Japan Airlines is taking steps to reduce the massive amount of food waste on flights, launching a trial program last month to allow passengers to opt out of meals before the day of their fights.
The airline is asking passengers who know they will be sleeping through meal service or prefer to skip it altogether to make an ethical choice to decline the meal.
The program aims to get passengers to make the decision early. Those who wait to turn down the meal on the day of the flight are not helping with the issue of food waste, the airline told CNN, because meals have already been prepared at that point.
“Based on our SDG [sustainable development goals] movement at JAL, food loss has been an important issue to tackle, and this trial is a first step toward achieving the goal,” an airline spokesperson told Simple Flying.
According to the International Air Transport Association, more than 1 million tons (PDF) of food was wasted from in-flight catering in 2017. That represents about 20 percent of all food prepared for flights. Most of that waste ends up in landfills.
Japan Airlines launched the trial program late last month on a single flight between Bangkok and Tokyo. It is waiting for feedback from passengers and others before expanding the plan to other flights.
Passengers on that flight wanting to opt out of the meal can do so after booking their flight either online or by calling the reservation system. The procedure is the same as those requesting a vegetarian or kosher meal in advance.
The meal opt-out is part of the airline’s larger sustainability plan, which has a major focus on waste reduction, reusing materials when possible, and recycling.
Among other initiatives, the airline eliminated plastic straws in favor of paper straws in 2019, and they also reduced paper use by switching manuals for flight crews to electronic documents accessible with iPads.