British Airways is to start rationing food by not loading enough meals for all the passengers on some flights in an attempt to meet waste reduction targets, it has been revealed. Insiders at the Heathrow-based carrier, however, say they fear the new policy will result in some passengers going hungry.
The thinking behind the new policy is that on certain long-haul flights, not all passengers will want to eat because they would prefer to forgo the meal service and instead get as much sleep as possible.
In the coming weeks, British Airways will put that theory to the test by no longer loading enough meals for every passenger on certain late-night and early-morning flights.
An internal memo explained that the project’s ultimate goal was to cut down on mountains of food waste that accumulate at the end of every long-haul flight.
The problem is that fresh food prepared and served on international flights must be destroyed to comply with strict health regulations that are designed to prevent animal disease outbreaks. In practice, the vast majority of unused catering, including packaging and even unopened water bottles have to be incinerated.
With airlines prevented from recycling or reusing unwanted meals, what British Airways is doing is far from unique.
In 2020, both Emirates and Etihad started to use artificial intelligence to monitor uneaten meals taken off flights to then predict consumption patterns and improve meal planning.
Rayner Loi, CEO of food waste AI startup Lumitics says along with being good for the environment, tackling food waste is also “one of the largest cost-saving opportunities for any business producing and serving food”.
British Airways insiders, however, claim that previous experiments to reduce food waste at the airline meant customers had to go hungry because there weren’t enough meals for everyone who wanted to eat.
In response to criticism over the plans, the airline says it will be closely monitoring the trial and can quickly adjust meal loadings if necessary.
A spokesperson for the airline told us that the trial wasn’t a cost-cutting measure and insisted that passengers shouldn’t notice any difference.
In a statement, the airline said: “We’re continuing to invest in our catering experience and are focused on providing great food and drink which our customers love, whilst working hard to reduce our food waste.”
“We’re reviewing meal loading on flights where we are seeing consistent patterns of food waste while ensuring all customers that request a meal receive one,” the statement explained.
Last month, British Airways faced criticism after hundreds of passengers on a flight from Johannesburg to London were forced to skip breakfast so that the cabin crew could get extra rest due to a problem with the special crew rest compartment onboard.
BA’s catering efforts also made headlines in July when cabin crew served passengers a single piece of KFC chicken each on an eight-hour flight from the Bahamas because all the food onboard had been ruined in a refrigeration mishap.
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.