Japan’s biggest airline has started offering luxury dining aboard a parked airplane titled the “winged restaurant,” for £390 a meal.
Diners rushed to relive the cabin dining experience on Wednesday, despite being unable to travel due to the pandemic.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is offering “passengers” a choice between a first-class seat with a meal for 59,800 yen (£391) and a business-class option for about half the price, at 29,800 yen, on board a stationary Boeing-777 at Haneda airport in Tokyo. They are asked to choose in advance from three menus: Japanese-style, western-style beef or western-style fish, served with wine.
Yosuke Kimoto, 42, who had a business-class meal with his 14-year-old son, told Kyodo News: “It was a delicious meal. I’m glad that my kid enjoyed it too.” They were among 56 guests who had lunch aboard on the first day of the service.
His son was also impressed. “The business class was drastically different from the economy class in terms of both food and the seat. It was so spacious, and the seat was like a bed when reclined,” he told Nikkei Asia.
ANA will offer 22 lunch and dinner sessions this month, each lasting about three hours. There is no in-flight entertainment, but customers receive amenity kits and can also use the airline’s lounge at Haneda’s domestic terminal.
Singapore Airlines became the first carrier to tap into the public’s appetite for onboard dining last October, when it started offering meals on two A380 superjumbos parked at Changi airport in Singapore. Tickets sold out in less than half an hour, despite the £360 price tag to eat in a top-flight suite, with the chance to watch a movie too. Economy-class meals were more affordable at £30 a head.
The pandemic has plunged the global aviation industry into its worst-ever crisis, as many aircraft around the world remain grounded amid coronavirus travel restrictions and lockdowns, prompting some airlines to think creatively about what to do with their idle aircraft. At ANA, the idea of the “winged restaurant” was reportedly thought up by employees.
In-flight meals have been surprisingly popular. ANA started selling international economy-class meals online in December and they quickly sold out. It sold 264,000 meals and made revenues of £1.3bn as of 12 March. The airline said beef sukiyaki and hamburger steak with demi-glace sauce served with buttered rice and creamy scrambled eggs were gone within minutes.
British Airways now also offers first-class cabin meals from £80 for home delivery, starting this week. It sells four-course meal kits serving two people – in a choice of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes – through the catering firm Do & Co. Starters include Loch Fyne smoked salmon with a mustard dressing, followed by slow cooked British beef cheeks, a cheese selection and dark chocolate & orange liqueur bread and butter pudding.
Similarly, Finland’s national carrier Finnair started selling business-class meals at a supermarket near the Helsinki international airport last October, which proved a hit at €12.9 per takeaway meal (£10.90).
The Australian government has launched an A$1.2bn (£660m) package to get people flying again domestically, which will halve the price of 800,000 flights until July. Airlines reported a surge in bookings when they started selling half-price tickets on Thursday as the Queensland government lifted travel restrictions.
The BA owner, International Airlines Group, has called for the introduction of digital health passes for passengers to enable the airline industry to get back on its feet, as the company reported a record €7.4bn loss for 2020 last week.
IAG has worked with the industry body, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), on a digital health verification app. The IATA travel pass app enables passengers to receive Covid-19 test results and verify they are able to travel via an “OK to Travel” status. It is being trialled by a number of carriers.