Emirates is rolling out a new electronic Meal Ordering Device for Business Class passengers but teething problems are causing a headache for Cabin Crew.
Dining at 35,000 feet isn’t exactly famed for being an enjoyable experience. Flying down the back in Economy can be a particularly gruelling experience on your taste buds. The option of an unpalatable chicken or beef dish might be as lucky as you get. Unwrapping the silver foil lid turns into a guessing game – What exactly is that strange, grey, oily meat meant to be?
But as a Business Class passenger, your flight could be a totally different experience. This is where with exquisite dishes and service are more akin to dining in a 5-star restaurant. And Emirates has been at the forefront of transforming the Business Class dining experience. Premium passengers rave about the onboard food and beverage options.
The Business Class Dining Experience
After sampling champagnes like Veuve Clicquot or a delicious Stag’s Leap Karia Chardonnay, the main meal service begins. Start your dining experience with mouth-watering King Prawns with lemon and herbs before choosing between Roasted beef tenderloin or Chilean sea bass en papillote. If you still have room, try a rich chocolate mango torte or passion fruit tart.
The options are seemingly endless. Spoilt passengers can enjoy premium liquors, high-end cocktails and a wide choice of award-winning wines from the extensive Emirates in-flight wine collection.
But it doesn’t always go well. There can be up to 76 Business Class passengers on an Emirates A380 jet. Delays in serving passengers, incorrect orders and forgotten requests can quickly diminish the experience. Cabin Crew have to work quickly, relying on memory to note down orders and get meals and beverages to passengers without delay.
Small Mistakes Can Mean Losing Big Money
Small mistakes sometimes happen. But one small mistake can take the shine out of an entire journey, upsetting passengers that are a vital source of revenue for Emirates.
It now looks like it’s a risk that Emirates is unwilling to take any more. And in an attempt to make the Business Class experience perfect, Emirates is taking its food and beverage operation high tech.
Cabin crew, who have recently been spotted wielding smartphones in the cabin, aren’t catching up on their social media but are in fact using a new tool that Emirates hopes is going to enhance the Business Class experience.
Meal Ordering Devices Being Rolled Out
All Business Class cabin crew have been issued a Samsung Galaxy A7 smartphone. The phones have been set up as what the airline calls a ‘Meal Ordering Device’ with a bespoke app designed for the airline. It was originally trialled on flights from Dubai to Paris in November 2016 and has now been rolled out on the following routes:
- Dubai – Paris
- Dubai – Mauritius
- Dubai – Melbourne – Auckland
Here’s how it works. The smartphones don’t have a SIM card and have been blocked from running any applications apart from the Meal Ordering app. Cabin Crew connect their smartphone to a plug-and-play WiFi router which is carried by the purser. The WiFi is separate from the onboard system that passengers use and it doesn’t connect directly to the internet – so even in regions like India and China the meal ordering devices can still be used.
All the phones are synced to communicate with one another for the duration of the flight – which in theory should create a seamless experience. When the passenger sat in 10G requests his G&T, the order gets sent directly to a smartphone in a galley. Within minutes the drink should be made and on the way back to the passenger.
More Information Available to Cabin Crew
Every combination of food and beverage has been accounted for. And there’s plenty of options for customisation. Even the fussiest of passengers will have no problem requesting their beverage just the way they like it.
To take account of passengers individual needs the phones are synced with Passenger Number Records (PNR) before take-off. Along with the name and seat assignments for every passenger, the app can also tell crew about the status of the passenger, whether they were upgraded, their meal preferences and whether there are any ‘special’ notes about them.
Teething Problems Still to be Ironed Out
Cabin Crew have received a one-day training course on the new device and it looks like it’s only being tested on a small number of routes. Emirates have not confirmed the schedule to roll out the device on other routes at this time
The airline has been contacted for comment about the certification process for deploying these devices onboard but have not replied at the time of publication
There are also some teething problems that still need to be ironed out. On some flights, the Meal Ordering Devices have not worked at all. In other cases, orders have been lost in the system or have been delayed getting sent to the galley.
Finally, it looks like this innovation won’t be coming to either the Economy or First Class cabins any time soon.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.