Cathay Pacific Considers New Rule: Business Class Passengers Must Bring Their Own Forks For Meals

Cathay Pacific is surveying customers on what sustainability practices they’d be willing to accept when they fly. The survey was sent to a subset of the airline’s ‘Cathay Lab’ community of more than 10,000 customers.

Aimed specifically at business class passengers, they’re asking:

  • whether passengers would be inclined to return their used single-use plastic water bottles to the flight attendants for recycling
  • whether they’d consider disposing of these bottles in a designated recycling bin upon leaving the aircraft
  • or whether they’d bring their own bottle to have filled on board

And the survey also asks if they would bring their own cutlery onboard with them to eat with?

This would mean packing up your dirty flatware to take it with you. And are you going to re-use the same silverware for both the main meal and pre-arrival meal, or do you need to bring two sets? Will you plan in advance to bring a soup spoon? What about a mother of pearl caviar spoon for first class? Will you be allowed to bring your own steak knife through airport security?

Of course, it’s just a survey – highlighting ideas that the airline has considered – and doesn’t mean you’ll need to bring a fork or chopsticks with you the next time you redeem American Airlines miles to fly Cathay to Asia. (There isn’t as much award space on the Hong Kong-based carrier as there used to be anyway.)

Cathay Pacific Business Class

When travel companies say they want to be more ‘sustainable’ they want you to think they’re talking about for the environment when they’re actually talking about their financial position. So hotel chains asking you to “make a green choice” really mean “help us reduce housekeeping labor expense.” Cathay Pacific isn’t suggesting giving you a reusable water bottle to take home with you instead of disposing of plastic.

When Delta Air Lines got rid of plastic cutlery, replacing it with bamboo, they told you it was meant to reduce plastics… but they were really saying they weren’t bringing back metal. Meanwhile, dropping bottled wine in coach and replacing it with cans was also supposed to be about reducing plastics. They just hoped you wouldn’t notice the plastic cups they give you to drink that wine.

Cathay Pacific is still more premium than Delta, of course, since they too are phasing out plastic cutlery in economy – replacing it with metal. And there’s probably such a thing as too much cutlery! I don’t think I’ve ever seen as much at once as I was given on a short Bangkok Airways flight from Koh Samui to Bangkok.

Meanwhile, while Cathay could decide to tell business class passengers to bring their own cutlery on board, that would be so that they could eat while Japan Airlines tells passengers that eating on board is immoral. They’ve dubbed skipping meals “the ethical choice.” It just so happens to also be the cost-containing one as well.

(HT: Paddle Your Own Kanoo)

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, 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. In South Asia ( India , etc.) I have seen locals eat with their fingers . Yum . I prefer to scoop my curry onto a leaf , and then pour the leaf into my hand , and then lick my hand .

  2. For many years the Asian airlines I flew used plastic forks, spoons and knives. These were always of a fairly decent grade. A few years back metal forks, spoons and knives started being used. I think that having passenger bring their own would cause a lot of disruption. People would have to get out to get them from their stored bags. Of course, selling a set of the three for $10 would be a great money maker. I wonder if it would all make since after people used their grubby hands on the seats and other places. If I had to bring my own, I would probably bring a decent spork or a set of chopsticks.

  3. I ate Baclava in a little cafe in Jerusalem that had all Delta Air Lines cutlery in case you wondering where it went when they got rid of it.

  4. I never predicted that premium Cathay Pacific Business Class passengers would be told to “fork themselves.”

  5. Watching the TSA agents’ heads explode when passengers go through security with a full set of cutlery is a wonderful image. I wonder if you can bring steak knives?

  6. Hopefully the question asking if customers are willing to bring their own cutlery is just a test question — to see if the respondent is actually paying attention to the questions and not just answering the same thing to every question.

    Unfortunately, I’m not confident enough to bet that that is true.

  7. Apparently some of these folks have never been to a Mexican restaurant and eaten chips and salsa, or had a taco. Or a burrito. How do they eat hamburgers, or other sandwiches? Or BBQ ribs?

  8. Oh how lovely! They are so sincerly busy in getting their costs down..that they do not care if their pax gets terribly inconvenient. So after all the substantial and important cost cuttings..I have to provide my own food..
    beverage..entertainment..duvet..pillow..amenity kit..a chair to own seat personal flotation oxygen tank with mask..and most of own pot or use adult diapers during the flight
    Just for the sake and my immense support that my favourite can still fly…
    Yeah right! Bye!..where is a decent airline around here…

  9. What a joke Cathay Pacific has become. Once one of the best airlines in the world, and now just a punchline. Sad.

  10. @Joshua K.: To help improve the Cathay Pacific Airways survey in contributing to their sustainable initiatives, here are my recommendations for additional survey questions:

    1. Do you prefer one-ply or two-ply toilet paper?
    2. Would you be willing to bring a personal barf (air-sick) bag?
    3. Should our airline supply complimentary latex-free condoms in first-cabin lavatories?
    4. Would you prefer a McDonald’s happy meal instead of a business-class meal?
    5. Is it more important to arrive late or fly through severe turbulence but arrive early?
    6. Do you prefer being served cheap wine or, cheap beer?
    7. Do you prefer chicken or beef?
    8. Do you prefer French fries or tater tots during business-class dining?
    9. Do you prefer free-range kids in first class or banish these kids from first class?

  11. Ridiculous but last week at a Marriott property in Roanoke, VA, there were NO knives for breakfast. Clearly they don’t trust people what they might do with them.

  12. I don’t believe what Ted says if he doesn’t know when to use then vs than. First grade grammar at worst.

  13. @ted poco
    >> Humans have eaten with their hands significantly longer then with cutlery.

    Ummm humans have also opted to use their hands instead of toilet paper. Sooooo next change?

  14. I sympathize with the airline. When you charge “only” 5000 dollars for a flight, how can you afford to spend a couple of bucks on clean silverware… Next step will be bring your own seat cushion.

  15. Maybe sharing utensils will be greener. Done with your fork? Pass it to your neighbor.

  16. Are you allowed to bring a eating knife through TSA?
    What about metal chop stick.
    I thought tools could not be longer than 7 inches

  17. I’d be perfectly happy to bring my own cutlery. Perhaps the airline could provide a set before boarding that passes security screening to avoid one obvious inconvenience.
    Have taken a keep cup on flights for many years and asked several airlines if they would provide a redeemable token in place of the wasteful amenity kits they hand out in first and business. A token could then “pay” for the cutlery I get to keep and reuse?

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