Is Food Quality the Competitive Edge Airports & Airlines Seek?

Travelers rejoice! According to recent reports the quality of airplane and airport food is changing for the better. This is primarily due to heightened competition among airlines to distringuish themselves from the many other companies, as well as the farm-to-table movement for food in the airport.

According to a recent Washington Post article, food in airport terminals have changed in an attempt to give travelers more choice- including a wide range of healthy choices catering to many dietary needs. This has been in part due to the growing farm-to-table movement adopted by many airports. There is hope that the new connection with airports will bring new life to small agriculture producers, which have experienced a decline in income in the last year. Whether or not this is the case, it is evident the new supply of fresh ingredients to airports including JFK and Denver has improved the  options of dining at the airport. However, some consumers note that when they come to an airport, food is not their priority. In the same Washington Post article, Mr. Brancatelli, a New York resident, notes,

We want better dining options, clearly, and we’ll spend more money than the leisure traveler, but the fact that there’s more farm-to-table options won’t change anything for us… My goal in life as a business traveler is not to sample Rick Bayless at O’Hare. I’d much rather eat in town at his real place.”

But can the same be said for food served on flights as well? Other reports note airlines have attempted to improve the quality of in-flight meals as a way of gaining a competitive edge in the market. The quality improvements have primarily been focused on business class.

As quoted by a Business Insider article, an aviation expert at Archery strategy consulting notes,

Business class has become the main battleground for all companies because the market in this very profitable sector is highly competitive and the clients very demanding.”

A meal in economy class is valued at approximately six to 11 dollars, while one in business class is normally around 18 to 37 dollars.

As a part of the improvements to in-flight menus, airlines have hired top chefs to design appropriate meals (note: no cabbage, beans, or raw fish) with consideration for cultural preferences (for example, pork does not make the menu).

In a recent survey, Virgin America was ranked as the best of 13 major carriers for top nutrition of in-flight meals and snacks. Delta and Jet Blue received 3.75 out of 5 stars rankings, for which Delta attributes to their latest partnership with Luvo, a provider of nutritious foods. JetBlue also now offers healthy options such as kale or quinoa salads. The airlines with the lowest ratings including Hawaiian Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Charles Platkin, director of the survey, says,

It’s a mixed bag… Business travelers would appreciate being offered healthier choices. … For the airlines, improving the health quality of the food could potentially increase customer experience and brand loyalty.”


Read more here- “See Which Airlines Have the Healthiest Food,” (Charisse Jones, USAToday)

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Olivia is a graduate of Villanova University where she studied Economics and History, minoring in Gender and Women's Studies. She also has experience working with federal legislatures on health care policy, women's issues, and Internet safety.


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