Are Crew Meals a Thing to Share?

crew meal

Photo credit einalem

 

I’ve noticed that in the comments of one of my posts, the subject has swayed in the direction of crew meals. More specifically on the topic of sharing them with passenger. It seems that while some Flight Attendants are okay with giving a crew meal to a pax, others are very much against the ideas.

Traytable of Traytables Travels writes:

My pet peeve is crew giving away meals when we’re exact-catered. Actually, at one airline I’ve worked for, giving of crew meals is forbidden by the union, for the reasons stated above. It maintains unrealistic expectations of catering levels by passengers (SOMEONE has to miss out on a first choice at some point) and it deprives working crew of their (contractually entitled) meal.

while Azur of Au Pay de L’Azur wrote:

Yesterday I had to give my crewmeals because we had not more TSUs and Casseroles… But at least the passenger was happy to enjoy my chicken thai!

 

Personally while I don’t think it’s completely wrong to give out a crew meal to a pax, discretion should be applied when deciding whether or not to do so. If we ran out of one meal option; well too bad so sad! Not only do I think it’s unnecessary to offer a crew meal in this situation, it’s unsustainable! No way would there ever be enough onboard to serve to all the passengers who want another choice.

However, I think there are times when offering the crew meal is okay. For example: Of the two meal options readily available to our pax, one is always a vegetarian option. Usually when a pax has a special meal requirement, they’ll book a special meal for themselves ahead of time. However it has happened a pax forgot to pre-order, or the pre-order wasn’t loaded AND we ran out of veggie options before reaching their row (or perhaps the pax is vegan or requires gluten free, or what have you!). In this case I’ll see if any of our crew have decided not to eat a crew meal. Quite often crew will bring their own lunch. We always have a vegetarian crew meal onboard in case we have vegetarian crew. If none of the crew want that meal and its just going to go to waste anyway then I’ll probably decide to offer it to the pax. Of course only if that’s okay with the entire crew first! If it’s a case of a gluten free or vegan or other requirement, I’ll see about assembling some veggies from the crew snack trays for the pax to munch on. Again, ONLY with the permission of the entire crew. Similarly, if I really feel sympathetic for the pax I might decide to give up my crew meal for them of all the others are spoken for. But that’s only if we have any left over pax meals, which at my airline happens semi-often. In that case I don’t mind eating a pax meal. They’re just as good as the crew meals, there is just far less variation in the options available.

Our flights are often so busy and so short that we never have time to even open the crew meal canisters, let alone eat anything. This food just gets thrown away if no one eats it, so I figure if that’s going to be the case, and we have a pax going hungry due to dietary restrictions then I’m usually willing to share.

Of course that brings up the argument of setting an unrealistic precedent for passengers. We really don’t have enough crew meals on board for any more than one pax (if that!). What if the pax become expectant that their will always be another option for them?

It’s a valid point. Here’s what I do. If I decide I can get them a crew meal. If I can, I come back to them after we’ve finished meal service. I quietly let them know that “We aren’t usually able to accommodate this, but I was able to assemble a little something that meets your needs. Would that be okay?” Or something along those lines. Once I bring them the meal I say “We won’t be able to do this again for your return flight. You’ll need to call the airline once you get to your hotel and arrange for a special order meal. Luckily there’s no charge for that, and it’ll guarantee we have something for you to eat.”

I have no idea how effective that is, but at least I’m letting them know.

There is also the concern of other passengers seeing this and wanting special meals for themselves. Personally this hasn’t happened to me. The closest I’ve come is that the pax in the surrounding area were aware that one passenger didn’t get to eat because we didn’t have anything they could have. When they realized I was able to provide at least a snack for the passenger, they were appreciative that I’d made an effort. I think this sort of thing just depends on the group mentality of the passengers in the section. Hopefully most passengers can be understanding of these situations.

 

In short, I think the scenario of offering a pax a crew meal is very dependant on the situation. It’s something that the Flight Attendant has to make their own judgment call on.

But tell me? What do you think? It’s a fact that crew meals our a contractual obligation for the airline to provide for their flight attendants. We are in no way shape or form required to offer one to a passenger. But if a crew member is willing to give up their meal or a spare meal, is that okay?

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4 thoughts on “Are Crew Meals a Thing to Share?”

  1. Jet, Yet another right-on post. Here’s what I think: First, any *reasonable* airline will realize that this is a situation in which a hard, fast rule simply cannot be applied. There are too many variables at play. Second, one assumes that FAs are thinking, responsible professionals and able to make appropriate choices while ‘flying’ up and down the aisles. It is often called Professional Discretion. Third, if the flight is one that typically provides a meal, the PAX can be expected to know that. If the deitary need and genuine or serious, it is also reasonable to expect the PAX to be aware that a ‘special meal’ can be ordered in advance. Fourth, the basic assumptions, especially concerning PAX knowledge are never going to work perfectly. With all of that in your blender, perhaps throwing in a cup of ‘sense of the cabin’ for this flight, you make professional choices and execute them. As you become more experienced, the options and their execution will become second nature. At this point, the learning curve is still extremely steep. Talking (or in this case, writing) though the options and possible resolutions is an excellent, extremely valuable learning tool for you. Your FA colleagues will have suggestions and observations, all valid and to be considered. A few outsiders like me will offer thoughts as well. In the end, You are ‘da Man and You are the one that makes the ultimate decision. This is not a safety of flight issue and is of little concern to the flight deck. If accommodating a single PAX’s need is within reason and can be done without compromising the needs (or privlidge) of any other PAX, it is probably reasonable to do so. If you ever have the opportunity to further your formal education, you might consider a class like Theory of Ethics or some such. In such a class you will examine oll of the components of responsible and ‘correct’ decision making, including risks, benefits, fairness, equity, equality and potential for degrees of harm. For now, it sounds like you are on the right course and making worthy decisions. Congratulations and Happy Flying.
    -Craig

  2. I probably could have been clearer. In cases where a pax has just forgotten to order a meal, or ‘doesn’t like’ their option, I don’t offer a meal.

    If it’s the airline’s F-up, then of course as a service professional I’ll try to find a solution. If I *do* utilise components or whole crew meals, I ALWAYS ask the other crew first, and like you I will also explain to the passenger where those items came from. I’ve seen crew fail to do this and the response from pax is always somehting along the lines of “So you were just holding out on me then”….

    recipe for disappointment on their next flight when the crew decide they are hungry and there’s nothing left of crew meals to give.

    As you say on shorter flights it’s not a problem, however recently on a longer sector, one crew gave away meals (without asking the rest of us) because one passenger was just “really hungry”. We served 2 full meals and a snack on that flight!! Three crew had to go with no meal because she gave away items from a service that had yet to happen. I never hand out items until the service they are for has been done. Otherwise you run the risk of being short as was this case.

  3. I’ve been the FA as well as the Reservation Agent. Feedback needs to be given to Reservations to make certain that it’s communicated that dietary restrictions can be met. Same info needs to be provided to IT for online purchases. A hungry aircrews is not much use to anyone 🙂

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