2014-07-01

in-flight catering

Dear KLM,

This is about in-flight catering. No, not the service you provide on your long-distance flights, where I can order a special meal which doesn't contain animal products. You usually manage to keep these meals animal-free - even though I've already found the occasional piece of Gouda cheese wrapped in plastic on my VGML tray, such as during flight KL0612 from Chicago to Amsterdam on 19 May 2013. But let's not over-emphasize this slip. Usually you do reasonably well on long-distance flights.
This is about the snacks you provide on short- and medium-haul flights. During my past four flights with your airline I was offered the following snacks:
13 June 2014: KL 1771 Amsterdam - Frankfurt: Cheese balls
15 June 2014: KL 1768 Frankfurt - Amsterdam: Stroopwafels (containing dairy butter and eggs)
26 June 2014: KL 1671 Amsterdam - Barcelona: Sandwiches (chicken and cheese)
30 June 2014: KL 1672 Barcelona - Amsterdam: Sandwiches (ham and cheese)
I asked in all cases whether there were any vegan options available, such as the usual pretzels or nuts which other airlines offer, or a banana or apple, or (for the slightly advanced selection) a sandwich with, e.g., hummus and grilled veggies, or guacamole and grilled tofu, or grilled mushrooms with tomatoes, or grilled zucchini, peppers, or eggplant, or peanut butter and jelly. The answer: Nee. No. Nix. Niente. Nada. Zilch. On the last flight, the (pun intended) cheesy Dutch flight attendant cheerfully suggested that I remove the cheese from the cheese sandwich and just have the bread (which, I am sure, contained some kind of hidden animal product as well, e.g. milk, whey powder, or eggs, like most Dutch bread).
Honestly, I don't understand why. I mean, I am a participant in your frequent flyer program. You know me, you know my passport number, my phone number, my e-mail address, my meal preferences, my seat preferences, my upcoming flights, and all kinds of other things about me. Is it so difficult to add 1+1 when I book a flight and reserve a banana for me? And if that's too complicated: Why not go the easy route and offer a 100% plant-based option for everyone who doesn't explicitly demand meat? A nice whole wheat baguette with any of the above toppings instead of the usual slice-of-cheese-on-butter would serve vegetarians and vegans alike - and on top of it all, it would save you money (plants are usually less expensive than animal products). And since KLM always emphasizes sustainability and corporate social responsibility, you would even have a neat marketing story to tell, because plant-based food only has a fraction of the eco footprint of animal-based products. I know, you're Dutch, and the Dutch love their cheese and meat. Still, I am sure most of them would not object trying something new, if it's fresh, visually attractive, and seasoned tastily.
I know, freedom of choice is important in this culture. But honestly: How free were you really in your choice to consume all these animal products from toddler age to now? Wasn't that choice actually made for you by your parents, the institutions you were members of, and society at large? And didn't you simply comply with it, because it's what everybody did? And wouldn't it be possible to offer the desirable (healthier, more sustainable, more ethical) behavioral option as the default option, with the opportunity to actively opt out instead of having to opt in or not even offering it at all? Social scientists call this choice editing: making the more desirable choice more attractive than the non-desirable choice, for example by making it cheaper or more readily available. You already do this in other areas: The more sustainable seat in economy class is the default option, and everyone who wants more leg space (Economy Comfort) or a bigger, more comfortable seat (Business Class) has to actively choose these options and pay extra.
Just imagine: If you traveled with 80% yummy vegan sandwiches (or cookies, or pretzels, or stroopwafels) on those short- and medium-distance flights, and only with 20% products that contain animal products, and would offer the vegan option by default and only hand out the meat to those people who actively demand it: You would make a massive difference in terms of sustainability and animal welfare, would actively promote the health of your passengers, and probably also save money in the process. And apart from that, we vegans who won't eat your meat and cheese would also have a snack on board and wouldn't have to bring our own bag of nuts or dried fruits, even though we had to pay the same ticket price as everyone else. A win for everyone involved.
Check out this short, but informative video, produced by Dutch catering consultant Natascha Kooiman. And then take your responsibility seriously and change.



Your next chances to prove you understood are coming up soon:
KL 1767 from Amsterdam to Frankfurt on 11 July 2014,
KL 1823 from Amsterdam to Berlin on 17 July 2014, and
KL 1826 from Berlin to Amsterdam on 20 July 2014.

I will happily accept a banana or a bag of pretzels or nuts instead of cheese balls or stroopwafels.

Love,
Me.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree with this post... Why not just one simple and healthy snackon the menu? Something that is a good option not just for the average meat-eating Joe but also for the vegetarian, the vegan, the lactose-intolerant and kosher/halal eaters? Just one snack to satisfy them all!

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