Why Cathay Pacific doesn’t want passengers ordering meals on a screen

At least one airline believes there’s still much to be said for that personal touch…

By David Flynn, June 16 2022
Why Cathay Pacific doesn’t want passengers ordering meals on a screen

Touchscreens and technology are wonderful, powerful things, says Vivian Lo, Cathay Pacific’s General Manager of Customer Experience & Design – but she’s not in favour of making passengers use them to order their meal.

“I think digital should be used at the exact point where it really enriches the experience,” Lo told  Executive Traveller on the sidelines of this year’s Passenger Experience Conference at Hamburg, Germany, in relation to a ‘digital deep dive’ project she is leading across the airline’s passenger touchpoints.

“We are a ‘premium service’ brand where a lot of our differentiation comes from the hospitality framework, the conversation between the crew and the customers.”

“So for the main meal, we want to allow you to have a restaurant-type of ordering where we can make suggestions, discuss the dishes and explain what they are.”

The alternative, Lo says, risks “commoditising” the airline’s service and “removing the joy of the experience, because it becomes just pressing buttons and the meal appears… it's a bit robotic.”

However, Lo expects that outside the main meal, passengers will in future be able to select drinks and snacks from their video screens.

“In mid-flight times or during an overnight flight, it could be a good kind of enrichment to allow customers to order through the screen.”

“A lot of time customers want to order that bowl of noodles or the burger, and drinks, but we feel sometimes our customers are shy to press the buzzer” which summons a crew member to their seat, “so they might wait for the crew to come by, and in an era where business class would have a door, it doesn't work because you have to open the door in order to see the crew passing by.”

Is this a clue that Cathay’s next-generation Boeing 777-9 business class seats could in fact be suites with sliding doors? Lo doesn’t bat an eye or take the bait, as the airline “remains in discussion” with Boeing over the much-delated jetliner, although this project will no doubt feed into it.

“This will be one of the elements among many things, it’s an example of how we use customer insights as well as brand values in terms of driving decisions we make when we introduce a digital initiative. There’s lots of exciting things coming.”


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.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2018

Total posts 105

Couldn’t agree more, personalised service for the main and an option to order drinks & snacks from the screen, especially on long flights where some crew (not just CX) go missing. 

Now just need Cathay to start flying again like pre covid!    

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Feb 2021

Total posts 22

Yes that is great except when  ordering meals and there are no choices left in business class (Marco Polos get first choice over OW Emeralds) and you are served a premium Y meal and that is happened to em several times going to CTS and SYD. Their reply was that they always listen to their customers.


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

Cathay needs to start flying first I'd say...before any wish lists are even contemplated.

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 20

I hate online menus in business class. Singapore air has gone digital and it isn’t easy to access and hard to read on an iphone. Qatar has retained beautiful printed menus which only enriches the experience. With all that time it’s nice to browse the menu .. 

21 Apr 2017

Total posts 42

Great move CX. The last thing customers want is another screen interaction to select menu options. Loved the white menus and hope to see them again in the not too distant future…

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