Alaska Airlines' test program offering "buy on board" meals on flights to/from Mexico has proven to be an overwhelming success, and will be retained. Customers may purchase breakfast sandwiches, turkey chipotle wraps or cheeseburgers on board for $5.00 cash:
Buy-On-Board declared a success
A third or more of customers to and from Mexico purchasing meals
March 29, 2005
More than three months in, a trial program to sell meals to passengers on select Mexico flights has been declared a success. The success means the word “trial” has been removed, and passengers can expect the $5 meals to continue on the flights where they are now being offered.
“The program has performed well beyond our expectations,” said Andrea Olsen, manager of inflight food service products. “We continue to hear good feedback from passengers and flight attendants.”
The decision comes at a time when all airlines are struggling to find the right approach to on-board food service. Delta Airlines recently decided to discontinue its paid meal service in favor of complimentary snacks for coach passengers while Northwest Airlines recently announced that it would phase out its free meals in place of a paid-meal option
Alaska Airlines’ trial program began on Jan. 9. Since then, passengers on morning flights to Mexico have been offered a grilled sausage and egg breakfast sandwich with a cup of fruit yogurt. In the afternoon, southbound passengers can buy a chipotle turkey sandwich wrap with tomato salsa.
Northbound passengers can purchase a quarter-pound U.S. Angus beef cheeseburger and a bag of Kettle Classic potato chips. The meals were developed by the inflight catering department, with support from LSG Sky Chefs.
The trial period was set to end on April 30. But the program was working well enough to make the decision sooner to continue, Olsen said.
The existing menu will stand with just a couple tweaks to the burger condiments, and one new meal will be added. In addition to the turkey wraps, another cold sandwich item will be offered on future flights, Olsen said.
The new menu item is a winter wheat loaf with turkey and cheese, served in a basket with several other fresh items. The sandwich wrap recipe will be refined and it will also be offered in a basket for easier consumption, Olsen said.
Participation has been high, with about 32 percent of passengers purchasing a meal on trips to Mexico and 36 percent on trips from Mexico.
As expected, the numbers of passengers purchasing a meal are higher on long haul flights, Olsen said. Industry-wide, other carriers who have “buy-on-board” programs consider sales of 20 percent to be healthy.
“That tells us we have the right product in the right market at the right price,” Olsen said.
While sales have been brisk, there have been enough meals on hand for almost all flights, Olsen said. Since the catering department didn’t have much historical data for the program, it was stocking more meals during the first couple of weeks than they thought they would sell in order to avoid running out. After two months, an average 68 percent of the meals on board were sold, with very few sell-out flights, she said.
The program not only has achieved the significant cost savings Alaska was looking for, but also has proven to be a small revenue generator. “We’re happy with that,” Olsen said. “The objective was to offer passengers an opportunity to purchase a hearty, satisfying meal if they chose to do so.”