Japan Airlines Tells Passengers It’s Unethical To Eat On Board

Japan Airlines is asking business class customers to skip meals on board, telling them it is the ethical thing to do.

JAL, which first tested this on their overnight Bangkok – Tokyo Haneda flight at the end of 2020, will give you an extra amenity kit as a thank you. Are they even eliminating waste?

Now, you may think you’re going to eat in the lounge before your flight and skip the meal on board. But then you’re running late and don’t and don’t have time. I’m not sure it’s even a good idea to flag that you don’t plan to eat, since there’s a chance your ability to predict your future self is imperfect.

Delta Air Lines offers business class customers the choice to pre-select skipping a meal which they promote will “help reduce food waste.” Now, why do they do this?

  • The environment. I do not believe this. No one greenwashes like Delta (well, maybe Frontier which claims to be the ‘greenest airline’ after all they paint their planes green). Delta owns an oil refinery but sure it’s for the planet.

  • Cost savings. This seems to me the obvious answer, but Delta objects to this framing (but doesn’t offer an alternative one).

Still they do not go nearly as far as Japan Airlines which claims the ethical choice is not to eat on board, which must make a business class passenger choosing to eat unethical.

China Southern, which has promoted passengers skipping meals on flights under 800 miles, at least rewards them with miles when making this choice, effectively splitting the savings so both the airline and passenger benefit.

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. I always fast on flights. 24 hours one way and 36 hours on the return flight last month. I just drink some water as needed. But I have had much practice at fasting. My longest fast was 6 days. So not eating while traveling is a perfect for me.
    My health had gotten so much better.

  2. I’d be inclined to ask for seconds. Of course it’s a cost cutting exercise, it’s like they tell you they are doing a modified service because of covid. That excuse has run it’s course now.

  3. “They’re not saying it’s unethical to eat on board. They’re saying it’s ethical to let them know if you won’t be eating.“

  4. So it is okay for me to bring McMacs, Fries, Cinnabons, Chopped Cheese sandwiches on board and the crew can take away my trash afterwards?

  5. Air travel leaves the biggest pollution footprint mankind has contributed to the planet (by far), and these jokers are trying to spin that it’s about ethics. Pretty sure the only ethics they consider is their bottom line. Its obvious whats really happened here: someone in the financial dept. looked at the numbers and noticed that they could save millions of $ a year if they can simply figure out how to only load the exact number of meals that will actually be eaten. I’m sure restaurants would also love to know exactly how much food you intend to eat so they can just make that much for you and save money on ingredients.

  6. Like every action of a major airline, do ANYTHING that eliminates the need for their staff to do any work and shifts the burden to the customer. Your bag need to get checked? You carry it somewhere. You need a drink? Sorry, we don’t do that big your own. Wi-Fi doesn’t work? Must be your device, not the plane. Food? Oh, sorry, it is unethical for you to eat as our staff would prefer to sit back behind the curtain and talk about things rather than serve the customs. Major airlines are among the WORST service organizations on the planet second, perhaps, to only the cable industry. And yet we’re to feel bad for them? Help them to do less work. Truly what a joke

  7. @ Gary Leff

    If you want to make the case against the concept of “unethical” then at least ditch your USA-centric arrogant world perception and respect the cultural differences of other countries – inform your readers about how “ethics” are viewed in Japan and then make your case.

    And then tell the other side of the story that you could have sourced in under a minute of actual research.


    To quote JAL:

    “…This service is subject to the social contribution program TABLE FOR TWO Program” (hereafter, TFT Program). JAL will donate a certain amount to the TFT program for each person
    who applies this service, and the donation will be used for school lunch projects
    for children in developing countries suffering from hunger”

    Gary Leff – a fake and a click baiter.

  8. So I assume the pilots and crew wont be eating meals on flights either…highly doubtful. So now they are just hypocrites.

  9. Just a great way to save money for the airline. Play on your conscience. I pay for a business class seat or economy I want food and water.. alcohol you can keep. for the Zen side of me.. I hug a tree when i get on the ground .

  10. Why go business if there is nothing to eat? I think the staff can’t be happy either with this idea as this means even less communication with the passengers. I have met quite a few air hostesses or stewards who like their work and love to serve tasty meals and make people feel happy. Why scrap it all? Passengers can donate money separately and not go hungry in the process, especially not on long haul flights. Going thirsty is a serious health risk on a plane and for certain people with health problems small meals eaten often are very important.

  11. Don’t think for a second this has the slightest to do with ecology or saving carbon footprints. This is all about maximizing profits.
    If Japan Airline really was concerned about the environment, there is a lot better things they could do than not have people eat.
    They have a vested interest in this topic and it is all about profits.

  12. I think I’m having something like a Samantha Steven’s moment: What does that have to do with ethics (she squeeled)??! I think that one flew right over my head–so to speak.

  13. I will eat to pass the time, you charge enough. Provide flyers a discount on your food savings and staff reductions, then it might work on short flights.

  14. I booked a prem economy and got the email from JAL too. The title of this article sounds like they are only asking business class. And ‘ethical’ has different meanings in Japanese and how most people are reading this article. I believe it translates contextually to something like, save plastic/packaging use, etc., Be more eco-friendly and eat before or after or bring own food. Instead of ethics as understood as with morals, etc. Of course they want you to eat and be satisfied on your flights, just be more conscious of the impact.

  15. I was too fat for coach. Starting chasing upgrades. Sat up front, ate three steaks on 3 island hoppers iah-hnl-hkg . Got tired of paying/chasing upgrades. Lost weight. Back to coach. We pretty much don’t eat onboard even to hkg. Hubby will take 6 quest protein bars and eat those. I eat in United club or centurion lounge ahead. Just take 2 Benadryl and sleep on flight. Too much drama.

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