Here’s Why You Should Consider Skipping Your Next Inflight Meal

The pros of forgoing plane food may outweigh the cons

February 28, 2023 11:43 am
Aerial view of airplane meal
You wouldn't be missing much anyway

Airplane food is notoriously bad. Yet, when the time comes, the overwhelming majority of passengers can still be found tray table down, ready to receive inflight communion in the form of chicken, beef or pasta. Now, however — per a report from CNN — select airlines, Delta chief among them, are offering the option to skip meal service entirely, and there are a few good arguments for why you should consider doing so.

The first, no surprise, has to do with the sustainability aspect. For context, a typical passenger generates an average of 3.2 pounds of cabin waste across both short and long-haul international flights. That’s per a standard cabin waste audit methodology that was developed and tested at London’s Heathrow Airport in a pilot study in 2012 and 2013. Despite having that knowledge, airlines went on to generate around 6.7 million tons of cabin waste in 2018. Further, by the International Air Transport Association’s estimate, cabin waste volumes could double in the next 10 years in the absence of smarter regulation. 

That said, according to a Delta rep, since the airline introduced the “skip meal” option last year, around 1,000-1,500 meals are voluntarily declined each month. So, while opting out of your meal ahead of your flight might seem like a small contribution, it’s not — particularly in the long term.

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Of course, some argue that the option puts the onus on passengers rather than the airlines. “I suppose it’s ethical of Japan Airlines to save money by reducing food waste, but is it an ethical obligation for the passenger to make their meal decisions at least 25 hours prior to departure, in other words, to know whether their future self is going to be hungry?” View from the Wing‘s Gary Leff wrote. (Though, it is worth noting that for every skipped meal, Japan Airlines has vowed to donate to a charity that provides school lunches to children living in poverty.)

But there’s more to the argument. As God Save The Points‘ Gilbert Ott posits, “The idea of eating at midnight throws off your whole next day, and I think there’s credible science that it hurts your ability to recover from jet lag.” And while I have yet to track down that credible science, I wholeheartedly agree that it’s far more beneficial to sleep for the entirety of a red-eye than to be woken up in the small hours for dinner — particularly when you’ve likely eaten dinner already anyway.

So while it’s still a very limited option, I wouldn’t be surprised if more airlines didn’t start adopting it based on the success of others. Should the opportunity present itself for you, consider skipping your next inflight meal. You might wind up feeling better on the other side. If not physically, then mentally. Because environment.


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