“I just want the meal service to take longer,” said no one ever on a short eastbound transatlantic flight.
That’s because, on most flights between the East Coast and Europe, the key to beating jet lag is to maximize your sleep. This is especially true if you’re lucky enough to sit in the pointy end of the plane with lie-flat beds.
While the business-class experience gets you a fully flat seat, it also typically includes two meals. This is a lot of food, but more importantly, it’s also a lot of wasted sleeping time, considering these flights take just roughly seven hours.
So, any innovation that makes the meal service go faster is a win in my book. That’s where JetBlue excels, with an upgrade that I’ve never seen before on a flight to Europe.
Specifically, the airline recently debuted a wireless ordering feature that lets you select your meal options directly from the seatback screen.
This innovation caught me by surprise last week during the airline’s inaugural flight to Paris, but it’s perhaps the biggest improvement I’ve seen yet to the onboard service flow on a short transatlantic flight.
As you’re settling into your seat, the seatback screen invites you to place your order. The easy-to-understand ordering system prompts you to make your pick for dinner and breakfast, and it includes an incredible amount of detail on each dish.
It lists the main ingredients, along with any allergens, and it also displays a picture of what the dish looks like. The system even lets you select the “express” service for either meal, allowing you to fully customize your dining experience when seated in Mint.
Once you make your picks, you’ll be asked to confirm your entire meal order before sending it off wirelessly to an iPad in the galley.
On the Paris inaugural, flight attendants came through the aisle during boarding to quickly confirm my order and ask what I’d like to drink after takeoff.
Once in the air, the crew sprang into action, wasting no time getting the service underway and preparing meals.
By digitalizing the meal ordering process, flight attendants easily shaved off 10 to 15 minutes from the service flow — something I was very thankful for when it was finally time to catch some shut-eye.
Interestingly, JetBlue first introduced this wireless ordering feature in the economy cabin on transatlantic flights. Those seated in Core, as JetBlue calls coach, can place their customized meal order from the screen anytime during boarding, taxi and takeoff.
The system works similarly to the one in business class, except there are fewer choices.
For now, JetBlue continues to print menus in its Mint business-class cabin. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it decided to eliminate those and go all-in on digital ordering, perhaps marketed as a sustainability initiative.
But in order to fully digitalize the ordering experience, I’d want to see three more upgrades from JetBlue.
The first would be the ability to order drinks from the seatback screen. Until then, there’s still a touchpoint with the crew that can be eliminated.
Secondly, it’d be great if JetBlue enabled on-demand ordering between meal services. Instead of pressing the call button to flag a flight attendant, it’d be great if you could simply request your drinks and snacks from the seatback screen anytime during the flight.
Finally, I’d love to see the airline introduce a preorder option, allowing you to reserve your meal roughly a week before your flight. This is a service that American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines offer on many long-haul routes. It helps set expectations and eliminate waste.
If JetBlue enabled this service, it’d be cool if your preordered meal automatically appeared on the seatback screen and asked you to confirm that you’re still happy with your picks.
Even without these upgrades, JetBlue’s innovation is something I hope other airlines copy.
Of course, there’s a hardware limitation on older planes without wireless-enabled seatback screens. Still, this is a nifty new feature that should certainly save valuable time on short red-eyes to Europe.
I, for one, very much appreciated feeling a bit more refreshed when I woke up in Paris.