Review: Qantas 'Select on Q Eat' economy pre-flight meal ordering

By Chris Chamberlin, February 11 2015

Qantas' online meal ordering service, dubbed 'Select on Q Eat', lets international business class, premium economy and now even economy passengers choose their inflight meals online before packing their bag and heading to the airport.

At first glance, it's a win-win for both travellers and the Red Roo.

Passengers can lock-in their preferred meal choice in advance, rather than take a chance on missing out on their first choice.

On the other side of the coin, Qantas can reduce wastage and ultimately its costs by serving every passenger the meal they'd prefer to eat, and by limiting the number of extra servings carried on board to provide a choice at chow time.

Having already used Select on Q Eat with success in business class, we put the online ordering service to the test on a recent economy flight from Brisbane to Los Angeles.

Qantas Select on Q Eat: placing your order

Choosing your inflight meal couldn't be simpler – from seven days until 12 hours before departure time, just call up your reservation on the Qantas website and click the 'select your inflight meal' button:

We had trouble finding the option at first, but discovered that it appears at quite precisely 168 hours prior to wheels-up. In other words, for this flight at 11:30am on January 28, you'd see the option appear from 11:30am on January 21.

You then highlight your flight and can then can choose your first dish or opt to skip the first meal service to maximise your rest.

Not only can you see the full list of ingredients in every meal – useful for allergy sufferers – there's often an extra dish available exclusively via Select on Q Eat.

On this flight it was the braised Blackmore's Wagyu beef with mushroom sauce, polenta and green beans, which looked particularly good for economy fare in the PR shot:

Once you've made up your mind, confirm your selection...

... which will then appear on the main Select on Q page.

There's also the option on the main 'manage my bookings' page to cancel or amend your order, or to swap from having a meal to going straight to sleep:

All in all, ordering is simple, quick and easy – top marks for Qantas IT.

Qantas Select on Q Eat: enjoy your meal

My previous experience with Select on Q Eat in business class had always seen the crew stopping by after take-off to confirm my order and to check that my preference hadn't changed.

What happened on this trip in economy, however, was a different story.

There was no awareness or acknowledgement that I'd chosen my meal in advance through Select on Q Eat – the crew simply offered me the same "beef, fish or chicken?" prompt as they did to every other passenger within earshot.

I mentioned that I'd pre-ordered the "special Wagyu dish", but was handed the smoky barbeque beef from the standard economy menu.

Another crew member then emerged from the galley, informing the meal-serving crew that three of the five passengers in our area had actually pre-ordered the Wagyu: something that realistically should have been done before the meals were served, but better late than never.

The untouched barbeque beef was quickly replaced with the correct dish...

... which bore little resemblance to the original promo shot, but was reasonably tender and tasty nonetheless.

On QF15 there was no option to pre-order the second meal as there sometimes is in business class, so breakfast before the morning arrival is handled in the more traditional way.

Qantas Select on Q Eat: the verdict

Being able to choose your meal before you fly is a fantastic concept, but only if the on-board delivery matches the ingenuity behind the idea.

While the online ordering process was flawless and was easy to follow, I didn't expect the crew would not only have no idea that I'd ordered that meal but would palm me off with something from the main meal selection.

If the crew member working the aisle isn't made aware of any pre-orders, an idea that could greatly improve the economy experience ultimately goes to waste.

Also read: Qantas revamps international economy inflight dining

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

I don't like this trend.

It shifts a task which I usually do in the air (where I have far more time than things to do) to the ground (where I have far more things to do than I have time). 

Surely I can't be alone in thinking that sitting down, reading the menu, and deciding what to eat is one of the pleasures of air travel? It's up there with showing up at the car rental desk and wondering what kind of car I'm going to get (or at least what colour of Corolla I'm going to wind up with). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 335

You don't HAVE to do it. It's not a requirement. You still can choose when you're in the air

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Me too I feel the same but some people might have religious reasons or something else for this sort of thing. And it really depends on the passenger.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 744

Anyone who changes what they eat because they think they know what an invisible sky fairy wants deserves to starve.

13 Feb 2015

Total posts 38

You know you don't actually HAVE to make insulting comments like this, don't you?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 405

I like to use pre ordering, but you have highlighted 2 issues for QF :  the food as delivered doesn't match the online offer (even in J) and the staff tend to view it as making their work more difficult.   On a recent flight 3 members of my family ordered the same dish in J.  During the meal service other Pax were told they could not have that selection because all the available servings were reserved for pre-orders.  I asked later and was told that the ground staff had not adjusted the catering qantities to take into account the pre-orders.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 305

Reading through the menu on a 14 hour flight is one of the simple joys of air travel. I don't think I'll be using the pre-ordering system for this reason. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Except being told the choice of your reflective browsing has run out, ditto your second, then third choice - and you now have a choice of one - tends to kill those simple joys. A few airlines just provide just enough meals to cover the number of pax, with no surplus to provide any meanful choice for preference (occasionally even less). Even premium cabins can quickly run out of options these days. At least with pre-ordering, you have some certainty you'll get what you ask for.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Pre-ordering is a godsend; you can actually get what you want. But because the pre-ordering allows everyone to choose their favourite dish, I recently witnessed an entire bloc of J passengers pre-order the schnitzel, cheese and coleslaw sandwich.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

That would have included me :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

I was the only person who had the beef, which was amazing when I had it mid-flight; I asked for it to be delayed as I was quite full from the lounge.

Chris,

The exact same thing happened to me on a recent QF flight, where the crew were unaware of the pre-oders.

I don't blame the crew. I'd say the design of this new service is half-hearted and not really aimed at customer satisfaction. This tells me that this "innovation" is not so much about customer satisfaction as it is about ensuring just-enough stock on board i.e. reduce wastage to lower cost. 

If this was truly about customer satisfaction, a cabin crew would confirm the passenger's special order with reference to a printed manifesto, the way they do on Singapore Airlines for passengers who book special dietry meal. Then having confirmed the passenger's special order, the meal service would commence with these passengers being served separately.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Oct 2014

Total posts 7

I second that, I had the same thing happen recently on QF9 on the way to Dubai (in economy). The crew was completely unaware and in the midst of the confusion I ended up settling with one of the standard dishes just so I could eat!

Fingers crossed Qantas, if they want this system to take off, provide their staff with better training to make it less of a hassle. 

23 Sep 2013

Total posts 1

Same thing happened to me on QF9 - although the meal I chose was tasty. Also, when I got on board i was given noise cancelling headphones (the ones you normally get in business) and a glass of champagne, I'm guessing because I am Gold? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Quite the difference in presentation, but it's good to hear Chris that it was tasty and reasonably tender none the less. Economy appears to get an Exclusive Pre-Order dish far better than the Exclusive Dish for Business Pre-Orders, which almost always turns out to be a cheese platter when I use pre-order (I get enough cheese boxes as a meal flying domestically in Qantas J, so it's the last thing I want to pick on an International flight).

I wouldn't put too much stress on the launch issues, in Y cabin crew working it out. This is something completely alien to them right now, so it's going to take a settling in period. Y crew tend to have an ingrained script, so change takes adjustment. They'll get there.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

so true...the airline industry..airline products/service/safety standards/plane configs is constantly changing....i wonder how many out there would cope with their 'work environment' changing so often

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Give it some time to take on. I think it's a great idea when you think of next steps beyond introduction. Can hardly blame the trolley pushers who have been charging the aisles for 20 years with the same menu, old habits die hard.

It has the potential to increase the breadth of menu as carrying 30 options isn't viable if they're all going on the plane. It reduces waste as stated in the article and it reduces fuel burn which is a genuine consideration. All these things make for a more efficient airline and a better service....

And of course, you can just hop on and roll the dice with what's available. I think this is indicative of the Qantas transformation - way moreso than those darth vader goggles!

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 420

It worked well for me on a flight to Singapore in Ecnomy, but I do note it is not available if an upgrade is requested, which is what happend on my return no upgrade and no Q-Eat, but the pork fillet from the trolley though was very good indeed.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

it's also indicative of a society that has become so 'precious'....that some cant 'survive' choosing from a menu on a plane...because they don't 'like' certain foods...for 99.999999% of people....you are not going to DIE if you eat the food available to you on an a/c... i only empathyze with those who actually have a genuine MEDICAL/LIFE/DEATH reason why they can't eat certain foods...people CHOOSE to follow food restrictions by religion/lifestyle/'like'...that's YOUR CHOICE...the 'gluten free' bandwagoners really p**s me off ...genuine celiacs hate you!!..a vegetarian won't DIE if they eat meat!!! certain people wont DIE if they eat pork.... ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO STARVE TO DEATH IF YOU APPARENTLY CAN'T EAT ANY FOOD ON A 1-14HR FLIGHT?? if YOU have such an aversion to the food offered...THEN BYO...i'm sorry..but that's my view

19 Jun 2014

Total posts 32

Oh I know one person is allegic to poultry. It would be nice to preview what's on the menu. So he can secure a dish that he likes to eat.

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 228

That presentation is inexcusable. I hope Mr Perry sees this review and has a talk with the catering kitchens. Even if it is tasty and comes with a foil lid, it should at least look somewhat similar to the picture on their website. You look like you missed out on the carrots too.

What did you think of the serving size Chris? Haven't they increased them substantially with the new containers? How does that work? I always get super frustrated with all the bits and pieces on the old trays. Not enough space for everything and constant danger of knocking my glass of red opening the cheese!

Fonga,

Just to note, Neil Perry has nothing to do with the catering in economy – he only does the premium cabins and some of the food in the lounges.

The serving size of the main was indeed quite decent, but as a trade-off, you don't get the traditional side salad: it's just the meal, the bread roll (which is actually the 'garlic bread' on the menu) and the dessert.

The meal service also skips the usual cheese and crackers, although these remain available on request throughout the flight.

But put it this way – I flew Melbourne-Los Angeles with Qantas several years ago in economy and found myself really quite hungry in the middle of the flight when you'd otherwise be eating dinner on the ground.

Fast forward today and with the larger main, the little mid-flight snacks such as the beef sliders and cheese and crackers, I only felt the need for a very small bite at LAX before continuing onwards to my next flight – so as long as Qantas makes the on-board delivery a little smoother, the new menus are one of the better 'enhancements'!

12 Feb 2014

Total posts 228

Ahh I never knew that. I thought he had a sort of supervisory role over all classes of catering. Well someone should life their game, that's for sure.

Overall though, the new system definitely sounds much more sensible and satisfying. I flew to/from Santiago recently and loved sneeking to the back of the plane for a Weis bar. But I just missed the intro of the new economy meal service and was keen to hear what you thought of it.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 574

Furthermore, his company is a consultancy that help design menues and dishes. Although his face is used heavily in marketing for the Qantas premium food offering, the responsibility of presentation is by no means Neil Perry's.

It's not even his company preparing the food.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

That's why they're called Neil Perry-inspired dishes.

19 Jun 2014

Total posts 32

I would like to see how other airlines are done with pre-ordered meals. Do they come out similar to Qantas? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Aug 2014

Total posts 513

Maybe Qantas should handle Special Meals like how Emirates and Singapore do just to name a few. Both Emirates and Singapore serve the special meals before the main catering begins for everyone. It's very simple and it will make a big difference if they could just add that.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jul 2014

Total posts 137

I always order the fruit platter when flying domestically. It's great because it's delivered before all the other meals and I normally just have to wait for a drink.

I am looking forward to selecting my pre-ordered meal on my upcoming flight to London next month.

28 Nov 2012

Total posts 91

From a customer point of view I think it is awesome if you have a say in your onboard experience it will improve the net promoter score. From a business point of view this can only reduce costs. From an enviromental point of view they only need to carry what they need, reducing fuel burn (ever so slightly), & reducing waste. The amount of food thrown out after each flight must be huge. As an affluent society that can afford to fly, we must think about those that can't but those that don't have enough or any food to eat. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

I am assuming it is on all Long Haul Qantas International flights?

and also online does it say what the special meal is that you can't get onboard (unless you preorder)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

I suspect it's exactly the same as it is for the Business Pre-Order, where the Exclusive Pre-Order meal choice will have a little banner over the picture and in it's text highlighting it's the "Exclusive" dish.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Here's a picture of an "Online Exclusive" from an upcoming flight:

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 15

The delivery issue is quite bizare. Surely they serve other special meals first like vegetarian, vegan etc, so why not serve the pre-orders first too?

Or are there too many of the pre-orders? In which case it becomes a very scattered service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2014

Total posts 52

I've pre-ordered a meal a few times in QF PE and  the FA's had no idea. I managed to get what I wanted anyway but there was no mention that I'd pre-ordered anything.

19 Jun 2014

Total posts 32

I know this answer has been mentioned a couple of times.. But, this confirms that they should manage the pre-order meal like the business process of ordering special meals. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Oct 2014

Total posts 11

Pre-ordered the same meal on QF15 a few weeks ago and had no issues at all. A crew member brought our meals out just before the meal service began. Don't think the meal looked this ordinary either.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

There are 2 benefits as I see it.

1. You are able to pre-order one main dish which is only available on-line.

2. If you select one of the meals available to everyone, you are far more likely to get the one you have ordered before it runs out for those who didn't order on-line.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

Further to my earlier comment, the realiity in PE at least, is that the 'special' dish you order on-line is also available on the printed menu you get handed!  Nothing very special about that!

09 Apr 2015

Total posts 5

Qantas' new food?  The first thing to say is that they made the plate bigger but the meal is more or less the only thing you get now. Back in he day of the tray, if you didn't like the main meal there were biscuits and cheese or chocloate or something so there was a few options. Now you just get one plate. take it or leave it. 

The second thing; i tried the order-on-line option. FA had no idea. She went off to find it. Eventually comes back with a smashed up plastic dish that had some inedible chicken in it. Hard to say for sure but I don't think it was the tarragon chicken that I'd ordered. 

Sorry Qantas - yet another fail. I will do my best not to fly you any more. I give up.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 194

Travelling PE you are able to pre-order, but the 'on-line special' is a freely available menu item on the printed menu, not special in any way! You look a goose should you remind the serving FA you did pre-order.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Oct 2012

Total posts 9

Are you guys noticing that you can only choose Q Eat meal on the first leg of a return journey?

I was successful in selecting my meal for SYD-SIN, but the Q Eat option disappeared when it was time for me to fly SIN-SYD.

Same thing when I  SYD-LAX. I cannot choose my Q Eat meal for the last leg LAX-SYD

10 Mar 2015

Total posts 7

Select on Q-Eat won't be available for Economy on return legs apparently. Only Business and Premium Economy on selected flights.


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