KLM pilot gives long-haul economy passengers option to order a premium meal

KLM has launched a pilot in which economy class passengers onboard its long-haul flights get the option to purchase a premium ‘a la carte’ meal, instead of the usual free meal service. The paid ‘a la carte’ menu includes a healthy Japanese meal, a tray with Italian delicacies, an Indonesian rice table, and a sustainable menu of organic chicken, vegetables, and cheeses. 

Economy passengers that have pre-ordered a premium meal will also be served first. Dishes cost EUR15 each and can be ordered and paid for when checking in online between 30 and 24 hours prior to departure. KLM says the goal of the paid premium catering option is to provide more choice for its wide range of passengers. The pilot will run until the end of August 2010 on flights from Amsterdam to Dubai, Cape Town, Bangkok/Taipei, and Singapore/Denpasar.

KLM’s trial to see whether passengers may pay extra to upgrade to a better meal on long-haul flights follows recent initiatives by full-service carriers Hawaiian Airlines and ANA. Since April 2009, economy passengers on Hawaiian U.S. mainland and international flights can opt to pay USD10 for an ‘Ono Bistro’ premium meal. The premium meals come with packaging and cutlery that are biodegradable and made of recyclable materials. Hawaiian says its cashless cabin policy ensures effective inventory management. 

According to Louis Saint-Cyr, Hawaiians VP of in-flight services, the airline’s free meals “have a broader appeal, like pasta, whereas premium meals are specialized meals such as sushi or a Greek salad. We clearly have a percentage of passengers who prefer paying for the specialized meals. (…) The reason why it’s working for us is that people want choices.” The Wall Street Journal reports that on average, about 4 percent of Hawaiian passengers buy the premium meal on daylight flights, and 6 to 7 percent on evening flights.

In November 2009, ANA introduced premium snacks, such as a rice ball and miso soup set (JP¥700, USD8, EUR6), for sale in Economy class on long-haul flights, as part of its ‘MyChoice’ program. Wines served in ANA’s business classs are also sold for JP¥1000 (USD11/EUR9) per glass.

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