release in the middle of their current total meltdown I really worry!

        1. They didn’t. I did some digging and found the initiative. What would you propose that the people who design lounges or food menus do, for the struggling departments? Learn the complicated airline check in systems, for the zero empty desks? Guide aircraft into their stands, without the months or years of necessary training. Next time I see Drake, I’ll ask him to put in a shift at the fish n chips stand outside the venue, because I wasn’t happy with the product.

          1. I work in transport, Gilbert, and when the proverbial hits the fan, like it has with BA, we are all out helping – in the very least making sure people are in the right queue. I know lots of BA back office staff are out helping as well and am glad they didn’t push this out themselves. Given the climate, I am not sure if you’re not doing them a disservice with the article…

          2. You think whatever you like, Peter. People need to answer the phones, people need to reply to emails and business must still get done for better days. It’s not like BA is alone in the UK with issues recently. Who says these same people aren’t helping out too? Plants don’t need 24/7 care. Just a bit of water, light and love. Perhaps, that might help you too.

          3. If you can’t take people having a different view or disagreeing with you, I wonder why you allow comments? No need to be condescending to your readership…

          4. I appreciate viewpoints and challenges to concepts always.

            I don’t mean to condescend, but I don’t feel like I was the one doing so. Without being in the room, you were making “in the room” assumptions about a company with a workforce of over 30,000 people.

            You were doing so without first hand knowledge of whether the people who may have created this important business transformation were lending hands to help the operations side, or not. I’d actually assume that many were, per your observations from other transport businesses. You also insinuated I was doing business harm. That’s not my point of view, or worry with any content. I simply highlight interesting things, both positive and negative. That’s a pretty bold take.

            I consult heavily in this space, so I too, am intimately familiar with a myriad of airline issues and how teams lend hands. You wouldn’t believe how many messages I get from BA employees. It just reaches a point with comments like yours, where people can’t get past an issue which has nothing to do with the topic at hand. It’s ok to be mad at BA for things and address that where relevant. This is not that. I hope you’ll continue to read and I’m sorry if I’ve caused offense. I just think fairness is integral to a democratic comments section. As is freedom to write unfair comments.

          5. But the original comment came from someone else – I imagine there are many people who feel that way and would have been annoyed/surprised about BA’s perceived priorities after reading your article? I think your original reply to RJB was quite dismissive, hence my reaction – the extra context from this discussion is helpful.

        2. Given all the Lounge staff are not actually employed by BA I don’t think you’ll find them queue combing anytime soon

  2. They’re about 45 years behind a certain farmer in the middle of Tokyo’s Narita Int’l airport!

  3. so near yet so far! Some odd comments on here but the reality is we are talking about some of the hardest to transport fresh produce. As anyone working in logistics should know an airport terminal is also one of the hardest places to deliver to. When produce value is determined by the volume that can be loaded onto a truck and the final mile is always the most expensive (even more so in this case) then growing at the point of need offers many benefits. Having said that a classic vertical farm is inredibly energy intensive with prices only heading in one direction. Fortunately there are better ways and, rather than eye-wateringly expensive systems as suggested here there are ways to avoid the need for energy and reduce costs. BA will be making a much bigger (but still tiny in overall terms) step towards Net Zero when salads and herbs are grown for all their airlinie meals in low cost facilities above their food prep areas.

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