My friend Ben from One Mile At A Time wrote a story earlier this week entitled, I’d Like Airlines To Offer LESS Service In Business Class. I offer a friendly rebuttal here.
His focus is on shorter overnight flights from the East Coast to Europe, where he rightly notes that an extended dinner service after takeoff plus strong tailwinds plus pre-arrival breakfast service end up leaving very little time for sleeping.
Ben is 100% correct in pointing out a problem. He proposes serving dinner on a single tray, serving breakfast in to-go boxes that can be consumed during descent, or eliminating one meal all together.
While I recognize that these changes would lead to a more quiet and darker cabin, I think he’s tackling the problem in the wrong away. Ben quickly dismisses dine-on-demand service (ostensibly since flight attendants would resist), but that is the only solution as far as I am concerned.
I also do not want the lights turned up after takeoff and an extended meal service performed. Nor do I want to be woken up for breakfast with bright lights if I prefer to sleep. One airline has already shown us the perfect solution: Qatar Airways.
> Read More: Qatar Airways 777 QSuite Business Class Review
> Read More: Qatar Airways A350 Business Class Review
Qatar Airways offers a dine-on-demand service in business class. Lights stay off, there is a never an assembly-line meal service performed, and everyone can eat as much or as little as they want.
This service model solves ambient light issues, since the cabin remains dark throughout the flight (on nighttime flights). If you need light, you can use your individual reading or overhead lights. The result is a more quiet cabin with happier passengers.
But Is Dine-On-Demand A Realistic Solution?
I refuse to throw in the towel and say a dine-on-demand model simply would not work in the USA or Europe. With current FA staffing, it likely would not…that I will stipulate to (United is even removing another FA from its business class cabins next month). But as long we are talking about what I’d like, well, I’d like the chance to customize the menu, ordering food when I want and how I want it.
On shorter flights to Europe, I do believe this could end up being cost neutral to airlines. Say you needed one more flight attendant in the galley to help prepare meals. If most passengers sleep through the flight, food consumption would drop…perhaps even substantially as the pre-flight meal offerings in airline lounges continue to improve.
I don’t think asking for dining-on-demand is like asking for Krug and caviar in business class. Quite the opposite, dine-on-demand simply offers the same food currently available in a different way. Maybe some want breakfast after takeoff or dinner before landing. Offering on-demand service not only solves the light/sound issue, but makes for much more satisfied customers, driving further business.
Absent Dine-On-Demand, Maintain Status Quo
Faced with a choice between the current extended meal service or an express dine with a light breakfast, I’d prefer to stick to the status quo. To explain why, let me give you an example. Earlier this year I was in New York City for meetings and needed to get to Frankfurt. I was in a meeting in New Jersey up until 90 minutes before my flight and by the time I cleared security at Newark, boarding had already begun. Having skipped both lunch and the Polaris Lounge, I was very hungry onboard.
Thanks to strong tailwinds, the flight ended up being under seven hours. But even though it came at the expense of my sleep, I was very thankful to enjoy a multi-course dinner after takeoff. Who can sleep when they are hungry? As far as I am concerned, better is a nap on a full stomach than tossing and turning with a growling stomach.
Airlines should do more to customize the experience for business class passengers. Airlines should also tackle the problem of unnecessarily long meal service on shorter flights. Dine-on-demand presents the only realistic solution to this problem. Before dismissing such service, airlines should give it a try. I would be very surprised if it ends up leading to more onboard consumption rather than less.
What do you think? Is Ben right or am I? Or are we both wrong?