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?