I have read that food waste in airplane is unavoidable because airline companies do not know what passengers will eat and drink. Therefore, they carry more food/drinks than needed (I have found various figures like 110% more, double meals for each passenger, . . . ) and because of strict regulations when arriving, they have to destroy all unconsumed food. It is unfortunately forbidden to donate the food surplus.

What could be the difficulties in asking air travelers to pre-order their meals before their flight?

  • 4
    I am going to meetings a few times a year where you are asked in advance to make your choice. More often than not, there is a big percentage that have forgotten their choice, find on the food arriving that they can not eat it for some reason or have an other reason to mess up the system. I think that the curent system, with 10% extra or so, works well enough. – Willeke Jun 5 '17 at 13:02
  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about aviation and airlines management, has nothing to do with traveling. – motoDrizzt Jun 5 '17 at 13:30
  • 4
    110% they do not carry doubles meals. The airlines have a pretty good idea of how much gets consumed and cater appropriately. They don't want to carry any extra carts which are a bigger deal than the food. Compared to what is consumed, any 'waste' is insignificant. – Johns-305 Jun 5 '17 at 13:57
  • 1
    A guess: it is possible that the menus are not determined until shortly before flight time, based on fluctuating cost of ingredients, supplier inventory, etc. – Nate Eldredge Jun 5 '17 at 14:01
  • 6
    Honestly I doubt some of you statements. I have seen many times where the plane runs of of meals at very last row and the dozen or so last rows do not get any choice any more. – Itai Jun 5 '17 at 14:34

Some airlines do ask travellers what they want to eat in advance. However it typically only occurs in premium cabins.

Singapore airlines has Book the Cook

Reserve your main course up to 24 hours before your flight from a wide selection of meals, including creations inspired by our International Culinary Panel. We offer 'Book the Cook' service in Suites, First Class and Business Class. We also offer 'Premium Economy Book the Cook' service in Premium Economy Class.

BA lets you choose your meal in advance in Premium Economy and above:

Choose your meal in advance

On selected flights you can choose your main meal from the on-board menu between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight, for no extra charge.

Economy passengers on BA can choose (and pay for of course!)

Order your main meal in advance

For more choice and peace of mind, you can choose and purchase your in-flight meal from our exclusive online menu between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight. This meal option is available on many flights departing from London Heathrow and includes drinks at no extra cost.

If you choose not to order a meal online, we will offer you a complimentary standard meal.

American airlines lets you pre-order in First or Business:

Reserve your entrée before you fly

Flying in First or Business Class? We’re the first U.S. airline to offer you the choice to reserve your entrée on American Airlines flights with scheduled meal service. To enjoy this personalized service, simply reserve your meal at least 24 hours before departure.

Similar pre-ordering is available on other airlines for premium classes. For economy passengers I believe the way of avoiding wastage is to just restrict the last few rows to whatever is left over!

As pointed out in comments, you can order a special meal in advance which might help you get a choice that suits you, and if it doesn't at least you'll usually be served first...

  • 1
    +1 For economy passengers I believe the way of avoiding wastage is to just restrict the last few rows to whatever is left over! Couldn't be more true – user 56513 Jun 5 '17 at 13:18
  • Isn't the question why the rest of the airlines don't ask? – Jason C Jun 5 '17 at 13:40
  • @JasonC Is it? It seems to me to be asking why don't any airlines ask. – Berwyn Jun 5 '17 at 13:45
  • 1
    @JasonC I suggest you add an answer to include the subtleties that I missed in my reading of the question – Berwyn Jun 5 '17 at 13:54
  • 3
    If the question was "why don't airlines allow everybody to select their meal in advance?" I'd suggest the answer would be that it's impossible. Many people don't book directly via the airline and manage their booking online. Also many people would change their mind and demand a different meal and say they never ordered their original choice. The FAs would have a nightmare job and it would last one week before being abandoned. – Berwyn Jun 5 '17 at 14:01

Most times I book a flight, I'm asked my meal preference. I always fill this in. Sadly, the airline regularly doesn't honour my request (I typically ask for an Asian Vegetarian Meal, which almost never is available and seldom defaults to a regular vegetarian meal).

If airlines would make meal selection mandatory and would honour the requests, wastage would be significantly less. The technology and systems are in place.

  • 1
    Mandatory selection does assume that passengers end up on the flight they were booked on. My experience of ordering vegetarian meals coinciding with missed connections is that one ends up with whatever happens to be in the galley. Not that I blame the airline of course, holding loading of meals to ensure individual passengers on board would needlessly delay departure. – origimbo Jun 5 '17 at 16:29
  • Well. Force majeure happens, and a situation like that is possible, but not typical. – MastaBaba Jun 5 '17 at 16:32

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.