Every year millions of tons of airline food is wasted by either not being bought, or not being finished by passengers. In addition, valuable engine fuel is used transporting this unwanted food. Mi Tyler looks at the alternative that would mean money and food saved.
My flight is about to leave, the airport is crowded and I’m starting to get really hungry. Lunch was hours ago and there is no time for a quick snack before departure. I suppose I will have to buy something on the plane.
I wonder what is on the in-flight menu and I think about all the food that has to be thrown away – either because somebody didn’t like what they ordered or because nobody ordered it.
I remember an article I read in the magazine Airport Lifestyle about what happened to the remaining food on arrival at the destination. I learnt that all the food, be it unfinished or untouched, is considered “contaminated” and is unloaded and incinerated. This means entire food carts of untouched meals literally goes up in flames. This is certainly the case for transatlantic flights going to the USA where the unused food is destroyed so that no food-borne illnesses will enter the country.
According to a 2010 report from non-profit organization Green America, every airplane passenger produces about 0.5 kilogram of waste. This is quite something when considering the fact that in 2013 6.3 billion passengers travelled by air – meaning 3.15 million tons of waste was produced.
Knowing the luxury sandwiches I love, why isn’t there an airline app that allows me to pre-order what I want and let me pay for it? That way it can be freshly prepared, personalised as I want it and ready and waiting just for me on the plane.
It isn’t just that it is a more comfortable and less stressful way to get food to my liking than a busy airport diner. On top of saving time, it has the added bonus of being a lot more environmentally friendly than the alternative. Also, it would help the airlines save money. If the airline can have a better idea in advance of exactly how much food to load on the airplane, it minimises waste and waste management costs, in addition to improving customer satisfaction.
Mobile and online technology will help airlines access this new ancillary revenue model much faster. The magical next step – and key topic at many airlines – is to give passengers the ability to pre-order and pre-pay for their meals ahead of their flights. Meals can be matched to taste which means happier passengers, more airline revenue and zero wasted food, And no costly jet fuel needs to be spent flying uneaten food that will have to be thrown away.
This is something that some airlines are thinking about, but it is not yet common by any means. Now is the time for airlines to get on board and watch this pre-order business fly.