JAL Now Lets You “Ethically” Skip Inflight Meals

Filed Under: Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines (JAL) is giving people an incentive to skip inflight meals, calling it the “ethical choice.”

Japan Airlines’ “Ethical Choice Meal Skip”

With JAL’s new “Ethical Choice Meal Skip,” passengers are asked to confirm in advance if they don’t plan on dining inflight:

  • This is currently exclusively available on JL34 from Bangkok to Tokyo Haneda, which is the redeye flight
  • This is available for passengers in all cabins, including business, premium economy, and economy
  • At least 25 hours before departure, passengers should log into their reservation and select the “No Meal” option, so that no meal will be catered

The airline is giving passengers an incentive to skip eating inflight:

  • Business class passengers who take advantage of this will receive the long haul business class amenity kit, rather than the short haul business class amenity kit
  • Premium economy and economy class passengers who take advantage of this will receive the short haul business class amenity kit

I like this concept a lot

There’s no denying that what Japan Airlines is doing here is a cost saving measure. The airline can load fewer meals, and in turn will give passengers an amenity kit that costs a fraction as much (and odds are that these are excess kits anyway, given how much JAL has reduced its schedule).

Nonetheless the airline isn’t wrong in marketing this as being the “ethical choice,” if you’re not going to eat inflight:

  • Airlines waste a ton of food, since any perishable food not consumed on a flight is typically thrown out
  • Airlines don’t want to run out of food for passengers, so they often have extras
  • A lot of this food waste problem could be solved if passengers stated their preferences in advance — do they want to eat at all, and if they want to eat, which of the choices do they want to select

Now, we’ll likely never get to the point where every passenger realistically states their preferences in advance, both because this isn’t something many people think about, and also because for some people there’s fun in the spontaneity of being able to decide what you want when you’re onboard.

But if airlines can give people an incentive to make their intentions clear in advance, this is a win-win.

As an alternative to giving away an amenity kit, I think airlines should really drive home the “ethical” aspect of this more. How about an airline says “if you choose not to have a meal, we’ll donate X number of meals to those in need?”

Japan Airlines is giving people an incentive to skip meals

Bottom line

JAL is trialing an “Ethical Choice Meal Skip” option, whereby passengers can receive a premium amenity kit if they choose to forgo a meal on a redeye flight from Bangkok to Tokyo.

While I’m not sure this in particular will prove that popular, I like the concept in general, and would love to see this expanded to other airlines. Many people know they won’t eat on a plane in advance, so why not save the airline money, and in turn the airline can donate a certain number of meals to those in need?

What do you make of Japan Airlines’ new program for skipping meals?

  1. What do you reckon would happen if someone selected the ethical skip meal option but then showed up hungry and asked the flight crew for food after having received the amenity kit?

  2. What happens when people choose no meal but there is a weather/ground delay and you are sitting on the tarmac for an extra two+ hours and now you’re delayed and you want to eat. Not sure why this is worth the potential headache, if the airline wants to save some money get cheaper food or go with options that have less waste potential, heavy sauces or other items not typically consumed that add weight.

  3. @ Sel, D. — First of all, I’m talking big picture and long term here. Second of all, the idea is still that this would *save* the airline money. Donating meals is potentially less expensive than incremental catering.

  4. @ Laurel — Who knows. In general I’d think if they had extras they might give you leftovers, but at the same time in Japan the rules are the rules, so…

  5. I wish on short red eye flights with late departures they would just do away with meal service altogether. Provide good food in the lounge for premium passengers and then give everyone the max time to sleep. The number of people who will appreciate quiet sleep will be far greater than those who were really hoping for an overcooked steak.

  6. I rarely eat airplane food, so I’m all for an option to end the waste. A bunch of miles would be more useful than the amenity kit, which is just going to cause waste as well in my case as I don’t use it either.

  7. I can see this concept work for an airline like CX. Most of their regional redeyes average around 4 hours or so. Most rather eat in the lounges anyway and in Economy, you just get a juice box, a rather depressing looking small sandwich, a small container of fruit and a biscuit. If they still insist on serving a meal, I would rather have the lights left off and have a meal served prior to landing instead of after take off.

  8. I like the idea, but I would not do it. For one simple reason. I don’t know if I’ll want to eat until just before the flight, even if it is a late night departure. Depends on factors such as my schedule the day of flight, what I’ve eaten that day and how tired I am, none of which I can know in advance.

  9. Less waste is definitely a good thing. This will not only lead to a reduction of the monetary and production cost of the meals themselves, but over the course of many flights the effects on fuel consumption could be significant. I also agree with Chris’s suggestion of offering miles rather than amenity kits as another incentive option – that too could be less wasteful. Given that this initiative is optional, I also commend the added freedom of choice provided by this initiative. Many wins here, though I would welcome hearing reasoned arguments for why this initiative isn’t a good one.

  10. In the JL and Ana lounges I usually stuff myself with the curry and rice so I’m too stuffed to enjoy the inflight food.

  11. I would have thought that an amenity kit is less ethical than a meal. I recognise that a meal is heavier than an amenity kit, and therefore consumes more fuel to fly, but food is organic and combustible whereas amenity kits are pure waste, unless they contain very high end items, which make them far too expensive to cater – and even then the plastic will still be the main component.

  12. I love the idea of airlines donating a meal for every passenger who opts to skip the inflight meal.
    As an added touch, the crew can deliver a thank you card to the passengers who opt in for this.
    Personally, this would be a far greater incentive for me to make the effort of updating my meal preference in advance versus getting a free amenity kit.
    I imagine this would find a considerable number of takers and not only would it result in significant cost savings for airlines but also quieter cabins on long-haul flights.

  13. I would probably go for it. If you’re familiar w/ the route, the departure airport and lounges and especially if you have access to business or Priority Pass lounges, no reason not to plan ahead to sleep thru the flight than be trying to eat more food at 2am.

  14. I would check that option for all the short business class flights. For example when you arrive in Europe and have a connecting flight… I never eat on that 2nd flight. Or within NA…

  15. While I like your suggestion that donating meals to the hungry is a great option, application by the airline would be arbitrary and invisible. No way to know whether one meal, two meals or six meals are being donated. The amenity kit is visible. At the least, why not give the option to the passenger whether they want the amenity kit, or making the donation?

  16. Even better if they could split up the Y cabin into meal / no meal zones. I would happily skip meal on a red-eye if it improved my chances of some sleep with lights out, seat reclined and no banging about the cabin

  17. AA/BA should take this for nearly all of its TATL sunrise service since most pax on this route has lounge access & not likely to eat on board.

  18. I’ve been hoping EI would do this for years. It takes so long to do meal service on red eye TATL flights that, combined with take off and landing, you’re lucky to get 2 hours of lights-off time.

  19. I would trade the meal for a decent number of miles in my account. I lost count on how many times I said no to meals on Delta One and I would happily take miles for not eating. Usually I fly at night and all I want is to sleep so I won’t bother with their tasteless food.

  20. “Airlines waste TONNES of food” WHERE????…portions are crap anyways EVEN on biz class…….pls….i get free amenities kit from Macys, no thank you very much!

  21. If they really wanted this to have an effect, they should make meals opt in rather than opt in. On the short’ish Asian overnight flights (BKK, SIN, SGN, HAN, KUL) I typically try to sleep as much as possible and rarely get any service apart from a bottle of water before take off, and one before landing. Though I doubt I would remember to log in to sign up for ethical choice, it would be much better if I had to opt in, or could set it as a default in my profile.

    They could always have a few extra for people who did not know they had to opt in. Looking at the behaviour of passengers in the past. I would say a big share don’t get the meal already.

  22. I would prefer a different name. If I decide to have a meal, there is an implication that I’ve made an unethical choice.

  23. I love this.

    Even in Int’l First on respected carriers like LH or SQ or EK, I rarely eat the food.

    I’ll have some drinks, and maybe a snack, but I cannot stand eating food at altitude, so it makes me a little sad knowing food has been loaded onto the plane for me only to have it thrown into the trash (or, hopefully, compost pile…but I doubt it).

  24. Wouldn’t it be better if there was a choice to have the in flight meals as a takeaway after the flight? One might still want to eat it later anyways.

  25. So, instead of food waste and a side effect is fuel waste, they will give kits that eventually end up in landfill.

    Interest exchange of environmental damage.

  26. I will NEVER choose this option. We are not talking about travelling within the US here (where inflight dining is an alien concept). We are talking about flying Japan Airlines between Thailand and Japan. In routes like these (and many others), inflight dining is usually a delight in all classes. So bring me my meals and beversges please!!

  27. “Ethical” my arse! This is all about saving money so what’s ethical about being disingenuous.

  28. Given all the materials used in those amenity kits, I don’t know if it is an “ethical” choice here. I understand that airlines are finding ways to cut costs but this is just bizarre to me. Knowing the Japanese, they will still turn no the lights two hours prior to arrival and serve those passengers breakfast. Even with eye-shades and ear plugs, there will still be noises. Given the current Covid-19 situation with restaurants closing early and lounges not providing food, I will not take the risk in not getting a meal. Not to mention, there will be testing required after arrival and god knows when you will be able to get food before arriving at your quarantine spot. I understand the reason behind it but with Covid-19, this is not the right time.

  29. It’s a really great idea and one that Qantas has had for quite a while in Business Class. There don’t use any ‘ethical’ slant about it but you can indicate that you plan on getting on the jet and going straight to sleep prior to the flight.

    Having worked as longhaul cabin crew the amount of food wasted is quite staggering. On our US east coast – europe flights Business Class night catering would usually be loaded at 50% passenger load and we would still have plenty left over. In economy we would still cater at 100% but the waste was often staggering.

    However, there was no hard and fast rule to this and we’d often find ourselves scrambling for food because we had more demand than supply in Business.

    The other issue i’d be concerned about is when a passenger changes their mind about eating. I’ve had in PLENTY of times where a passenger has said ‘no I am going straight to sleep’ when doing the meal order prior to take off to ‘can I have dinner’ thirty minutes later once we are airborne. So I can imagine the level of people changing their minds between 25Hrs prior to departure and once they are in the air.

  30. Not many people are going to care about donating meals to the hungry. Have you been quarantined so long that you forget that in today’s society everyone only cares about themselves?

  31. This is great! I’ve always preferred to eat at the lounge versus up in the air and would welcome the few more mins of sleep.

  32. This is not new. SQ already offers skip meal service.

    The whole purpose of allowing opt out is to prevent wastage (ie sustainable), but giving away the kits feel like counter effort (by creating more waste for the environment).

  33. I fly between BKK and KIX/HND at least once a month under normal global conditions. This is a good route to start this program on. In both Y and C it is a 50/50 split with half sleeping and the other half doing work or watching movies.

    Generaly speaking (based off of my observations on this route), when people fall asleep during taxi, they stay out until landing. Mind you, the red eyes out of BKK to Japan depart between 2330 and 2600, so everyone is pretty much drained.

    For the buiness traveller who has a routine on this segment, i think this is perfect.

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