Bringing choice and quality to airline food -- you can now order meals from your home or office and have them delivered to you ON the plane.
Bringing choice and quality to airline food — you can now order meals from your home or office and have them delivered to you ON the plane. The well of new business ideas will never run dry, now that Schumpeter’s creative destruction has become the norm in virtually every B2C segment. Proof? Just look at the turbulent airline industry and in particular, the battle between low cost and full fare airlines. While consolidation amongst established carriers in the industry is still in full swing, entire new side-businesses are emerging to cater to a drastically altered set of passenger expectations. To name just one: airline meals. Or, these days, the absence thereof! The story goes something like this: low fare airlines cut costs by eliminating meals, restricting epicurian delights to a soda and a handful of peanuts, even on longer flights. Full fare airlines followed suit, turning meals into (free) snacks on short flights, after which the ‘old school’ low fare airlines like easyJet quickly introduced a larger variety of snacks that passengers actually had to pay for. Which is subsequently being copied by some of the incumbent airlines. Now get ready for the next phase in this saga: high quality meals that you can order from your home or office and that are delivered to you ON the plane. One of the most interesting first movers in this space is Alpha D’lish. Passengers flying on a number of Virgin Express flights from London, Brussels or Amsterdam can now choose and order from a menu on the Alpha D’lish website (up to 48 hours before their flight), which includes delectables like the ‘Fresh Start Breakfast’ (Bircher muesli with fresh berries, a Waldcorn roll with smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives, followed by a salad of exotic fruits, a Danish pastry and fresh orange juice) and the ‘Oriental Feast’ (handmade smoked salmon and tiger prawn nigiri sushi, a fillet of char-grilled salmon with cucumber, caperberry and wasabi. On the side a sesame noodle salad topped with lemongrass-skewered tiger prawns marinated in Thai herbs and mixed peppers). Pre-ordered meals are then served on board by the crew during the normal meal service, and come in an environmentally-friendly box that doubles as a tray. UK-based Alpha D’lish is actually a division of Alpha Catering Services Limited, a company that currently provides tens of millions meals a year to around 100 airlines, which means that more travelers may soon be able to try out the Alpha D’lish service. Not to be outdone, stylish US no-frills carrier Song recently started offering meal pre-ordering up to 12 hours before departure.Airport-based competition is starting to emerge as well (literally at the gates!): HMS Host offers ready-to-go meal packages at Schiphol Airport (at the cross section of Pier B and C), while American Airlines started a pilot program selling meals gate-side at New York, San Juan and Dallas/Forth Worth airports. Delta (who actually own ‘Song’), is experimenting with gate sales in Cincinnati, Ohio.And what about other hospitality entities? Well, even Ritz-Carlton hotels are getting in on the action: last year they reintroduced their Flight Bites program. Flight Bites can be ordered through the Ritz room service menu and are packaged to go. Selections vary from a croissant, piece of fruit, and bottled water to ‘upgraded’ choices of sandwiches, cookies/brownies, and a small bottle of wine. Prices range from USD 12 for a basic snack to USD 25, or more, for gourmet fare.