Fiji Airways Takes Pre-Flight Dining To The Extreme

Filed Under: Fiji Airways

The past few years we’ve seen airlines investing significantly in their business class products. Not only do more airlines offer dine on demand onboard, but many airlines also offer pre-flight dining.

This gives passengers the flexibility to eat what they want when they want.

Well, Fiji Airways has just taken this concept to the next level in a rather controversial way. Fiji Airways has introduced pre-flight dining, but they’re doing this in lieu of offering full onboard business class meals.

The new concept is called “Dine on the Ground,” and promises pre-flight meals “to maximize rest while traveling.”

Fiji Airways claims that this comes after they found that 31% of passengers traveling to Australia skipped inflight meals in favor of getting more sleep, and as a result, 38% of onboard food was being discarded.

So instead the airline will be serving breakfast and dinner in the lounge for those traveling to Australia and New Zealand. Fiji Airways’ CEO had the following to say:

“While the inflight experience has improved dramatically over the years across all airlines, the way in which food is served hasn’t changed too much.”

Of course this is being billed as an enhancement that also reduces waste, though ultimately it seems pretty clear that this is intended to reduce costs.

The airline quotes a health and wellness expert, who points out that eating inflight causes bloating and indigestion:

“The movement and irregular nature of travel makes it much harder to digest food properly. Try to eat a decent meal a good one to two hours before travelling. Once on the flight, eat very lightly. By dining on the ground before take-off, you’re giving your body enough time to digest the food – meaning you’ll be more comfortable and more likely to sleep.”

Fiji Airways A330 business class

On the flights where this new concept applies, business class passengers will see onboard meals replaced by light options, including fruit, paninis, salad, tapas, and soup.

Initially this won’t impact flights to & from the US, but rather will only apply to flights to Australia and New Zealand.

Bottom line

Initially pre-flight dining was introduced as a way to give premium passengers more flexibility. However, Fiji Airways is taking it to the extreme by basically eliminating full meal service onboard for many routes.

Obviously this is a cost saving measure, though it’s also nice to know that less food is being wasted. However, this really does limit flexibility for many passengers. For example, a lot of people don’t arrive at the airport early enough to have a full meal, and if you’re connecting and have a short layover (either because you scheduled it that way or are delayed), then you might end up hungry.

What do you make of the direction that Fiji Airways is taking here? Do you prefer to eat pre-flight or onboard?

  1. Food is always superior when prepared in a true kitchen than from a galley. And it is more comfortable to eat it seated at a real table. No doubt, the lounge will not have a complete restaurant style kitchen, but it can have real stoves, real grills, real just about everything (no knives past security however) and I expect that the quality will be superior to a galley prepared meal.

    As you have said, business class is about the seat.

  2. I go to Sydney for work quarterly and always fly via Fiji so I can have a break with a shower and a massage in their amazing lounge (and get Alaska miles). Fitting in food also will be tight when the previous flight is delayed (3 hr layover), so I wish they had an option to “opt-in” for an onboard meal, or hope they have breakfast sandwiches to go.

    The food is way better than most lounges in the world, so this isn’t horrible.

  3. Hey Lucky,

    I want to see your analysis on how this is a cost saving measure.

    The way I see it: come fed, or show up twenty minutes earlier, or be happy with the snacks offered, or go hungry.

    The way I see it: a nice meal, fully prepared in an actual kitchen on the ground… with less tendency to run out (arguably). Undisturbed flight, with on demand snacks. No waiting for someone to clear your tray table, if the food is bad you’re not limited to maybe two other alternatives, etc.

  4. This is terrible. They should give people options instead of forcing people to eat in the airport. Some people may not have the option to eat before boarding…. this is clearly a cost saving measure. Luckily this is an obscure airline that most wont be taking them unless going to Fiji. I can’t imagine US 3 doing this without getting the well deserved uproar follow by someone getting fired!

  5. @ Kev — This is a cost saving measure because 38% of food won’t be wasted, and because it saves on catering costs (catering a plane is expensive) and will reduce fuel burn.

    I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying, just saying that not everyone arrives at the airport in time to have a meal.

  6. @lucky: not wasting food doesn’t save money. Not buying it in the first place does- however onboard catering is often less expensive than ground catering. You’re outsourcing the work, you’re already paying flight attendants, you’re limited in what you can and cannot buy for the meal (and you’re often at the mercy of the local caterer at the given station).

    Ground catering, on the other hand- you can offer a full menu. People may ask for seconds, and in theory this will increase their lounge use which will increase labor costs as well as create additional labor costs. It might even warrant an increased investment in real estate, which increases costs exponentially (unless you actually own the part of the airport you’re operating from).

    I’m very, very confident that this, while reducing complexity of things to do with the airside operations, actually increases the overall cost per ticketed passenger, even if only slightly.

  7. @ Kev — Of course not wasting food saves money. On a plane you have to prepare way more food than will actually be eaten, while on the ground you can prepare only as much as is needed, and can reuse what is left over, since you’re cooking based on demand. While there will be increased labor costs in the lounge (maybe they need to hire a chef and a couple of servers), I’m confident that overall this is leading to cost reductions for the airline.

  8. If 31% of customers skipped meals, that means 69% of customers will be negatively affected by this.

    If “preventing waste” is the real issue, then ask people to opt into meals. Do this in a customer friendly way by presenting it as dine on demand (ie, chose one of 5 meal choices before your flight) and provide the option for “no meal, tapas and assorted snacks on demand”

  9. I doubt anyone will end up hungry. Paninis, salads, tapas, and soup sound substantial enough for anyone who isn’t able to make it to eat at the lounge. Also these items are more suitable for reheating in an airplane galley than traditional entrees. If the items are plated and presented well, I don’t think customers will mind.

    I thought United is now serving similar items on late night transatlantic departures from IAD. They don’t even have a Polaris lounge finished to allow for a full meal on the ground.

  10. For me a big part of the Business/First experience is the meal. I’ve only rarely not had the entire meal served in lieu of sleep. I always take advantage of the lounge, but usually only to have a glass of wine or a light snack. This is a downgrade for most.

  11. As there are some meals like steaks or Pizza, that need heat and can‘t be cooked in an aircraft, it‘s an interesting idea to improve premium dining.

  12. It really depends on the time of departure of the flight as to if this makes sense
    And that the passenger has the time to sit down before departure to dine
    Based on what the chef is holding in the PR photos while colorful doesn’t look remotely like anything I would consider eating.
    At this time it’s a move that will likely push me to buying Air New Zealand business class
    over Fiji on my next trip
    For me and my traveling companions it’s likely a no go
    IMO it’s about having options not limiting them
    It’s a fail

  13. I will add to my previous post that (no doubt as part of the cost savings calculus), Fiji will also get to save on the amount of linens and servingware that must be loaded onto planes, saved after use, removed, cleaned and reloaded.

    I do indeed get giddy any time I am about to enjoy a meal in ANA, JAL, CX or LH F, but, seriously, it is an inefficient way to deliver food.

    One thing I do not know is whether this will make it feasible to reduce the number of FA’s on any given flight, but that could be additional savings.

  14. I flew Auckland-Fiji-Auckland in August of 2007 and the flight is about -three- hours each way as I recall. This is really no big deal. No one is going to starve.

  15. @Sam
    I agree – I have long said that airlines should forget trying to provide in the sky a poor imitation of a general restaurant, and instead provide food suitable for the limited facilities (up front think posh picnic food but one also has warming ovens)

    That doesn’t require being not luxurious – for cold options look at the section called Cold Appetisers in any restaurant, and for hot they should think about what is not so ruined by being reheated, so soups, sausages, lasagne, omelettes, risotto, paella etc.

  16. Why is it necessary to have Vegas style buffets in a lounge and then five Star service in the air . No one can be this hungry ! Better give everyone on board a good meal and drinks and use the lounges for relaxation and small offerings ?

  17. While this is a different direction and options would be better, I’d much prefer this approach than the many airlines that don’t offer pre-flight dining in their lounges at all. It is so frustrating getting on a shorter flight where you want to avail of the flat bed, and only having the option of eating a bleak snack on the ground.

  18. Any change will cause resistance.

    As mentioned by someone else, I personally don’t want to come any earlier to the airport though.

    But hopefully, this prevents passengers from missing out on their first meal choice which is usually gone if you aren’t seated in the first couple of rows.

  19. I hope AA brass don’t see this. They would be all over it, and degrade the experience ever more than they already have.

  20. I have personally had poor inflight experiences with FIJI on my last few flights – on my last flight from NAD-SFO, they were short on business class pillows and blankets, so half of the cabin were given the tiny pillows and thin blankets. Things like this are basic, especially when departing the hub city. On my prior NAD-LAX, there was a mis-catering issue, and one of the ovens was empty so they only had half of the entrees. This does sound as much like an attempt to get the operational basics simplified to the bare bones in order to fit abilities. I’ve been flying to/from SYD lately and hopping up to NAD on Virgin, and this makes this decision easier for me.

  21. Fiji Airways needs a serious reality check. The food portions on Fiji – SYD/AKL flights are already pretty small even in Business Class. If they had an amazing hard product, the airline could probably get away with the soft product cuts, but the current J seats are first-generation slanted ones and extremely uncomfortable.

  22. I say it time and time again – let people choose their meals like they do seats (including economy). It will guarantee that passengers will receive the meal they want,and the airline can then stock the number of meals they need, heavily minimising waste.

  23. The principle is wrong ! If you fly F (or even C) you don’t have to check-in 3 hours before the flieght. Hence, if you get to the airport and check-in one hout before the flight departs, what kind of “dinner” (or lunch) will you be alble to get at the lounge ??? It’s absurd : if you are ok with panninis, fly economy !!!

  24. This is completely ridiculous as a business model or as an earlier poster more politely said, the principle is wrong! Might work for 3 hour flights where food is neither here nor there but over and beyond that forget it. If you are a regular flyer, particularly if you are in F or J, you are definitely not getting to the airport any earlier than the minimum time. If you are flying out of anywhere in the South Pacific/Asia you usually have a long flight ahead so regardless of the quality of the food, you have plenty of time ahead that needs to be passed and f&b service helps that. Sure, I often hop on a night flight out of Asian ports to Australia and go straight to sleep without meal service but that’s a choice, I can also choose to have a leisurely drink and meal and watch a movie. And if you fly Syd/DFW its 17 hours & you need all the distraction you can get let me assure you!

    Frankly, many airline lounges are so crowded now you can’t even find a seat let alone be relaxed enough to have a meal – Qantas first/business lounges in Melbourne and Singapore for example and Tokyo first lounge. And if you are transiting and your flight is delayed then you don’t even enter a lounge.

    Plus, as I am paying a fortune, I don’t need to be thinking about all this stuff in advance – I just want to get on the plane, which in reality would never be Fiji Airways if I could avoid it, and make my choices dependent on how I feel at the time. Sometimes its good and sometimes its not, so be it!

  25. They are trying to reduce costs but there will be no fare change! Their baggage fees is just ridiculous. They even weigh carry-on baggage. I travelled southwest where people carry big carry-on bags but not on Fiji Airways. The bags should be tini tiny on Fiji Airways! There is no other airline carrying passengers from USA and Fiji. So Fiji Airways do whatever they want to do!

  26. As noted, it simply doesn’t make sense.

    This isn’t about “going hungry” or “starving”; it’s about paying for J class and not even having the option of a proper meal on board. Don’t forget that Nadi to Melbourne is nearly six hours’ flying time, or that most Fiji flights to/from Australia / NZ are not red-eyes at all.

    Fiji also markets itself as an option to connect to North America and across the South Pacific, which means if your inbound flight is delayed, you may not have time to eat. Even if you’re not connecting, this requires you to arrive early enough to eat a proper meal, which defeats a lot of the time-saving aspects of flying J. The lounge in Nadi also already gets very busy at peak times.

    Luxury problems, indeed, but that’s precisely the point of business class.

  27. What a con job. Any decent J class lounge can provide a meal. They’re just skimping on the on-board meal. I want both!

  28. Well, I am in the lounge in NAN right now, and while the lady at Check-In pointed out after me asking, that this new concept is for the flights to the US (!?), and NOT for my flight to SYD, the big problem here is Australien families: I simply cannot believe that they don’t have their kids a bit better behaved. I noticed this at the Hamilton Resort last week and IC Fiji as well, they scream, they run, they touch all food. So while this is a nice lounge (food is too bland and oily for my personal taste), the problem is more that there is no dining etiquette of those Australien parents with their small children… And yes, I am aware I might be offending people, and they are children, but I do blame their parents, not the kids!

  29. Correction, of course it is NAD instead of NAN. By the way, coming over here, I was in an incredibly old 320 (from Brisbane), with very different seats compared to your picture. However, there were 6 seats less than with the new configuration. Could it be because they grounded their 737 MAX?

  30. Derivative, BA removed full service dining onboard at least 5 years ago, they just didn’t improve what they offered in the lounge…
    and the much trumpeted catering improvements, simply aren’t. When combined with the miserly load results in many customers going hungry and a tiny minority getting what is marketed rather than “this is what’s left, take it or leave it”

  31. Well, I agree with FIJI Airways methods in reducing cost of food waste. You pay for the seat and not the Food because the food is just complimentary and Courtesy to the customer. Many customers on long haul flights don’t want to eat at all at the beginning and prefer to eat at landing or they prefer to eat nothing for the entire flight. Many foods get wasted there because most flights are fully boarded with 100% meals for business or first class passengers. Many crews bring their own meals cause obviously we know it’s packed with preservatives and we get fat from constantly eating those foods and many crews complained of constant bloating from eating high packed preservative foods. SO food goes to waste when it arrives at the destinations and catering has to throw it out. This a great Idea that many other airlines should follow especially US carriers that load meals at 100% all the time and many goes to waste. However, one or two catering stations that I know of as crew like KIX or MUC they board meals only to the exact number of passengers boarded where as if the passenger count decreases the caterers will come back onboard the aircraft and remove whatever meals not needed for the flight. Not only does that eliminate waste issues but also helps with weight and balance of the aircraft to improve flight.

  32. Ben,

    Looking at FJ’s website, this change also affects flights from NAN to both LAX and SFO effective Jan 19, 2020. However, the westbound inflight catering arrangement remains as is. The website also lists scores of affected flight FROM Australia/New Zealand to Nadi, which takes effect immediately (along with flights TO Australia/New Zealand from NAN).

  33. Simple solution the airline removes all food and beverage on board
    Problem solved
    Welcome to business class not!

  34. So if you are not a business class you are left to your own to find food. 10 hours to USA from FIGI is quite long without anything.

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