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How Airlines Decide What You’ll Eat and Drink On Board

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For almost a decade, the has promised airlines they can revolutionize how they serve drinks by dropping canned sodas and watery coffee and adding special trolleys that dispense fountain-style sodas and specialty coffees, such as cappuccinos and espressos.

Each year, in April, SkyTender brings its contraptions to the , where food and drink companies set up elaborate booths in two gigantic halls, hoping to sway airlines. Some, like SkyTender, seek to persuade airlines to invest in new technology. Others hawk speciality jams, artisan cookies, champagne, craft beer, and cider that airlines can sell or give away on board.

Some vendors view it as a make-or-break event. They are typically firms like SkyTender selling technology without an obvious market beyond transportation. Food producers may see it differently — they can sell to retailers — but they still may hope an airline contract will raise their profile, or boost profits.