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.
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