Should the “starving children in Africa” be considered when flying first class?

I’m not meaning to make light of world hunger, because it’s no doubt a serious problem, hence my dilemma here.

Just about every time I post pictures of my travels in international first and business class, someone comes along and asks “how do you not gain weight when traveling?” Well, the simple answer is that I do gain weight when I travel.

In a way, travel is a small part of my “job.” In a twisted, joking, tongue-in-cheek manner I think of myself as going to work when I go to the airport. And I’m writing this on my way to Melbourne Airport, where I have to work a grueling 24 hour shift all the way to London on an Airbus 380 in first class, but only after getting a massage in the Qantas first class lounge. 😉

Part of that “job,” as I see it, is sampling as much of the menu as possible. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think my trip reports would be very interesting if I slept the whole way, didn’t eat anything, and didn’t interact with the flight attendants. My trip reports would probably be around two sentences long if I did, which I realize probably sounds like a dream come true to some of you.

As a matter of fact, I would argue that the meal “experience” is what differentiates first class from business class, given that most business class seats nowadays are perfectly comfortable for sleeping. I say meal “experience” as opposed to meal service because it’s not just the food that differentiates first class from business class, but also the small touches and service, which can be experienced during the meal service. That would be things along the lines of the precision with which the flight attendants set your table, to how they address you, to the use of “you’re welcome” vs. “my pleasure.”

Anyway, back to the main topic. There’s no way to fully partake in an international first class meal experience (let alone four in a row) and not a) gain weight and b) feel sick to your stomach.

So that raises the question, is it okay to “waste” food in international first class? I’ve always been a huge proponent of not wasting food. My mom always told me about the “starving children in Africa” (though in retrospect she referred to them a lot more when trying to convince me to eat vegetables as opposed to dessert), so if I order something, I always eat it.

At the same time, on an airplane, the food is already loaded, so if I don’t eat it, it ends up in the trash, or I suppose the crew might end up eating it. On the ground, on the other hand, if I don’t eat something, another customer will, be it a minute later or a day later. In other words, is it okay to order the full menu in first class, have a few bites of everything, and then call it quits?

If the answer is “yes,” then great, I have my new strategy. If the answer is “no,” then I’m not sure whether I’m better off stuffing myself like a bear acting as a decorative piece in Sarah Palin’s living room or just not eating a whole lot.

I’m actually excited to get back home, go the gym every day, and eat healthy (given that the culinary delights within a five-mile radius of my house are limited to Chilis, Macaroni Grill, TGI Fridays, and Olive Garden (I’m mentally blocking out Red Lobster, since cheddar bay biscuits are my vice… mmm).

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Finishing your meal on a first class flight because you care about starving children in Africa makes absolutely no sense.

    This is not about worldhunger, it’s 100% about you and your feelings.

  2. @ Wouter — I’m not directly equating it to world hunger. My point is simply that I don’t like to waste food. I feel bad wasting food. At the same time, I feel a little bit less bad wasting food on an airplane, and I’m wondering if anyone else feels the same.

  3. Please don’t give us that pseudo-ethic discussion…

    You worry about starving kids in Africa and wanna do something good to the third wolrd? How about booking economy and giving your excess miles to charity like “Doctors without borders”?

    I don’t think a single kid in rural Africa has even heard of the service in a first class cabin, yet.

    Enjoy it, or don’t, but please don’t ask your reader’s absolution.

  4. Are you on an award ticket…or is this paid travel or some other arrangements? If the earlier, how far in advance did you book?

  5. First class is hedonistic…you don’t think about the poor when you do that.

    We ALL do this lots of times during the day–block out thinking about the less fortunate or just plain not even caring about them.

    Hopefully, we do something *else* to “make up” for these little excesses here and there.

    I say for you to enjoy your meal–whether it is one bite or all–and think about the waste in some other context where you have greater control. (You probably know that they will just throw out whatever food is left over after a flight.)

  6. I’ve seen the poor in Africa turn down food when they’ve had too much millet or rice (though not often). But I agree with Lucky, tasting everything and reporting on it does make the blog more interesting. @Mike great idea on Doctors Without Borders. Also Kiva (considering the Milepoint challenge this month).

  7. Of course it is ok not to eat all of the food. I usually lose weight when I travel even though I eat a bunch of pastries and other “bad” food because I walk for hours sightseeing.

    In your case you are just sitting or sleeping. In my case the food is the least important thing to me while flying, regardless of the class I’m flying.

    30 hrs? I can’t imagine. One reason why I haven’t made it to Australia. It took me a good week to recover from my last trip with the 22 hour travel day (door to door) lgw-clt-phx and 8 hr time difference.

  8. As you may know, the developing world’s food problems are much more about distribution and crop balance than lack of it. So, it’s not that you’re wasting food in first class by not finishing your plate; it’s that there are farmers growing cash crops to satisfy F class/first world demands, rather than grow what is best for their own country. Also, the global warming that your flying metal is contributing to likely makes a much greater impact on our world’s food insecurity than any other action you can ever make (or not make) in F. Sorry, not even close to being a food expert, but a quick point of view from Bangladesh.

  9. Thanks for the provactive post Ben. Enjoy the FC experience completely–we pine to hear/read about it. On return consider donating to your fav charity.

  10. Brian (aka Lucky): it’s all relative. There are always people who have more – or less – compared to someone else.

    Your job is to report on luxury travel, and on how to obtain luxury travel at affordable prices. There is a need for those services (I know I need them!), and you are very, very good at it. The bottom line is this: do what you are best at professionally, do your best personally to help out when you can, and in the end the world will be a little bit better place for your efforts.

  11. I hear Alitalia F now features a Vomitorium … just enjoy yourself and post pictures for us miles-starved folks, Lucky.

  12. You definitely shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s not like the starving kids in Africa would actually get that food if you didn’t eat it. Besides, global hunger is a function of distribution (or lack thereof), not availability of food.

    I totally get the well-off guilt you’ve got going on (I still feel weird not finishing food in restaurants too), but you’ve got to be calculating about it. The airlines assume you will be consuming that food/drink and that is calculated into the price of a first class ticket. Whether that ends up in your stomach or the trash doesn’t matter – it’s already paid for, and nobody else would benefit from you eating the entire thing.

  13. You answered your own question: this is now your job. If you flew economy, described an economy meal and slept through most of the flight you would have nothing to write about, no readers and no job. Many of your readers live vicariously through your reports of luxe travel. If you feel you must do something “good” do it in your off time or occasionally mention some worthy project that your readers can participate in.

  14. Coins, if you really want to do something useful, start a campaign with the airlines to sort out leftover food, and donate to local food shelters at the destination airport.

  15. @dan came up with a brilliant suggestion.

    As for me, I love your trip reports and want to emulate your travel, so keep up the good work

  16. I’m not a religious person, but I heard someone once put overeating or even eating when not hungry in a good moral light:

    Throwing away food is one sin: waste.
    Overeating is two sins: waste and gluttony.

  17. SLOW NEWS DAY!!! boy get some ideas please and stop trying to feel righteous…..

    if you cared soo much then start flying coach on LCCs…..hisss

  18. Dultah SkyPesos – uhmm thanks for correction….from one Troll to another…

  19. @Mike: Donate your money, not your miles, to worthy causes. The CPM on the conversion is horrible and the charity will get stiffed by the middlemen. It’s much more effective to use your miles for your own travels and donate any money you saved from your travel budget by getting a great redemption.

  20. I don’t think it ever makes a difference if one finishes a plate of food or not, whether at home or on a plane. That argument only works if somehow the arrival of the food on your plate is depriving someone else, who otherwise would’ve eaten it but now cannot. How often is that ever the case?

    Is anyone else even conceivably able to get the leftovers while they are still safe and edible? Probably not even someone in your own town and certainly not anyone in Africa, India, etc.

    If I buy a can of corn, and only eat 3/4 of it, how am I depriving anyone else? The can is the smallest unit I can buy – its purchase takes it out of the marketplace regardless of what happens to it once I take it home.

    Now perhaps if I am visiting an impoverished nation, and overeat or throw out food such that it DOES deprive the marketplace of needed supplies…that’s another story.

  21. I also don’t like wasting food. It’s not necessarily a guilt thing about ‘starving children’ but just something I grew up with. Like you, Lucky, I am German-American, so it might have something to do with a German attitude to just not waste – and that applies to anything, not just food.

  22. @Dultah Skypesos – dam sure I wont be a drag queen like you…hahaha…how did you know i was a queen???….i guess Lady Gaga told you… still waiting

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