On-board meal service in flights to resume soon as govt lifts ban

Selling on-board meals is a significant source of ancillary revenue for low-cost airlines
In a significant relaxation, the government has allowed serving of meals on board both domestic and international flights.

Selling on-board meals is a significant source of ancillary revenue for low-cost airlines. This had dried up as in-flight meals were banned to prevent on-board spread of coronavirus when air transport resumed on May 25.

Due to the ban, India’s largest airline IndiGo had seen its ancillary revenues declining by 81.3 per cent in April-June period.

While for domestic flights, only pre-packed snacks and beverages have been allowed, airlines operating international flights can also serve hot meals and liquor. Airlines are undertaking international flights for the purpose of repatriation and private charters.

However, the government has mandated that on-board meals have to be served only in disposable trays and crockeries which should not be reused. The table and cutlery have to be set up beforehand, as cabin crew will not be permitted to do on-board service. “Crew shall wear a fresh set of gloves for meal service,” the government order said. Pouring service by cabin crew for tea, coffee or alcohol is not allowed.

Low-cost carriers like IndiGo, GoAir and SpiceJet, and full-service ones like Vistara and Air India count on-board meals among their major revenue sources; the quality of meals acts as a differentiator and marketing pitch. The other avenues are cargo, special service requests, ticket modification and cancellation.

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