Does In-Flight Meal Service Affect Experience?

Does In-Flight Meal Service Affect Experience?

Recent articles from Gary Leff of View From The Wing and Matt Klint of Live and Let’s Fly highlight a growing unease over the future of in-flight meal services. Both discussions revolve around what American Airlines has done to curb their offerings since the pandemic began limiting our mobility. The concern is meals won’t come back to pre-COVID comfort. Then that begs the question, does in-flight meal service affect the experience?

Please know we understand this discussion is about what is clearly a minor inconvenience compared to the economic devastation and loss of life the pandemic has caused and is causing. These are difficult times. It’s also important to keep an eye on the future. To keep a healthy mental approach and also focus on our passions. To enjoy those passions when able.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

Matt K. is certainly passionate about in-flight service. A meal is was a part of that service. Maybe this is your passion as well.

Food is a very personal experience. Breaking bread with others can be a moving, remember forever lifetime experience. But sometimes we eat just to eat. See food and snarf away. A decadent indulgence with no concern for survival.

In flying on countless airplanes, I can’t think of one meal I remember all that well. I’ve certainly been famished on flights waiting anxiously to get the chicken option and hoping they don’t run out before serving my row.

You might be thinking that’s because I was in fly in the cheap seats.

When I was fortunate enough to fly the big seats in front, I can’t think of an experience all that memorable associated with the grub either.

There lies the difference. For some, food serves as a vehicle for many pleasures in life. If this is you, it can greatly enhance the overall flying experience. For others like me, not so much.

I love flying. Chatting with the crew can be a lot of fun. The spectacular views are a wonder. And the anticipation of an adventure is hard to beat. The food hasn’t been all that noteworthy. I don’t believe it’s made the journey less exciting.

Life is what you make of it. It’s still true.

I can certainly understand the angst from those concerned meals won’t return. Will they come back?

Customers Will Decide

Airlines can cut corners all they want right now. They can state it’s for health reasons. The skeptics in us think it’s more of a bottom-line decision. We get it. Survive to thrive!

Eventually, things will get back to some normal whatever that looks like in 2021 or beyond. As with any market, the customers will dictate the services they desire. If our traveling hordes want hot, memory inducing meals on flights, especially if they are willing to pay extra for it, you know airlines will come up with solutions.

Besides the more comfortable space, first and business classes are desired for premium service. People are willing to pay extra for them with cash or points. As long as that need remains, and airlines are in the for-profit business, a premium experience will be offered.

This doom and gloom scenario for the end of in-flight service is short-sighted. If people would pay for it, airlines would put a chef in the middle of the plane and you could watch your meal preparation. Sushi anyone?

Get Creative

There’s more room for meal creativity on flights. Not necessarily more options of what to eat. But more of if or when we want to eat.

I’ve seen economy passengers on flights from the U.S. to Europe not eat a morsel for the entire journey. Other passengers ate very light, snacking on nuts or a simple sandwich they brought with them. Even though in-flight food was provided.

Airlines should seek this information out ahead of time. Who will eat and find out those that will not. Airline apps should allow for ordering up to 48 hours before the flight.

Some airlines offer special meals like kosher or low sodium for those with specific needs. Which is great. I’ve ordered these meals and I like getting them before the rest of the plane gets fed. Does it enhance the experience? Perhaps a little since I feel special getting the tray early.

I’ve flown a couple airlines that provide seat screen food options available during the flight as well. Snacks, meals, and/or drinks could be ordered ad hoc when the passenger is in need. To be provided when we’re actually hungry or thirsty. Why major airlines don’t adopt this universally is baffling.

Also, it shouldn’t be a surprise what food will be served before boarding. We should see what the options are and all items that are included well before the flight. Trying to hear and subsequently decide between the chicken or pasta over the engine noise isn’t ideal for passengers. What happens if you nod off before the spiel?

Take the mystery out of it. Build excitement for the flight. For those like Matt K., knowing the feast ahead of time will add to the overall experience.

So, what’s the answer to the headline?

Yes and No

It depends because it’s a personal experience. And there’s room for both.

I’ve seen fellow passengers only concerned with a safe journey from departure to destination. No food or drinks required onboard. They may bring their own food and water bottle. I’ve been this person on occasion and it hasn’t affected my experience one bit.

But when we want to enjoy a good meal in the clouds, we should know ahead of time what the options are and order what we want before boarding. If we get famished during the flight outside of the pre-determined feasting windows, we should be able to order ad hoc. Experience meter rising!

First and business classes want a premium experience. That should include at a minimum a decent meal. Why get a minimum? I can understand why these passengers expect a great memory inducing indulgence. Some wow factor. They paid for it.

Ultimately the customer has the power. If they’re willing to pay for an amazing experience, then why not have a meal to match that expectation.


Read. Plan. Travel. Repeat!

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