RUMOR: Cathay Pacific Cancels Dine on Demand in Business Class, Introducing Buy On Board in Coach

See update from Cathay Pacific at the bottom of the article.

Citing the ‘CX Secrets’ Facebook group, percysmith notes that Cathay Pacific is:

  • Cancelling its planned roll out of ‘dine on demand’ in business class

    “Dine on Demand” service in Business Class cancelled, however, new service flow and equipments will be introduced in 2018

  • Introducing ‘buy on board’ meals on some shorter economy flights in place of complimentary food

    “Buy on board”” Menu will be introduced on all MNL, CEB, SGN and midnight sector on SIN, KIX, NRT, CGK and ICN

Dine on demand is a great feature. There are many long flights with late departures, some passengers will eat in the lounge and want to go straight to sleep. Others will want to eat on board. However with large business cabins it’s a lot of extra work for flight attendants, and crews hated the London Gatwick and Chicago tests.

Cathay Pacific’s normal business class meal service is very much an assembly line, and dine on demand represented a huge change — that if successful would have been a huge benefit to passengers, but Cathay has had real friction with its flight crews in recent years and apparently they decided this was a step too far in what they could push their crews to do systemwide.

Qatar does this well, of course their flight crews are used to serving full meals including hot items on 200 mile flights.

Meanwhile I don’t think a whole lot is lost without full meals on Hong Kong – Manila, Cebu and Ho Chi Minh City and I can understand that fewer passengers may wish to eat on midnight intra-Asia departures (although Osaka, Tokyo, and Seoul are long-ish flights not to offer a meal considering not just up to 4 hour flight times but also half an hour boarding, etc).

Buy on board is a contributor to the bottom line — not so much because they earn a profit on the sale of food, but because when food is free nearly everyone takes it while only a small percentage of customers will buy food (and they’ll board what’s sometimes an even lower percentage of food and simply tell passengers they’ve run out).

Taken together these two changes represent a pullback from Cathay as a premium full service airline striving to become even more so, they’re unable to improve their (already good) business class product while offering less in back — a worldwide trend for economy travel as legacy airlines try to compete solely on fare.

Update: Cathay provides this statement,

1. “Dine on Demand”

Regarding the ‘Dine on Demand’ concept, which we conducted for a trial period in May and June 2017, we are currently in the process of analysing both passenger and crew feedback. We will share more updates on the new Business Class dining service once available.

2. “Buy on board”

The media report is categorically inaccurate. Cathay Pacific is a premium, full-service airline and there are no plans for what was rumoured.

I note that they are far more definitive in saying that buy onboard will not be offered than they are in suggesting that Dine on Demand could stay.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The buy on board is a slippery slope. Trickle effect may begin and this becomes the norm on all CX Asia flights under 4 hours.

    Hope at least for those flights it won’t impact premium economy.

  2. When BA introduces BoB on shorthaul flights everyone is up in arms. Lets hope we see some even handed coverage of CX’s decision. i don’t see it as any different.

  3. I beg to differ. CX has an excellent first class that I have flown many times. They also serve the most exquisite champagne, Krug. And I know ALL about champagne because I drink them when I fly first class on award tickets.

  4. I never have a problem on CX night flights when, after eating dinner in the lounge, I ask F/A to “hold” my meal in the frig until I wake up. I change into PJ’s prior to take-off, and as soon as wheels are up, in go the ear plugs, on goes the sleep mask, and flat goes the seat. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  5. Buy on Board meals should be the standard for ALL Tourist Class pax regardless of distance flown. This would make things considerably easier on flight crews and reduce any misunderstandings about service expected by the Tourist Class passenger. Tourist Class pax should also be permitted to bring non-alcoholic beverages on board Worldwide for the reasons prior stated.

    For the passenger, it would allow for more personal control and choice of foods that can be purchased after clearing formalities at the airport. Along with this, the door is open for the passenger to choose healthier options that would be advantageous, particularly on super long-distance flights in mitigating the effects of jet lag.

    I applaud CX for this move as, in all honesty, I expect nothing more than a seat and a safe delivery to my destination. I always bring snacks with me wherever I fly in case the crew runs out of food on long hauls. I also do not think it is fair to the crew to constantly press the call button or ask for something that I can and should handle on my own. I have been doing this for 25 years. I also self-cater on virtually all North American flights which is better nutritionally. Flying, save for Premium Cabin pax is now, pretty much for Tourist Class pax, analagous to taking the bus – particularly throughout North America and on Intra Asian short to moderate hauls like DMK-KUL or SIN-MNL.

    If this practice were implemented Universally, it would lead to far fewer on-board incidents and it would simplify the flying process considerably, IMO. Premium Cabin pax deserve all of the benefits they should receive, given, particularly between the USA and Asia, the utterly exhorbitant price of these tix.

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