Valerian Ho takes a look at the humble beginnings of hot in-flight meals.

Airlines did offer food during the early days of flying. However, they were cold meals produced by contract caterers located often an hour or more away.

In 1936, Donald F Magarrell – the world’s first airline cuisine executive – suggested United create a flight kitchen at Oakland airport, California, so meals could be prepared just before boarding. When it opened that year, the first warm airborne meals were fried chicken and scrambled eggs.

At first there were six employees, preparing 50 to 60 sets a day. The chefs, from Switzerland, Austria and France, created menus a month in advance and submitted them to headquarters for approval – meals were regulated to ensure frequent passengers weren’t getting the same dishes too often. The facility moved to San Francisco in 1942.