Fiji Airways business class drops inflight dining for preflight dining

Fiji Airways is betting that travellers will prefer to eat a gourmet meal in the lounge rather than late at night in-flight.

By David Flynn, July 23 2019

Airlines with overnight flights – especially relatively short ones – have been steadily steering business class travellers away from a full meal above the clouds.

The go-to has been to improve meals offered at the lounge, with passengers encouraged to take their dinner on the ground so that they can maximise their sleeping time during the flight, although there's usually an inflight supper menu on hand.

From a wellness perspective, enjoying a freshly-prepared meal in the lounge is decidedly better than tucking into a galley-heated three course meal which is going to sit heavily on your stomach for hours.

Fiji Airways is the latest airline to embrace this shift, with what it calls Dine on the Ground:  "a new luxury dining experience offering passengers a pre-flight gourmet meal to maximise rest while traveling."

The eat-now, sleep-later service is being introduced for morning and late evening flights out of Fiji's Nadi International Airport, upgrading the buffet of its flagship Premier Lounge to a more substantial spread.

An upgraded brunch and dinner will now be served at Fiji Airways' Premier Lounge in Nadi

Ahead of Fiji Airways' morning flights to Sydney, Brisbane, Christchurch, Wellington and Hong Kong, the Premier Lounge will serve an à la carte brunch with made-to-order breakfast items, a full bakery selection, fresh fruit juices and barista-pulled coffee.

(Passengers on evening flights to Nadi – which includes Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide – should also aim to have their dinner in the airport lounge, as the inflight dinner menu on those legs is being removed.)

Flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco will see an in-lounge dinner featuring "signature dishes designed by Fiji Airways executive in-house and guest chefs" complemented by signature cocktails, mocktails and a full service bar. A full breakfast will be served before landing.

A full breakfast will continue to be offered on Fiji Airways flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco

Fiji Airways says that these flights will still carry fruit bowls, gourmet panini, fresh salads, international style tapas and soups. "However, by dining pre-flight,  onboard meals better reflect the time of day and allow guests more time for rest and relaxation."

However, the airline cites research which found that 31% of Australian passengers "regularly skip in-flight meals in favour of some extra shut-eye" – which means that 69% of Aussie travellers, or more than two out of every three, will need to re-adjust their schedule and expectations when it comes to enjoying a full inflight meal service.

David
David

David Flynn

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

StuParr

StuParr

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 168

I have been doing that in Houston at the Polaris Lounge and do feel better eating a full meal and hour or so out from departure. I think it is a good idea, plus if they can decrease waste that can't be a bad thing in a lot of ways.

reeves35

reeves35

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 513

It makes sense particularly for flights that depart late at night such as MEL-NAN which takes off at 23:35; no one wants to sit up for an hour waiting for an airline meal if it can be avoided.

On late night flights, I have found it quite common in J that lounge staff will encourage you to eat before you board and will inform the cabin crew to install the seat overlay so you are all set to go to sleep straight after take-off.

Obviously it is much harder in Y particularly as most pax don't have access to lounge meals. It would be good if airlines promptly brought meals on these flights however. I flew Y on EK out of MEL recently with a 2215 departure. It was frustrating sitting for nearly 2 hours before the meal service was processed.

TheFreqFlyer

TheFreqFlyer

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

I've never had anyone encourage me to eat before the flight and skip an on-board meal when flying business, but that could be because all the business class flights I've been on have been on carriers such as THAI and Swiss.

When I fly business - I eat BOTH at the lounge AND on board. I feel I'm entitled to that considering how expensive the ticket is. Unless you have a high level position in a company that pays for your business class ticket, you will want to maximise the experience given how much more expensive a business class ticket is compared to economy (hint: usually 3-4 times more expensive).

I also don't care what time of day it is. Since night time flights are not going to be significantly cheaper than day time ones (and depending on the airline and routing, if there's only one flight a day to the destination you're going to then this is a moot point) it's almost offensive to make assumptions about travelers and assume they don't want to eat while still charging them the same.

Imagine arriving a little late for check-in and then finding you have no time to make it to the lounge and thus denied a chance to eat something on-board.

I agree with you that meals should be served quite soon after the seat belt signed has been switched off after departure. Most airlines I've been on, with overnight flights are like this. All THAI and Singapore airlines flights departing after midnight to destinations in Europe or Australia I've been (and vice versa from Australia to Asia) have served meals within 1 hour of take-off.

Most travelers are mentally and physically prepared to eat something at what may normally considered to be an ungodly hour because no matter how comfortable the seat you are sitting in may be, sleeping on a plane is nowhere near as comfortable as sleeping in your own bed. Also, many people can't sleep at all on planes (or only for a short period of time) so again, this is not a big deal.

Anna80

Anna80

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 19

I definitely eat in the lounge before I fly. Most of my trips these days are to Singapore and Hong Kong, so in Sydney as a Platinum frequent flyer I can visit the Qantas First lounge and skip the main inflight meal. But it's most useful ahead of the overnight flights from Singapore and Hong Kong back to Australia, otherwise you can lose two hours of your potential sleeping time waiting for and then eating the meal. However I still like the option to have something light to eat on the flight if I am running late and my lounge time is reduced due to having a shower.

Flying High

Flying High

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 38

While I totally understand the logic behind this move, will the price of the fares be dropped? Otherwise the cynic in me says this is just an airline cutting costs to the detriment of the passengers' service level experience.

krisdude

krisdude

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 158

Probably not, as the cost of the meal in the fare will be use to pay for the pre-dinner experience in the lounge.

Anna80

Anna80

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 19

Oh I would agree this was driven more by cost-cutting than anything else. Fiji Airways will save a lot of money in not loading a full meal service with all the different choices they need to have. It's just funny that as the article indicates they chose to listen to one-third of their passengers to justify this.

patrickk

patrickk

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 393

And what about those passengers who come to flights quite late to avoid the lounge, that is the two thirds of flyers. The next step will be the American thing of charging an arm and a leg for any food.

Strange

Strange

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 25

Agree. I don't usually have the time to arrive for a full meal in the lounge. Let alone the fact that many lounges are so full these days you can't find space...

TheFreqFlyer

TheFreqFlyer

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

There are many reasons why passengers might arrive relatively late for a flight. If I'm entitled to use the lounge before travel, I do my best to arrive a little early but sometimes it doesn't work out. In which case there is even more reason NOT to drop the inflight meal service, which is just a cost cutting measure anyway. So I definitely agree with you - the next step will be turning business class into cattle class and cattle class into - a flying bus service along the lines of America's greyhound.

GBRGB

GBRGB

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 209

Sounds like a good idea as long as the meal in the lounge is a quality offering. It would have to be more economical for an airline to offer a small quality steak with sides for example in the lounge than an airline meal on a plane, a win win for both pax and airline.

S

S

13 Sep 2013

Total posts 104

Super late dinners on flights is one of my pet hates!
I recently took a CX flight out of HK a few weeks back departing at 2am. Dinner was served around 3am and I was astounded the amount of people that wanted to eat at that time!
Imagine if you were shook awake at home at 3am and someone tried to feed you a full dinner!
I'm a big fan of dinner on the ground well before.

TheFreqFlyer

TheFreqFlyer

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

Well that's just you. What are you astounded by? Flying in the middle of the night forces you to be up in an uncomfortable position in a moving object that is constantly shaking so sleeping comfortably is not the same as at home.

While it might be weird to have a 3am meal at home, it's hardly weird if you're traveling. Have you ever thought of the fact that many travelers might not have time to eat a meal before a flight, and even if they could, why would they when a free meal is offered on board? Not everyone is equally privileged and nobody likes to waste money unnecessarily.

My parents taught me to never waste money unnecessarily and the thought of paying for a meal to avoid eating a free one on-board just because it's "late" is the height of absurdity. Not once have my parents ever done that and neither would I.

Also, you might feel a 3am meal is weird, but Hong Kong is a 24-hour city with many locals eating meals at all hours of the day and night so for them it's nothing unusual. Maybe for Aussies, but not for Hong Kongers.

Toria

Toria

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2018

Total posts 8

I have been eating the lounge more frequently and rarely eat an evening meal onboard.

I will be flying to MEL/SYD/NAN/SYD/MEL soon on Qantas and I am am happy to eat in the FIJI airways lounge before my flight back to SYD as I have a late arrival into Melbourne, so a bit of a nap NAN/SYD would be a better option.

TheBigM

TheBigM

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 32

Cant say I'm impressed by this, especially as the emphasis of discussion has been evening flights (where there can be a case), but morning flights are similarly losing the meal service.


Also, from the picture it doesn't appear like the buffet is going to be that appealing. It just appears to be some fruit, simple lettuce salads, some bread... Part of the enjoyment of business flights is occupying the time during daylight flights with a meal, but now it appears to be a simple breakfast on the ground, and seemingly not much in the air, so chase a late lunch on arrival, impacting your plans afterwards... Doesn't seem a great experience, especially for the cost.

David

David

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2322

The lounge photo is an airline-supplied file image of the Premier Lounge, it doesn’t represent the new in-lounge dining options.

StuParr

StuParr

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

01 Mar 2012

Total posts 168

I don’t think you are losing the service. You can choose to eat prior, unless I’m missing something.

drsimon50

drsimon50

qantas

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 113

id love to be able to eat well in a lounge before flying - so i can sleep on board - but i live in adelaide!

airADL

airADL

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 205

Maybe a toasted sandwich available only in Adl

Austman

Austman

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2013

Total posts 16

I can't see why this is great for early morning departures.

To have time to eat in the lounge without it being a rush means an earlier arrival to the airport. Isn't the idea for the pax to get more sleep, not less? Preferably in their own or their hotel's beds?

Rotate

Rotate

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 23

it’s not great.

it doesn’t meet the criteria as defined by the airline for this ‘improvement’.

my beef isn’t with Fiji Air per se. i’m totally over all this ‘improving’ by airlines. classic salami style slice-by-slice depletion of services and benefits.

TheFreqFlyer

TheFreqFlyer

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

Exactly. In fact, I try to avoid night time flights if at all possible for this reason, and would never consider flying from Australia directly to Europe without making a stopover in Asia for a couple of days first. It's simply too taxing on the body.

Losing sleep because you're in an uncomfortable seat on a plane flying overnight is already bad enough, not having a meal would make it even worse. I can't think of anyone who would rather sleep on a plane compared to their own bed or that of a hotel.

Rotate

Rotate

05 Jan 2018

Total posts 23

the spin on this cost cutting (and cost cutting is all it is) is amazing...doubt the flight will cost less $$s but the food option now is the swill from the typical lounge.

for comparison, imagine dinner being the mass produced take-away quality food in the Qantas business lounge in Sydney. yes. exactly.

Its reheated buffet grade food (so no diff to heating in the galley), no polite personal service ever (yep thats a cost save too) and doubt I have ever seen a nice salmon or steak or lamb being served in the lounge; or a prawn salad as a starter or gravalax or anything nice basically. These are all options on J class menus with most carriers.

Unless this is a copy and paste of the Fiji Air PR release, i feel this level of naivety by AUSBT is unbecoming the level of sophisticated opinion we usually get from here.

Grannular

Grannular

31 Mar 2014

Total posts 287

Couldn't agree more with this statement

Anna80

Anna80

09 Mar 2015

Total posts 19

Rotate, you do realise there is an all new menu at the lounge for these morning and evening flights? Unless you have tasted it then I think it's fair to wait and see how it actually is, I'm sure if AusBT has the chance to sample it they will report back, and going by the recent review of the Philippine Airlines' Manila lounge it will be a very fair-minded report. I also don't see anything 'naive' in this article, it's a report of what Fiji Airways is doing, it doesn't pretend to be anything more.

stoffel

stoffel

27 Jul 2017

Total posts 18

Not sure about early morning flights but I would be a fan of this on late evening departures. I think often people eat food because it's offered to them, not because they're hungry. I recon if airlines stopped serving such meals there would be very few complaints.

Case in point - recently took ANA from Tokyo to Sydney with a departure time of 22:30. Most people ate the substantial dinner offered. Likewise on a Malaysian flight from Perth to KL, departing at 02:30 (!) they offered dinner and most ate. People who just wanted to sleep had to put up with the bright cabin lights and noise of the service.

If they took away the meals on these flights, and instead offered a decent breakfast on arrival, would reasonable people complain?

TheFreqFlyer

TheFreqFlyer

05 Oct 2017

Total posts 35

You're making assumptions about other people's habits. This is never a good thing. Just because you don't want to eat at night doesn't mean other people don't. Ticket prices aren't going to be reduced if the meal service was taken away. If it was, then flying becomes little more than a glorified bus service. Maybe even less appealing, because in some countries, long-distance bus services even offer an on-board snack and a stop for a meal included in the price.

So yes, reasonable people WOULD complain, myself being one of them. I expect a certain level of service on-board, including meals offered dependent on the flying time not on the time of day. This is totally irrelevant.

kimshep

kimshep

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 476

For those who have viewed the Fiji Air promo material, it isn't "all about cost-cutting". The emphasis is on customer convenience, better in-flight service delivery and ecological considerations. Food wastage (non-consumed) - particularly on flights to Australia - is cited as a major concern to FJ, according to their CEO.

TheBigM

TheBigM

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 32

If food wastage is really the primary concern, then the solution would surely be to allow specific ordering in advance to be done as other carriers do. That way you would know what most people want and just have a small amount of base orders for late/non-bookers, change of mind. There will always still be some wastage - including at the buffet.

OTOH, cutting back the onboard service much more is something you do when you're try to achieve other goals.

Agfox

Agfox

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Apr 2011

Total posts 99

No wastage in the Lounges, then?

AT

AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 245

Seriously??? For those that choose it, and MANY do, inflight dining is a key component to any reputable business class service offering. The assumption that FJ is somehow improving the customer experience by removing key meals is astounding! Surely the paying business class customer can decide how and when and where they want to dine, and how they choose to maximise their rest or not.

digitalane

digitalane

28 Aug 2018

Total posts 10

The principle is great - however I want to reduce time spent waiting around and would rather eat on a plane (when I can't do much else) than spend an hour of my non travel time getting to the airport earlier

Booster

Booster

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

17 Feb 2016

Total posts 47

I recall FinAir used to do this on their late night long haul flights out of Helsinki . There was a really nice restaurant you went to and had what you wanted then jumped on an MD 11 and straight to sleep. Even QF's Sleeper Service just isn't quick enough and it really kills sleep time on the shorter long haul e.g. Sin to Syd or HKg to Syd. I suppose the better lounges have really replaced the need to keep the lights on during the late night flights. Wonder if they might mandate it one day..

docletran

docletran

28 Jan 2019

Total posts 5

would not fly Fiji Airways anyway meal or no meal . They cancelled my flight SYD to LAX in business class due to pilot shortage at last minute and replace with premium economy with Qantas and compensated only $300 per ticket ( original ticket costed $2500 one way) Shame Fiji Airways

MattJelonek

MattJelonek

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 222

Will it decrease the price in the airfare? One would hope so, for example an airline taking out the Chauffeur service, nice amenities in the lounge and in the air (in your set) to save costs yet still charging the full (normal) fare....

Flying mermaid

Flying mermaid

Qf

26 Apr 2015

Total posts 14

The late night one makes sense, not sure about breakfast. We will be on the flight to Sydney in late August, so can experience first hand. It’s not a very long flight, so I don’t see how too many people would be sleeping. I don’t like early mornings, but even so don’t anticipate sleeping on that flight. The whole thing sounds a bit like Qantas’ cafe breakfast debacle. I feel if you are paying for business class then you should have the choice of a decent meal on board and not have some executive making that decision for you.

cloud-9

cloud-9

British Airways - Executive Club

28 Mar 2014

Total posts 54

Are FJ hoping that no onboard meals will also lead to less alcohol being consumed? I am sure many passengers enjoy a few glasses of wine when dining. Maybe not so much would be consumed if no food is served...

John C

John C

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 39

Ain't that the truth, as AT observes above, of having to adjust? This is a cynical cost-cutting move that doesn't fool anyone. Mind you, the culinary offerings on Fiji Airways are decidedly below par anyway. On AKL-NAN-AKL Economy flights not so long ago I was offered a barely edible pasta and frugal-looking other things on the tray, and the service was also skimped to the point of non-existent. You were lucky to get more than one drink without summoning a crew member and even then you got the third-degree about wanting a drink. A lot of the cabin staff congregated down the back of the aircraft giggling amongst themselves for a good part of the flight. Never again. It's Air NZ for me, and even they are a bit Nannyish as well. .

Felipe

Felipe

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2017

Total posts 15

I think this move to "pre-flight" dining is a cop out for the airlines who have chosen this. They are cheap skates, and offering poor service. A reasonable meal at a good airport eatery would cost anything from $80 to $150... On the other hand, the business class ticket is often double or even triple the cost of a standard economy ticket, so it is clear the airline is doing this for cost-cutting reasons. If they are not prepared to cater to passengers, are passengers then entitled to bring their own hot food packs onto the plane.... or would they be confiscated at the gate? I bet that the airlines do not discount the cost of their tickets to reflect this removal of proper and appropriate catering on their flights.

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