ARCA is a boxed system for in-flight meals. It was developed by AIM Altitude as a concept to modernise the aircraft galley and is now being hailed as a solution towards increased flight hygiene.
Rather than crew having to handle open meal trays packed with loose components, ARCA consists simply of a hot meal-pack and an accompanying boxed cold meal-pack, which nest securely together. The majority of the contents are safely sealed away in the box. This has significant benefits for hygiene, passenger confidence and minimising the risk of transmitting infection.
The ARCA meal-pack boxes double as closing waste-containers. This was originally intended to aid recycling and divert waste from landfills – still a hugely important element – but since the pandemic, this also has the advantage of reducing crew contact with left-over food and used utensils.
Currently, meal trays are loaded onto the aircraft without hot meals. This creates multiple inefficient voids. The ARCA meal-packs contain all the usual dishes and accessories: side dish, dessert, bun and cutlery, but the pack is stackable and has a much smaller footprint than a tray. With around 300 economy passengers, this space efficiency gives substantial gains to the cabin – enough for another row of seats or more space for social distancing.
Instead of deep meal carts housing half-empty trays, the ARCA system works with densely-packed carrier boxes on the galley ends. The meal packs make it easier for passengers to be able to pre-select custom meals, meeting increasingly varied dietary requirements and hopefully reducing food wastage in terms of unwanted items.
Helena Teichrib, Senior Industrial Designer at AIM Altitude, said: “We originally developed ARCA before even hearing about Covid-19. The concept was devised to make aircraft meals more eco-friendly, more easily customised, and to save galley space. All of these positives are still achieved by ARCA but it is also now hugely relevant in enhancing hygiene, helping crew to maintain social distancing and lessening the risk of infection.”