In March 2023, Singapore Airlines (SIA) rolled out trial introducing paper-based meal boxes for economy class on selected medium- and long-haul flight routes.
The airline said that it aimed to enhance the quality and variety of onboard meals by serving hot meals in disposable dishes made from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified paper.
“The unique design of the new serviceware allows it to retain heat and moisture better than the current casserole dish. It also means we can now offer soupy and gravy-rich main courses, including long-time favourites such as laksa, mee siam, and congee on these routes.”
“As a result, customers can look forward to tastier meals and a wider variety of options on these medium- and long-haul flights,” said SIA in a Facebook post.
However, in a recent development, SIA confirmed that they will not proceed with using paper boxes for the mentioned flights “for now,” based on feedback received from the trial earlier this year.
According to CNA, the airline spokesperson stated that customers and members of the public shared their feedback on the serviceware, highlighting the need for improvements in its design.
“We have also received the operational feedback on the trial and noted that we may need to improve the design of the box.”
Considering these factors, SIA decided to postpone the implementation of the new serviceware.
It is worth noting that despite these challenges and complaints, SIA reported a record annual profit of S$2.16 billion (US$1.63 billion) in early May.
Netizen’s comment highlighted the concern on maintaining food quality and in-flight service
Singaporeans expressed their support for SIA’s decision not to proceed with the paper-based meal boxes idea.
Some of them voiced their opinions on CNA’s Facebook post, reminding the airline that packaging design is not the sole factor to consider.
As SIA previously known for its exceptional in-flight meal service, even for its economy class, certain comments also emphasized that maintaining food quality and in-flight service is crucial for the sustainable operation of the airline.
One comment highlighted that the issue at hand revolves around the quality of both the packaging and the food and referred to the high-quality paper packaging used in Japan as an example.
Agreeing with the comment, a netizen added that if the Japanese can take pride in packaging food nicely, even in their convenience stores, she fail to see why a reputable airline like SIAs cannot do the same.
Another netizen added a satirical remark, speculating that if the top management does not make efforts to cut costs, they may not be able to afford to reside in the luxurious Good Class Bungalow (GCB) areas.
Some comments called out SIA “should be honest” with the real reason for introducing alternate packaging
Some netizens expressed their skepticism and questioned Singapore Airlines’ transparency regarding the real reasons for introducing alternate packaging, suggested that instead of emphasizing the benefits of the new packaging, the airline should be honest about the change in food quality since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While prices for everything, including raw materials and food ingredients have gone up, hence it may cost more in that regards, even to provide low grade food, however was the ticket price adjusted to cover the extra cost (of low grade food)?”
A comment pointed out that Singapore Airlines’ focus appears to be solely on cost-cutting, evident from their recently announced record profits.
‘Public relation disaster’
A netizen expressed disappointment that loyal customers who choose SIA despite the higher charges are still being served with unsatisfactory meals, which he described as pathetic.
“S$ 870 million of Gov aid were given to the aviation industry during the pandemic period and once it’s profitable, SIA decide to reward themselves with fat bonuses.”
Another comment criticized SIA’s decision to rolled out the paper-based meal boxes, referring to it as a “public relations disaster”.
“This has been a complete PR disaster and negates the great human service. For starters, don’t tell us it’s going environmentally friendly. If it was, then it should be rolled out right through to Suite class and you know SIA won’t do that right?”
“May as well use newspaper wrapping like the good old days in the 60s”
Some netizens expressed their dissatisfaction with the use of paper-based meal boxes, for examples, one netizen pointed out the difficulty of eating from the paper box due to its tall and narrow design.
Another comment ridiculed the paper boxes, stating that they are unpresentable for an airline that claims to be premium, and sarcastically suggested that the airline should go back to using newspaper wrapping, reminiscent of the past in the 1960s, which might give a nostalgic and retro feel.