Delta One Suite

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.

Delta Sky Club San Francisco

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?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

36 Comments

  1. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. Hear, hear!
      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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

    1. 1000000%
      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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 ?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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 !

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. Why on earth is anybody paying “thousands” to fly business class, especially with the amount of travel you’re doing?

  20. 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?

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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!!!

  24. 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

  25. 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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.