May 1, 2019 |
Two recent flights on a major international airline, one short and one long haul, highlighted yet again the importance of food to the overall experience – made more interesting because on one of the flights I didn’t actually eat anything.
To cut a long story short, the short haul flight was outsourced to a supermarket chain with a reputation for good food, but I didn’t eat as the option of a pint of Abbot Ale and a Pret sandwich at the airport was more appealing. The long haul flight had surprisingly good food and whilst there was no vegetarian choice during the booking process, there was one on the trolley.
The overall experience of flying is either made or broken by the food, and for a long time airlines have either overlooked this or have charged for it. In the first instance a lot of airlines have upped their game and provided a lot better meals than previously. However, the second option is one that has been downplayed and put into the domain of the low cost airline. But actually should this not be the option that all airlines follow? After all they are airline and their job is to get passengers from A to B not necessarily provide them with hospitality services.
We have written extensively about delivery services. We have written extensively about outsourcing. We have written extensively about consumer choice. So why should customers on a flight only have chicken or fish to choose from?
I understand that airlines outsource their food to a contract catering company and that they don’t actually make it themselves and yes I understand about airside security, but ultimately when the price for something is hidden within a total price then the quality of the offer is going to be low. So when you only have the choice of two dishes, that are included within your ticket, then the quality of these is going to be low. In the saying that, the food on the long haul flight was surprisingly good, but still the time has come for all airline food to be outsourced to known brands and consumers to be given a choice.
If a consumer has the opportunity to choose then their overall experience is bound to be greater. There are enough suppliers who have the quality and the bandwidth to be able to provide excellent choices and airlines should look to these providers. Imagine if you were on a flight from London to New York and you had a choice of Pret, Shake Shack or say Blaze Pizza. The level of expectation is bound to be heightened. The ability to pay can be integrated through the in-flight system. Choose from the screen, press pay and the amount is either added to the credit card on the system or through pre-paid vouchers.
Yes airlines would need to adapt their galleys and service methodology, and the supplier brands would need to do some development work, but it is a competitive world and if consumers are putting food at the forefront of their minds, then airlines will need to modernise. Look at the improvement in the level of services in the airport – it is not just fast food brands but also mid to upper end too. The dreaded celebrity chefs are also in on the act, with outposts of their empire to be found in many a global terminal. So consumers now can wine and dine in the terminal, not need to eat on the plane and instead wait until they reach their destination before they eat again.
The net impact of this on the airlines is negligible as the passenger still accepts the free tray and, whether they eat the contents or not, the airline has still carried and dispensed the food and the caterer has still been paid. But is is not a question of where the consumer should eat, it is a question of what. Why should someone have to pay for a better meal in the terminal, in full knowledge that they will be fed on the flight but are unsure off the quality or the choice, when they can just pay for a better meal on the plane?
I am sure that are certain monopolies, quangos, handshakes and barriers to this actually happening but ultimately like anything, if the provider wants to put the consumer first then provide them with something they actually want. Don’t fob them off with a limited choice in the knowledge that they may have actually sorted themselves out in the terminal, or for the privileged the lounge. When airlines are going a long way to improve the overall flying experience, why is the food offer still lagging behind?