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In-flight meals, bar carts and pajamas: Here’s what airlines are selling to grounded travelers


(Washington Post illustration; Qantas Airlines; iStock)

In a difficult year for airlines, carriers are getting creative with how they can still make some money off grounded travelers. Those travelers who won’t be able to fly at all this year are bringing the in-flight experience home through meals, snacks, clothing and even entire bar carts plucked from 747 planes.

From meals to designer clothes, here is a selection of things airlines are selling to make ends meet.

In-flight meals

This week, Finnair announced it will begin selling its business-class in-flight meals in Finnish grocery stores. A Finnair spokesperson told The Washington Post via email that its “menu” will start with Nordic-Japanese main course options like “Finnish reindeer and beef in teriyaki-radish sauce,” smoked fish and mushroom risotto, and roasted carrots with blue cheese mousse, for $7 to $15 per dish.

The dishes change every two weeks, and the airline is only selling the meals via K-Citymarket stores in Finland — starting at one location in Vantaa on Thursday. The grocer’s other locations have yet to decide if they will also carry the meals. The airline says the move is a way to support Finnair employees amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Meals inspired by the Finnair Business Class offering, prepared by Finnair Kitchen. (Finnair)

“This is a new business opening for us and employs our chefs,” Marika Nieminen, vice president of Finnair Kitchen, said in a news release. “As so many of Kitchen’s employees are temporarily laid off, we can create new work and employment for our people.”

Dining experiences

Thai Airways is also targeting passengers who are missing in-flight meals. The airline recently opened a diner inside its Bangkok headquarters, complete with plane seats and cabin-themed decor. The company, which filed for bankruptcy in May, offers “Taste of Travel” meals made by its in-flight catering teams, with the menus showcasing its international chefs.

Options have included grilled eel and ginger beef with rice by a Japanese chef, braised noodles with prawns by a Chinese chef, and lamb chops, tandoori chicken and grilled kebabs by French, Indian, and Middle Eastern chefs, respectively. The meals it has been serving since July have been a success, the airline said in a statement on its website in September, and it will continue operating Wednesdays through Sundays with new “specials meals” being added this month.

Singapore Air also recently announced it will offer in-flight dining meals and experiences for locals called “Discover Your Singapore Airlines.” This includes repurposing an Airbus A380 as a runway restaurant serving up in-flight meals, as well as allowing customers to purchase first- and business-class meal packages to enjoy at home. The programs are intended “for customers who are keen to enjoy the world-renowned in-flight dining experience in the comfort of their own home,” the airline said in a statement.

Stocked bar carts and branded accessories

Qantas Airways recently sold 1,000 of its stocked bar carts for more than $1,400 each, throwing in its beloved business-class pajama sets and first-class blankets to entice its loyal flier base in Australia. The airline sold out of the galley carts in hours, and it said in a statement that the “half carts” were “stocked with a range of items from champagne and Australian red and white wine to Tim Tams, PJs and an exclusive-to-Qantas First Class Sheridan throw.”


Items for sale from Qantas bar carts. (Qantas)

“These pre-loved carts served Qantas and our customers well during their world travels from London and Los Angeles to Singapore and Santiago, with each one averaging around 2,000 flights,” Phil Capps, the executive manager of product and service at Qantas, said in a news release. “While we no longer have use for them, they still have life in them, especially for those with an appreciation for aviation collectibles and an eye for design.”

Since the success of the sold-out bar carts, Qantas has started selling leisure wear designed by Australian fashion designer Martin Grant. The collection includes “cashmere sweaters, a hoodie, sweatshirts, T-shirts and a beach tote” ranging from $150 to $425. The items are available online via Qantas’ Rewards Store, and can be purchased with points or cash.

Trademark plane snacks

Tim Tams and wine are not the only in-flight snacks being sold off; airline food suppliers are looking for new ways to reach more customers, too. United’s first-class nuts provider, GNS Foods, is selling its fancy mixed nuts online now because of the pandemic. The Texas-based company provided United’s first-class Premium Nut Mixes until March when the airline removed the food from all flights to reduce contact between flight crew and passengers.

“Not only are we left with bags of mixes, we are also left with the raw ingredients and ingredient contracts from the suppliers,” GNS owner Kim Peacock said in a news release. So she has set up a way for people to buy them online. Elite Status nuts, a blend of whole cashews and whole almonds, and the first-class nut mix, a blend of cashews, almonds, pecans and pistachios, both start at about $24 for a two-pound bag, and they ship free within the United States.

Earlier this year, JetBlue also offloaded its for-purchase cheese and cracker trays through Imperfect Foods, a national U.S. grocery delivery company. The company sold 16,000 of the $2.99 snack packs, Imperfect Foods chief executive Philip Behn told The Post in May. JetBlue is no longer offering food for purchase on its U.S. routes, according to its website, to reduce physical transactions between flight crew and passengers.

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