This Airline Is Delivering In-Flight Meals to Grounded Travelers

Russia's Ural Airlines is giving customers a taste of the skies at home.

Most of us have been living under some kind of stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order for a month-plus, which has been challenging in dozens of different ways. But how long do you think you'd have to be locked in your own apartment before you started to get nostalgic for airplane food? When would you start daydreaming about plastic trays filled with reheated lumps that taste like chicken if you say the words "This is chicken, I am eating chicken" before every forkful?

Airline meals served on seat tables
Juan Silva/Getty Images

One Russian airline thinks the answer to both of those questions is "Right now," and has started selling its in-flight food to housebound residents in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yekaterinburg. According to Reuters, Ural Airlines is trying to deliver "the taste of travel without leaving your home," and it's offering the choice of three different meals—chicken, fish, or an unspecified "meat"—which will each be delivered on an airline tray. A business class meal costs 1,250 rubles ($16.65) and the economy class version costs 550 rubles ($7.33). Each meal also comes with a choice of orange, apple, or tomato juice.

In a post on Instagram, Ural Airlines wrote that the meals would be just like being in an airplane "except for the view from the window." (Although for maximum authenticity, a seatback needs to recline directly into your lap immediately after you've peeled the plastic from the tray, while someone else sits too close and aggressively bumps your fork hand.)

The Russian Association of Air Transport Operators said that airplane seat occupancy fell by 92 percent last month, and all international flights have been grounded. (The only exceptions are flights that are either returning foreign nationals to their countries of residence or bringing Russians back home.) Ural Airlines has temporarily parked one third of its fleet at Yekaterinburg Koltsovo airport and it has furloughed members of its flight crews and ground crews as a result. "We believe that everything will change for the better soon," the company said in a statement last month.

Delivering its meals to travelers who are stuck at home is a novel way to raise some money and to remind everyone that the airline is still out there trying to get by. And it's a good way to see if anyone will enthusiastically pay to eat airplane food while they're still on the ground.

It's an approach that has worked for Air Asia. Last December, the Malaysian low-cost carrier opened Santan, a standalone restaurant inside a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, and everything on the menu is also served on its flights. The chain is also pretty upfront about its expansion plans, hoping that there will be five Air Asia-owned Santan restaurants within the next year and more than 100 franchised locations in the next five.

"The opening of this flagship restaurant is the beginning of something great for the Santan [brand]," the restaurant's general manager, Catherine Goh, said. "We have seen a significant appetite for our in-flight menu offerings beyond our flights across the region and this is our answer to that demand."

Now if only we could get someone to deliver a set of earplugs, a questionably laundered blanket, and an application for an airline-branded credit card, too.

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