It’s been a busy month. I’ve made 6 crossings of the Atlantic between the US and Europe this month in business class, with a couple of regional flights too, for a total of 8 flights in these last 28 days. I’m not bragging, trust me. I’m just establishing an important metric.
Do you know how many meals I enjoyed on the plane? Two. Out of eight flights, I ate two meals. Even when I did eat, I didn’t have three courses — and I’d say even having the two meals was a rarity. I rarely eat on planes.
And now, the important bit. Do you know how many meals were prepared for me, and binned or discarded? You guessed it — six. On six flights, an entire three course meal — and potentially some extras, was discarded. All because I typically don’t eat food on planes, and no one asked if I wanted to eat.
Please Don’t Bother
I’ve always wanted someone to give me the option to say “please don’t bother”. It’s no secret that plane food is a less you know the better deal, and I try to actively keep my circadian rhythms in check and only eat at destination times when traveling frequently as well. That rarely matches up well with flight times.
If I eat a meal on the plane at 9PM leaving New York on my way to London, it’s the equivalent of eating at 2AM in London. It’ll throw me off for days. Instead, I’d eat at about 2PM in New York when its 7PM UK dinner time, and then fast until the morning arrival when breakfast is natural.
It works miraculously well, even if it’s totally boring.
Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that Delta’s new choice to offer a “skip the meal” button, even for people paying thousands for international business class is a good choice. I’d say, great!
The other point is that my friend, and someone I think is probably the smartest guy in travel loyalty got one wrong. Gary Leff recently argued that Delta is wrong for offering a “no meal” option when preordering before a flight.
I think it’s brilliant, good and important.
Health, Rhythms And Timing
There are many reasons people do, or don’t eat airplane food. Even in first class, it’s not the same as anything made in a restaurant or cooked from scratch on the day. Sorry, definitely don’t read this if you like airplane food.
Many people choose to eat in the lounge before, or during optimal times for circadian rhythms before or after a flight when flying long haul. I go work hard NOT to eat on the plane.
So rather than waste precious food and add to airline costs which airlines are so desperate to cut, WHY NOT offer a “skip the meal” option. It’s great for everyone.
Skip The Meal: Dollars And Sense
You might be shocked to know that even in business class, an airline pays about $10 for the entire meal you enjoy. In economy, it doesn’t top $3, typically.
I say that, because before you start banging on about how they should give you a bunch of points instead, the economics of airline meals would struggle to justify giving anyone more than 1,000-2,000 points for not taking it. Still, I’d like 1,000 points! It’s a good idea and a good way to incentivize less waste.
An airport food voucher of similar equivalent wouldn’t go far in helping, but applying those dollar amounts to better lounge food could be beneficial.
But beyond the transactional element, it’s the lack of waste that makes so much sense. The idea that there’s an entire filet of beef wasted on me on every flight — particularly when I am coincidentally vegetarian — is painful.
Gary raises the “what if I change my mind” argument, which is a fair one. Some people change flights or don’t have the time in the lounge that they’d anticipated. It’s a real thing and could be frustrating on a long flight where “skip the meal” is selected.
I’d counter with the fact that most customers are offered choice, and therefore there are usually extra meals of some sort anyway. If I’m that desperate, I’ll beg for anything still available, or for any of the snacks many airlines have on longer flights. I’m also a big fan of keeping snacks in my carry on at all time, just in case!
Choice Is Good
I love personalization and this may be a bit controversial, but it’s still a personalization development.
If it makes any difference to waste, I’m grateful. The fact that it may help save Delta money isn’t really a concern. Of all the airlines, Delta been among the better ones in investing back into customers and team members.
Frankly, I’d love to see more airlines roll out a “skip the meal” option, or barring that, offer more personalization into the “dine any time” or “pre select” options. You?
I agree with not eating on planes , it’s very bad for you. Drink lots of water a stay away from salt and alcohol. As far as Gary Leff, I would say he is about as useless as all the pop up ads I got while writing this comment. Gary spreads more industry misinformation than all bloggers combined.
I agree with your decision to skip dinner and only eat breakfast on Transatlantic flights. It makes total sense.
However. I have worked for a major airline and I assure you that the business class meals costs considerably more than $10. They are on more in the order of $40+. Catering is expensive and, thus, why Delta is more than happy to allow passengers choose no meal.
Are you counting beverage? I’m talking purely on the food based menu items. I’ve seen plenty of RFP’s at the $10-12 mark in intl J.
Please don’t skip meals. I guarantee you a crew member will eat the meal and it will not go to waste. We love the left over meals as it helps save us money and often times we don’t have the opportunity to get healthy food with our hectic schedules.
Just traveled to India via Qatar. Absolutely do NOT skip their meals. Enjoy them all. Just the standard fare in economy was like first class. Now, Air India, Meh. Skip them if you want. Eating gives you something to pass the time with, even if it is lame. I would rather pay the extra couple of bucks than take so much food thru security. That goes for the gate checked bag, too. What a mess. A hassle for TSA. Digging thru overstuffed bags for a prohibited item…. Just go back to checking the bags and save everyone a lot of extra work.
The presentation and taste of business class food is what one would normally find served in prison. Airplane food is simply God awful and vomit inducing, especially on American carriers.
Agreed, and I’ve been eating and sleeping on “destination time” for decades. Love the pre-flight dining like in Polaris clubs, better food, more wine and cocktail options, at a more appropriate time, and uninterrupted sleep.
So, you waste food and make a whole bunch of nonsense excuses to justify that to yourself and you want people to read this load of garbage and idolize you for it?
The is no scientific basis for fear of eating too much table salt for most of us. If you read the initial studies decades ago, you’ll see there was never any proof that 2300 mg/day is magically healthy, and recent studies prove that.
And a restricted salt diet can actually be harmful.
“..Low-salt diets have been shown to be harmful in many cases. It should be recognized that salt restriction is a valid method of therapy for physicians treating patients with hypertension, renal disease, and other sodium-retaining clinical conditions (although we think pharmacological control is preferable). However, it does not follow logically from this that normal people can benefit from sodium restriction..”
Hi based on my experience flying international business class, the crew typically eats any extra first/business class meals
So why do you read his column? I guess we can’t cure stupid.
I much prefer the Qatar Business Class approach, which is more or less eat anything, any time. I appreciate that that could lead to waste, but quite honestly I don’t care given how I conduct my life the rest of the time. I DO like to eat on a plane (in fact I need to, on long-haul, due to medical conditions), and I’m an omnivore with a wide range of allergies, so I like a lot of choice. I don’t necessarily want to choose in advance; if I’m not feeling well, I might want to eat a bowl of cereal and milk in the evening, which I can do on a Qatar flight. Or I might want a burger. Who knows, until you’re there.
I remember flying charter between the UK and Canada, and the food wasn’t free. It felt very grown-up and liberating to be able to choose what you wanted from a menu when you wanted to eat, and pay for it then and there. I don’t quite understand this “school dinner” approach to airline food where someone else chooses a limited number of options for you and when they’ll serve it to you. Especially with the increasingly plant-based nanny-knows-best approach which means I’m likely to be allergic to most of the options. Some of us can’t eat that kind of food.
You can’t please everyone all of the time, I guess. And I think the danger of specifying in advance that you don’t want food is that you might change your mind, and if you have status you might end up stealing someone else’s meal, or taking an unfair share of the “larder” or whatever it’s called on your airline of choice.
My main reaction to this article is that I think there’s a danger of being over-priggish, when talking of waste, and there’s a danger of trying to dictate how other passengers should be treated. I don’t see anything wrong with politely declining the food on board. My usual travelling companion usually avoids the main course but is happy to have some bread and cheese to soak up their wine, and a pudding. Each to their own.
I travel back and forth MEL-KUL every other week, where I own homes, and regularly onwards to Europe for business and pleasure. I always pay full fare on J and F (whenever available and when I’m feeling extra generous) and am sick of these points-redeeming so-called travel expert whingeing about services they haven’t really paid for in full.
And then the cheek to request airlines give them more freebies by way of compensatory points to redeem at airport F&B outlets. Really!
There’s so much to unpack from this comment. And are you including me in the “points redeeming so called travel experts”, without a clue about the economics of my travels?
Totally agree with your views. I want the meal when on a daytime flight, but last thing at night is always a firm “No” from me. Telling them in advance and saving the waste would be great, and getting points to skip it would be awesome!
My parents recently flew on JAL, and they received an email a few days before their flights to opt for something called “ethical choice.” It was the same concept. I thought it was a great idea to offer, though I had my doubts initially. I appreciate the opportunity to be less wasteful even if the airline is the one that benefits financially.
I’m with you on this one. I make frequent jumps from the East Coast USA to Western Europe and have gotten to the point where I much prefer to have dinner in the lounge or airport (or at home, gasp!) than lose 90 minutes of sleep to have an often-not-great meal in the sky. For a 7-8 hour overnight flight, that’s a big difference in sleep. Just as it’s an improvement to offer meal choice in advance for biz-class customers, being able to say ‘no, thanks, don’t waste food on me’ is just an additional customer option.
I’m all for this option. But how about taking it a step further and giving some benefit back to the customer in place of skipping a meal/alcoholic beverages? Free wifi pass, skymiles or something.
I think the thought of free wifi, or comparable amenity instead is an excellent one!
I want a business class “lite”.
No baggage, no lounge, no meals, (I don’t drink). I just want the nights sleep. I fly to Europe and Asia ~10 times a year. All I need is that seat. If I can get a cheaper fare for a no-frills business class seat, I’m in!
I’ll pass on your option.
I clearly can see a benefit flying out of JFK to Europe at 9 pm, but otherwise let me enjoy the meal in peace.
I’d much rather see a menu that has things I would eat instead of a tofu burger or cherry tomato salad with pine nuts.
Yes I’d pay for it and Delta has me a Platnium level flier.
I flew on Delta for the first time this month. And I have to say that the food was not good at all. But the food in the lounge was very good. Why even bother to offer a meal when the quality is so lacking ?
My travel is pretty much confined to the Atlantic. I never eat eastbound and always eat westbound. I do take the breakfast E/B though. The smell of cooking and clatter of plates when trying to sleep is quite annoying.
There’s no waste on first class airline meals. Crew gets fed a little more especially the new-hire flight attendants who sometimes have to choose between paying bills and food.
Emirates &Singapore have the best food in J/F. You have dine on your schedule. The food is top notch. I don’t know about coach food.
Gary is incorrect about food In premium classy.
I am ok with this as long as it remains a choice and is not forced on anyone. Many people who fly such as my self do eat on most every flight. It is part of the experience.
I serve those meals! Truthfully , the business travelers tend to opt out of meals . The leisure traveler tends to enjoy the experience.
Personally , I’d love to see an upgrade in the quality of food and wine in the International leisure markets. This is because even the premium business passenger tends to fly those flights when using their miles to vacation with their families. The business markets should concentrate on quality and quickness with simplicity when offering a choice of cuisine because most businesses travelers want to arrive well rested to their destinations. It makes no sense to serve a three course meal on an eight hour flight when the client wants to rest !
You are young and that truly biases your experience on this subject.
While planned fasting is good, forced fasting because airlines cheaped out and just cut food because a subset didn’t want it is a bad idea. Which would be the next step. It ALWAYS goes further once started.
For older and people with metabolic issues such as diabetes, or disabilities skipping a meal for 10 hours just isn’t possible and do not say ‘bring your own,’ I suffered doing that for 5 YEARS before my condition improved. Outgoing was fine, but when in hotel, in a foreign country for business you can’t really prep that special diet need!
And we cannot ‘just stay home,” because I MUST still work and it involves travel. I am not near retirement age and unless a drug addict, SS Disability is a joke.
So you know, the lounge or any airport food is NOT good for you either. Even if a healthy product, like protein mix, it could have sat in a store for months.
A special food choice is actuall BEST! Diabetic ensures I get a better balance. Vegetarian is a good way to cut a meat serving.
Again, food is critical, escpecially on a flight over 2 hours.
The only way you could understand this is to suffer with a metabolic digestive disability. You need to think bigger picture and about others needs.
There will always be food on planes. I think this is very alarmist.
Didn’t you read the article? He’s not proposed meal free flights, just an option in advance to choose “no meal” . It’s just an option, no different to offering a vegetarian, halal or kosher option and I assume you don’t object to those on the basis some or even most people want to eat meat.
Noone loses anything from offering an option
I wish I had a hard and fast rule. But I just eat when hungry and don’t when not. And those times are quite hard to predict.
I’m old enough to remember being offered several meal choices on the longer hops if I was flying in the main cabin coast-to-coast.In my recent travels I never once was offered a hot meal or a choice of snack boxes to buy. Tom is not being alarmist at all.
I think having a choice is a good idea, but the real way to save on waste is to allow the passenger to see the menu and choose their meals (just like seat selection) prior to boarding their flight. One meal option can be “Skip Entree/Main/Dessert/Breakfast/Whatever”. This will ensure that there is minimal wastage on each flight, and they can obviously keep minimal meals spare just in case there is an operational issue. This helps families too as it will allow kids to choose a kid’s meal instead of having to eat the same thing as adults.
Yes, please do not let your high-strung, anorexic tendencies spoil the meal for the rest of us. Some people would like to dine on an overnight flight irrespective of specific departure and arrival times.
Who could not think this is a good idea? Unless all those uneaten meals go to the crew, which would be fine. I happen to enjoy drinking and dining on an airplane, as someone mentioned it’s part of the experience. I always expect something awful, so am usually pleasantly surprised. But I’m about as far from a foodie as you can be.
Why on earth is anybody paying “thousands” to fly business class, especially with the amount of travel you’re doing?
I’m afraid I ought to agree with the option to skip the meal at reservation.
On the other side I’d love to see changes in airlines configuration relocating first and business to the rear of the plane and putting forward front the economy class for a thousand of reasons. What do you think?
8 TATL in a month? Thoughts and prayers…
your humour is classic. well said. Thanks
You could have said ‘No thank you’ all along. No one is force-feeding you.
The point is that “no thank you” means food was brought on board/procured/purchased unnecessarily. The whole point is avoiding that…
Don’t be so concerned about the food being brought on board for you, someone will eat it.
Now, you have an immense carbon footprint. No need for anyone to make 8 trips across the pond in 4 weeks unless you’re flying the plane.
You may justify your need , but you’re simply burning jet fuel for your ego.
In each case, flights were booked last minute, which meant they were scheduled to fly before I signed on. Therefore, I actually made them more efficient by flying, since they served a greater utility in the transportation of people, versus flying with empty seats. And the entire point is that if food isn’t brought on board, there’s benefit all the way down the chain.
Totally agree. I’ve done four transatlantic crossings in the past two months in a mixture of PE & Business. I had one meal.
I never eat on the eastbound leg for exactly the reasons Gilbert mentions and normally have something light before boarding.
Would love the option to skip the meal and get a few extra points.
Would be nice to have a decent meal in the lounge before boarding and skip all services onboard going eastbound. American Flagship has that option. Some airlines are notoriously inappropriate with full dinners at 3AM or 5AM. I have experienced that on TK and LO.
Sorry not a good idea! If not eating works for you, great! But I don’t want the airlines getting the idea that this is what all passengers want! First I get severe headaches from not eating at regular intervals. Second diabetics cannot go for 8-12 hours without consuming some type of food.
It really aggravates me that bloggers think that they should advocate for their readers. It is bad enough that Americans have to plan their domestic travel with meal availability. But on 8+ hour trips, FOOD NEEDS TO BE AVAILABLE!!!
It’s just an option JohnB, not a mandate. Airlines love surveys and customer studies and in no world is an airline going to come back and find that 100% of passengers don’t want food.
I agree to an extent but there seem to be a lot of things that change due to customer experience/enhancement/convenience/demand.
Seems like Delta is now also offering “No lounge access” for elites when flying international coach.
Another lovely Delta industry first “innovative” loyalty service “enhancement”.
What a panic reactive move after extended and made it too easy to get status for everyone during COVID.
Trust me I used to work at gate gourmet avoid eating any prepped foods in the airplane go for snacks instead cause I can’t say much about how they make the snacked but the food . It’s just nasty we had to use the same carts over and over again .since it’s a lot to build in one day so we barely have time t even spray water inside to wash them a little . People don’t even follow the food guidelines when making them so be careful of what you are putting in your body . We built for Delta , United and more . If they don’t offer you food or whatever you are not missing much
Well, I don’t care about this option, I guess. It’s free food, I take it. Period.
I with you on but only because I travel J/F exclusively so the novelty has long wore off.
The majority of selfie takers and “foodies” may disagree. Apparently, a $7 meal microwaved by someone in a miniskirt making $13 an hour is top luxury that must be posted all over social media.
The premise that eating on a plane can throw off your circadian rhythm is spot on. I totally dig this.
Delta food and beverage options are trash. We just did Delta One SEA to AMS, the purser had the nerve to claim all the premium wine and spirits were out because “you guys drank it all”…when no-one has ordered yet. No champagne, cognac, port, or scotch.
Meanwhile, economy Air France had better food and real champagne…go figure.
I, we travel internationally annually to our residence in South of France, or elsewhere (last year 12 countries). In this “Digi-Post-Article” yet another OpEd is put forth by an imbecile that must be on Delta’s payroll. My spouse and I have spent a lifetime traveling, usually Business or First Class – if anything I support return to the “Full Treatment” of Privlidges, Menu’s, Service in the Skies! If you are Paying through the Nose, the least these carriers can do for the enormous cost differences for us, the HIGH Paying sector, is , are:
•Express Security Access-or and Seperate Gate/Lounges, ill call/name “Priority Comfort Lounges” with Separate Sanitized Boarding and Pre Select Meals Options, Pre Selected Entertainment; Personal Travel Comfor Suites/Compartments rather than “Crowd Seating”; Also Bring Back the Newspaper -Magazine Carts; Expressly Block Off Other Than in Section Access during Flights; Express Customs at arrival & Boarding; Executive Transport – Diver/Vehicle Option at Arrival ; Separate Gates for Business Class & Above; Separate Luggage, Pet managenent, with Personal Concierge options at both end of travel. Finally a ‘Concierge Style or “Type” of personal attention, compiling & applying Miles, Executive assistance w/ reservations & connected needs assistance; SeniorFlySupport to maximize all here previously listed with inclusion of Special Needs Alert Senior or any may have.
•These are the least type of accommodating proviso’s ANY Supposed Luxury service charging what carriers already do, can or should provide/offer. I’ve taken to shifting my Travel to smaller semi-private or private carriers -where the security process is far more effective, less stressful.
As the costs rise, we are, will increasingly switch to alternative, increasingly private luxury options -rather than a dumbed down version of ‘Barely there’ business, 1st class experiences being offered on current American carriers.
I’ve a good 25 years of travel ahead l, if carriers as delta want our business (I’m on a delta business class flight in January to kauai from Las Vegas in January – I’m wondering what more these cut crazy, greed-lines have cut again.) -signed: A “Paying For It, Flyer”-
Ps- Tell writers as tge author of this article to cease quite influencer tactics: Let People enjoy what THEY/We wish – as we pay for. Period. -jAp
HAHA! I want you to know that your return on investment in writing this, is zero. As the article states, no one is trying to take away meals from anyone who wants one. It’s simply suggesting that Delta is right to offer a digital option for people to “opt out”, if they so wish. Good luck in life. PS, I spend an eye watering amount of money crossing the Atlantic each year and have never received any “freebies” from Delta of any kind, ever. You know nothing about me, yet presume so much.
completely agree with ‘don’t eat airline meals’. Spent many years flying across the Atlantic, always followed the ‘anti jet lag’ program. Ex also did much air travel, including Far East, so also always did the program. I also could order my choice of ‘special vegan diet’ , it was in all my airlines’ computers. If you must eat bring a sandwich.
The right thing to witness is to have a good perk.
I look very forward to the meals in business/first. I have flown up front for a long time now. In a former life as a young man exploring the world and getting upgraded and now as a semi retired exploring for a different reason and one who pays their own way. A menu, pride in the meal from the attendant, used to be the norm. I am hopeful that the airlines compete for who is best and that their food and drink and particularly the service is a large segment of who is the best. As you all are aware service is not improving in most industries and the more we accept this new norm, the worse it will become.
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