Should passengers be allowed to switch pre-reserved meals?

On several airlines, they allow you to pre-order meals in advance – on American, that threshold is prior to 24 hours to departure (and up to 30 days out). For those that clear upgrades within the 24 hour period, you won’t be able to pre-select a meal. The reason behind this is it allows the airline to cater enough meals so they won’t run out of a particular kind. It’s a terrific system when down properly.

Here comes the conundrum that I hadn’t thought about before. On a recent flight to San Fransisco, 4 people in a 12 person cabin had pre-ordered the pasta dish, from what I heard from the flight attendant. I had cleared my upgrade about 4 hours prior to departure.

As she came around to take orders, she confirmed the pre-orders with each person, but among those 4 people, they all decided they no longer wanted the pasta and instead wanted the filet with lobster Mac and cheese. Each time, she noted their new selection and moved on. As she progressed through the cabin, she eventually ran out of the filet and instead only had the pasta left – so, literally half the cabin didn’t get a choice in meals. Either way, I was fine with the pasta, but it dawned on me that this could be a severe problem for someone who either doesn’t like the meal on offer or is allergic, etc. With the folks that had pre-ordered their meal, by switching choices mid flight, they basically skewed the remaining meal choices for the passengers left.

If this scenario played out the other way around where people pre reserved the beef but switched to the pasta onboard, it could leave a potential vegetarian with the filet as the only option. Yikes.

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If you pre-order a meal, should you be able to switch options once onboard?

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Comments

  1. says

    I’d say no, but the airline would never do that. It’s a selfish thing to do, because the airline has changed their stock to accommodate the request, which really is a perk, not a right. I think their policy should be to tell those pax they will be glad to let them switch if any of the other entrees are left (i.e. someone else was willing to take their pasta). Of course, that could get complicated.

    People are jerks. And they are REALLY jerks on airplanes.

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