In-flight meals don’t have a stellar reputation but a handful of airlines are bringing first class food to those stuck in economy class.
Airlines across Europe and the U.S. are now offering economy passengers the chance to upgrade their meals, ordering ahead of their flight, and choosing from menus more readily found in cabins at the front of the plane.
AirBerlin was the first carrier to launch an a la carte service for economy customers, teaming with upscale German restaurant Sansibar. The onboard menu includes a favorite from the restaurant’s own: a veal and pork currywurst.
Adding some local flavor is just one way make an airline’s in-flight experience stand out.
Blain Miyasato, Hawaiian Airline’s vice president of product development, has joined with local businesses to source items that evoke the spirit of Hawaii — from wasabi ranch popcorn to toffee covered macadamia nuts.
Statistics are showing that passengers are willing to pay a little extra for better food.
Austrian Airways sells roughly 600,000 pre-ordered meals a year, while U.S. Airways, which in August became the first American carrier to launch premium dining in economy class, estimates it has sold over 5,000 units from its DineFresh menu.
“We realized we had a premium customer sitting in economy class who would appreciate and purchase an on board culinary experience,” notes Russ Brown, U.S. Airways’ director of product planning and development.
“We tried to use an upscale bento box as a footprint,” says Brown. “We designed it so that when the product is delivered to the customer, it looks and feels like a present.”
Currently, U.S. Airways sells DineFresh meals only on flights leaving from Philadelphia and Charlotte, though they are planning to expand the program in the future.
“Right now, by only operating out of two hubs, it’s easy to control the consistency of the product,” he adds.
Because the meals are customized, passengers are required to order anywhere from 24 to 48 hours in advance, though that may also change in the future. Austrian Airlines allows passengers leaving from Vienna to order meals one hour prior to departure from a special kiosk at the airport.