Skipping meals on planes.. Is it an option accepted by travelers in the future?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — While the owner of the “God Save the Points” blog online, Gilbert Ott, booked a flight from New York City to London, he noticed something new on the list of meal preferences. Along with the availability of vegetarian meals, or options based on “kosher” teachings, there was the option to skip food service altogether.

Ott decided to skip the meal, which is something all airline passengers should think about, he said.

“The thought of eating in the middle of the night is ruining your whole day, and I believe there is solid scientific evidence that it is harming your ability to recover from jet lag,” Ott said on his blog.

Not everyone is happy with the idea of ​​skipping meals on the plane like Ott is, but some airlines, including Delta (which Ott was on) and Japan Airlines (JAL), now offer that option.

The verdict is yet to be made as to whether travelers will accept this in the long term.

What is the importance of meals?

Currently, only some passengers who travel in the Delta One cabin in Business Class on Delta Airlines have the option to “skip a meal”.

Since the program began last year, a representative from the airline told CNN that about 1,000 to 1,500 meals have been voluntarily declined each month.

That means only 3% of eligible passengers choose to skip meals, but it’s a test of what airlines can do to save fuel, costs and waste on board.

Does this option only embody the “greenwashing” phenomenon?

Critics of the meal-skipping programs said airlines may be “greenwashing” only by trying to disguise cost-cutting measures in the name of sustainability.

And when Japan Airlines launched the skip-meal option in 2020, the airline offered passengers a free set of personal items in exchange for skipping a meal.

One critic, Gary Leaf of the blog View from the Wing, described the free set of personal items as a “deposit” and argued that the program placed too much of the onus on the passenger to make changes rather than on the airline itself.

“I suppose it is ethical for JAL to save money by reducing food waste, but is it a moral duty for a passenger to make decisions about their meals at least 25 hours before departure, i.e. knowing if they will be hungry in the future?” Lev wrote. ?

The JAL program began as a test run on a limited number of routes, and is now available to passengers in any class and on any international flight.

Originally, the program was called “The Ethical Choice to Skip a Meal,” but it is not used anymore.

The free set of personal items was also exchanged in partnership with a charity called Table for Two.

The airline indicated that it would donate a small amount to the charity for each meal skipped.

The foundation provides school lunches to children living in poverty.

However, the airline did not specify how much money it would donate, or which schools or districts would receive the donations.

And will travelers feel good about themselves by making the “green” option? Or will they just feel hungry?

From a traveler’s perspective, it can feel like you’re being cheated, says Joaquín Hidalgo, who with Meiling Chen delved into the world of aircraft waste for their MIT thesis in 2022.

Hidalgo said that travelers should realize “the complexity of the whole thing, and what is really involved in the entire supply chain when it comes to catering on planes.”

But what happens to uneaten food on airlines?

Some airlines allow flight attendants to take meals that no one has eaten in business or first class.

Most of the time, however, it is either incinerated or thrown into a landfill.

Hidalgo believes the airline industry could go in the same direction for hotels that offer incentives to guests who forego services such as daily bed linen changes.

When you are transparent about food waste and educate travelers, skipping meals on planes can become an environmental statement rather than just a personal preference.

What if I change my mind?

Ott noted that the most common question asked about the choice to skip meals is, “What if I change my mind?”

In the end, the traveler will not be able to stop and have a snack, as he will be inside a metal tube in the sky.

But many airlines store snacks on board, especially during long flights.

It’s not always free, but it helps to know that the passenger will not go hungry on the flight.

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