In what appears to be an industry first, Japan Airlines is taking a page from hotel chains’ waste-saving initiatives and rewarding travellers who opt out from meals.

Dubbed “Ethical Choice Meal Skip Option”, the initiative is exclusively available on the Oneworld alliance carrier’s Bangkok to Tokyo Haneda red-eye flight (JL34).

Travellers who wish to opt out must do so at least 25 hours prior to departure through the JAL website, similar to pre-booking a meal.

In return, business class passengers will receive an upgraded amenity kit typically offered on long-haul routes. Meanwhile, participating economy and premium economy class passengers will receive a regional business class amenity kit.

The programme will help JAL cut food and other inflight waste, as well as reduce costs in a challenging operating environment

A JAL spokesperson told Business Traveller:

“From experience, we found that a number of customers prefer to skip the meal service [on red-eye flights from Southeast Asia], which results in food waste. We will continue to review customer feedback and may decide to expand the service in the near future.

“The Bangkok to Tokyo Haneda route was selected as we operate six flights each week and departs past midnight. Therefore, it served as an ideal route to conduct the trial.”

Other carriers are also approaching the 1.3 billion-tonne food waste problem with novel solutions. For example, Qantas and Singapore Airlines have done away with economy class appetisers in favour of larger main courses, while Air New Zealand, Emirates, and Etihad are resorting to waste recovery and artificial intelligence.

JAL’s approach draws parallels with global hotel chains, such as IHG and Marriott, which have traditionally let guests decline housekeeping in return for loyalty points, food and beverage credit, or other perks at participating properties.

The programmes by the hotel industry date back to about 2009, when Starwood (later acquired by Marriott) launched “Make a Green Choice”. Through the initiative, guests receive between 250 or 500 points per day for declining housekeeping. Prior to the pandemic, more than 2,800 Marriott hotels in North America took part, according to The Washington Post.

Marriott’s programme has since been discontinued, according to One Mile at a Time, as declining housekeeping becomes more commonplace due to Covid-19.