Gate Gourmet was founded in 1992, and is the world's largest independent airline catering, hospitality and logistics company. As a part of parent company gategroup, the company has substantially expanded its products and services recently through acquisitions and strategic investments. The portfolio now includes cabin service ware (deSter); comfort/entertainment items (Harmony); packaged food components assembled in central production units (Supplair); aviation services such as cabin cleaning, aircraft washing and de-icing and passenger services (Gate Aviation [formerly Fernley/IAS - see below]); catering security (Gate Safe); business applications (eGate Solutions) and supply chain optimization (partnership with Pourshins).
As of 2015, it had 28,000 employees and posted revenue of 3.1 billion Swiss Francs. Some of its clients are British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, LAN Airlines, Air Algérie, Air Canada, Air Transat, American Airlines, United Airlines, Qantas, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Avianca, Iberia Airlines, Air China, Air France, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Thai Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, TAM Airlines, Airblue, Air Indus, Shaheen Air International, Amtrak and EasyJet.
Gate Gourmet's roots are in Swissair. For a long time, Gate Gourmet was considered Swissair's "Crown Jewel". The company was worth roughly 6 billion Swiss Francs before the September 11 attacks and the bankruptcy of Swissair. The rise of oil prices and collapse in consumer travel damaged the airlines and many of Gate Gourmet's main customers went bankrupt or narrowly avoided bankruptcy. The weakness of the airlines affected the industries that cater to or support it. This eventually set the stage for Swissair's crown jewel requiring a restructuring effort, which soon burdened its employees. The company was then sold in 2002 to Texas Pacific Group for USD $870 million, and later its ownership became known as gategroup.
Disputes and strike action
A major dispute, reminiscent of the Grunwick dispute of the 1970s, ensued when it sacked 670 staff based at Heathrow Airport in August 2005; the staff were gathered in a car park and the announcement made by megaphone. In sympathy with the sacked workers, British Airways staff at the airport walked out, and mass pickets of Gate Gourmet were organised by the Transport and General Workers' Union. Several workers alleged that Gate Gourmet had engineered the dispute to employ non-union workers at lower wages and with worse conditions of employment. The company subsequently offered a redundancy package of more than twice the statutory minimum in an effort to resolve the labour difficulties, secure a new deal with British Airways, and avoid insolvency. The union later negotiated the reinstatement of some of the employees, but others have continued to protest at their treatment.
On 1 March 2007, Texas Pacific Group sold its remaining shares in Gate Gourmet to Merrill Lynch.
Fernley and International Aviation Services (IAS)
On September 27, 2007, Gate Gourmet acquired a leading UK-based group operating under the Fernley and International Aviation Services (IAS) brands. The acquired companies offer a comprehensive range of aviation special services including aircraft cabin cleaning, aircraft washing, de-icing and toilet and water servicing; security activities such as baggage screening and document verification; airport executive lounges; and passenger services such as wheelchair and unaccompanied minor assistance.
Along with Fernley and IAS, the group also includes Specialist Airport Services, European Airport Services and Airfield Services Ltd. The companies operate primarily in the UK, including at London's Heathrow, Gatwick Stansted and Luton airports, as well as Manchester, Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Liverpool, East Midlands, Biggin Hill and Glasgow. European Airport Services also operates in Amsterdam; Brussels, and several other regional airports in France and the Netherlands.
The acquired Fernley/IAS companies were privately held entities - mainly owned by Gary Morby - that have been in business for about 25 years. The new range of Gate Gourmet's aviation special services will be renamed Gate Aviation Services, which will be led by Morby.
Contaminated carrots incident
In August 2004, 45 people became ill with shigellosis after eating contaminated carrots provided by Gate Gourmet. After the outbreak, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspected Gate Gourmet’s Honolulu facility and determined that there were substantial problems. Gate Gourmet was warned that unless the problems were rectified, its facility would be shut down.
Cara Airline Solutions
Gate Gourmet acquired Cara Airline Solutions from Cara Operations in 2010.
On July 16, 2012, sewing needles were discovered in four different turkey sandwiches on separate Delta Air Lines flights. Each sandwich was distributed by Gate Gourmet. The flights originated from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to several different US cities, including Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Seattle. The needles were discovered by passengers, including a US Federal Air Marshal. In response to the incident, Delta advised all of their flights leaving Schiphol Airport to stop serving the sandwiches, and an FBI investigation was launched to determine the cause. One passenger was injured, but declined medical attention.
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