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(CNN) window or hallway? By the toilet or by the cockpit? Food or no food?
When Gilbert Ott was specifying reservations for an overnight flight from New York to London, he noticed something new on his list of dietary preferences: in addition to options such as kosher and vegetarian meals. We had the option to skip the food service entirely.
He didn’t choose his food properly. It’s something every airline passenger should think about, he says.
“No matter how you fly, you’ll skip meals,” says Ott, who wrote about his experience on the blog God Save the Points. “The thought of eating in the middle of the night derails everything the next day. I think there’s some credible science that impairs your ability to recover from jet lag.”
While not everyone is as excited about the prospect of skipping an in-flight meal as Ott, several airlines, including Delta (where Ott was on board) and Japan Airlines (JAL), said they “don’t have a thank you.” I am using options.
The jury is still out on whether this will be acceptable to passengers in the long term.
Why Diet Matters
The Skip Meal option is currently only available to select customers traveling in Delta’s Business Class Delta One cabin. An airline official told CNN that about 1,000 to 1,500 meals have been voluntarily declined each month since the program launched last year.
That means only 0.3% of eligible passengers have opted out. But it’s a test case of what airlines can do to reduce fuel, costs and waste on board.
According to the airline, the “no meal” option is more than just environmentally friendly. It’s also about personalization.
A Delta representative said, “We are always looking for ways to better serve our customers and provide a more personalized in-flight experience.
Meals also provide an opportunity for airlines to collect more customer data and better optimize catering options.
Is it just greenwashing?
Critics of the no-meal program say airlines may be “greenwashing” by trying to hide corner-cutting measures under the guise of sustainability.
When JAL launched the option to skip meals in 2020, the airline offered flyers free amenity kits in lieu of handing over meals.
One critic, Gary Leff of the blog View from the Wing, called amenity kits “tokens” and argued that the program puts too much responsibility on passengers to make changes, rather than the airlines themselves. .
“I think it’s ethical for Japan Airlines to reduce food waste and save money, but I would recommend that passengers make meal decisions at least 25 hours before departure, so they know if their future selves are going or not.” Is it an ethical imperative to be hungry?” he wrote.
JAL’s program began as a test on a limited number of routes. It is now available for all classes of passengers on all international flights.
Originally called an “ethical no-meal option,” the term “ethical” has since been dropped. Amenity kits have been discontinued and replaced by a partnership with a charity called Table for Two.
The airline says that whenever it runs out of meals, it will donate a small amount to the charity, which provides school meals to children living in poverty. However, the airline has not specified how much it will donate or which schools or regions it serves.
Will travelers feel better about themselves if they make ‘green’ choices, or will they just go hungry?
“From the customer’s point of view, it feels cheated,” says Joaquin Hidalgo, who delved into the waste world of the aircraft industry with Mei Ling Cheng for his 2022 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduation thesis. increase.
“But what I think they need to know more about is the complexity of the whole thing and what actually goes into the whole supply chain of catering for planes.”
For airlines that don’t offer a ‘no meal’ option, there are questions about what to do with leftovers from in-flight meals.
One common suggestion is to donate to food banks and shelters. However, the stringent regulations of the airline industry, plus the various laws at airports, make it almost impossible to get food, if at all. kept closed all the time. The same regulations that prohibit travelers from bringing fruit, meat and other food items across the border also apply.
What happens to the uneaten food? In-flight meal? Some airlines allow their flight attendants to eat their business or first class meals as-is.
Hidalgo believes the airline industry could move in the same direction as hotels refrain from changing bed sheets daily, or simply offering environmental benefits.
By being transparent about food waste and educating travelers, skipping meals on board can be more of an environmental statement than just a personal preference.
What if I change my mind?
According to Ott, the most common question people ask about skipping meals is, “What if I change my mind?” After all, you can’t stop your car and grab a snack when you’re in an empty metal tube.
Many airlines provide snacks on board, especially on long-haul flights. They aren’t always free, but the knowledge of not starving in the air is priceless.
If you’re confident in yourself and know what you like, Ott says any customization option is fine.
For Ott, he flies the same JFK-Heathrow route at least once a month and keeps his travel routine cool, from sleeping habits to what he packs in his carry-on.
He also knows how to keep saying “no thank you” to in-flight meals no matter how attractive they look.
“Airlines may offer foie gras, lobster and caviar, but I still don’t.”