18 May 2011 | With the demise of complimentary in-flight catering on most domestic flights in the U.S., airlines have been facing increased competition from airport restaurants and take-away kiosks, as food and beverages are often cheaper and more varied on the ground.
HMSHost ‘B4 You Board’
To help travellers get from the airport entrance to the gate without having to worry whether or not there is time to grab a bite to eat along the way (as for example security lines may be longer than expected), airport food and beverage provider HMSHost has launched a mobile app that allows passengers at New York JFK Airport to order and pay for a meal using their iPhone. Their order is then either delivered at the departure gate or passengers can pick it up from a dedicated B4 You Board kiosk within 20 minutes.
As HMSHost puts it: “Think about it, you’re standing in line at JFK waiting to go through security and you’re not sure you’ll have time to pick up dinner before boarding your flight. However, if you have the B4 You Board app, you can order your meal and pick it up on the airside, or you can opt to have it delivered directly to your gate. Problem solved.”
The B4 You Board app can be downloaded free of charge from iTunes and an Android version is coming this summer. The pre-order service is currently being piloted at New York JFK’s (Delta) Terminal 3 from 12 noon to 8pm and HMS Host says it plans to expand the concept to Minneapolis-St. Paul and Sacramento airports by the end of 2011.
Icebox On The Fly
Local Miami eatery Icebox Cafe, meanwhile, has offered an airport food pre-ordering service at Miami International Airport since early 2011. Passengers who are about to fly, go to the Icebox website, pick out the food they want to order, enter their flight information and pickup time and pay in advance. After going through security they stop at the Icebox counter and a lunchbox with their order inside is waiting. Icebox says it is planning to add delivery to the gate in the near future.
Delta/OTG iPad ordering
HMSHost’s B4 You Board service also follows the recent introduction of an iPad-based restaurant concept at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports by Delta Air Lines and airport restaureur OTG Management. Rather than make travellers leave their departure gates to go to a restaurant, Delta passengers can order food and drinks via a custom application on one of over 250 Apple iPads affixed to the booths and counters at the gates. The orders are then delivered by OTG servers in less than 10 minutes. Passengers can also use the devices to surf the Internet, check flights, read articles, play games, etcetera. Delta and OTG will expand the iPad restaurant concept to Minneapolis-St Paul Airport in early 2012.
New Delta food areas at JFK let passengers order food at the gate via iPads
Delta to offer local food and rental iPads to take onboard at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport
Virgin America and ANA let passengers order food via IFE touch screen