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The Next Normal

Economy Inflight F&B Experience




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The world is still struggling with the harsh realities of the pandemic.

Entire countries and cities have been locked down, the aviation sector has been brought to a standstill and social distancing has become mandatory.

Some have moved on from this freeze frame to focus on cost reduction, digitalization of the customer experience, automation, and restructuring their organizations in previously unimagined ways.

Come the second half of this year, airlines will be back to chasing customers again.

Most will be anxious to showcase their updated experiences, tailored to the current situation, while at the same time reassuring customers that the immaculate service and personal attention for which they are renowned is still in place.

Bring your own snacks rather than risk fomite transmission from the crew.

Anything that reduces interaction between you and the crew and you and the guest next to you in economy is a plus.

Wipe the air nozzle with a sanitizing towelette before adjusting.

Source: Dr Erin Bromage

Flying in the age of COVID-19

In response, IATA has recommended no F&B service on high risk routes, minimal service on medium risk routes and normal service on low risk routes. ICAO, on the other hand, has recommended that airlines not provide any F&B service.

Data on its own will not improve patient experience, there has to actionable information available and there needs to be a commitment to take action (Ahmed, Burt & Roland, 2014).

In fact, Coulter et al (2014) raised concern that despite the NHS implementing a thorough programme of PX measurement in 2013, there was no system in place to ensure the data improved performance.  This concern was confirmed in a study of all 153 NHS trusts which showed the results of the NHS patient satisfaction studies in various constructs did not lead to improvements in performance (Locock et al, 2020).  Below is the summary of patient experience dimensions included in different studies.  

Dimensions used in PX across studies are presented in the table below:

The standard ‘customer satisfaction (CX)  measurement systems’ in healthcare or to be precise  - ‘patient experience (PX) measurements’ do not provide actionable feedback on what or how things need to be improved, which has been highlighted as most desirable by healthcare facility managers(Barry et al, 2015; Coulter et al 2014). PX measures also do not provide the much-needed ability to benchmark against other health care providers (Barry et al, 2016). Patients are not experts on health care service delivery (Ahmed et al, 2014; Barry et al, 2016), many have different expectations, which biases the results (Ahmet et al 2014)and most will have few comparison points to make a judgement on patient experiences.

Customer Experience (CX)/Patient Experience (PX) measures also assume that measuring customer attitudes of service provision is a valid measure of the service provision on offer(rather than actually measuring the service provision) (Sharp, Page &Dawes, 2000).

Objective measures of service quality by industry professionals are rare in practice, with the exception of mystery shopping, which is considered a marketing research-based variant of participant observation (Sharp, Page & Dawes, 2000). Across industries, mystery shopping has been demonstrated to be reliable and valid as a measure of customer experience(Dawes, Sharp & Adelaide, 2000) and the dimensions that emerge from mystery shopping generally resemble SERVQUAL dimensions. More specifically, simulated patient studies, known as ‘pseudo-patients’ (Lazarus, 2009) have demonstrated robustness over other patient satisfaction measures that include reduced recall bias, social desirability bias and elimination of bias from demographic factors (Campbell et al, 2013; Goodrich & Lazenby, 2022) and should be part of a health facility’s PX improvement programme (Lazarus, 2009).  

Mystery shopping more broadly has been used extensively in health care scenarios (Jacob et al, 2018) and has been demonstrated in one clinical setting to increase net margins by over 14 percent within 18 months of implementation (O’Neill et al, 2012) and in others, it contributed to significant improvements in PX, along with improvements in employee satisfaction and engagement (Garantino et al, 2013; Daouk-Öyry, 2018).

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So, what to do?

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But what qualities of an airline or independent lounge are important to guests? The research on important dimensions used in assessing lounge quality across key industry and academic studies are presented in the table below:

Nearly all airlines are planning to offer some limited F&B. Like the variance between the IATA and ICAO advice, there are major differences between the planned offerings of various airlines. Some intend to provide almost nothing on short sectors and a cold box on long – in all classes.

Other airlines are planning to offer a bag or amenity pack with snacks and juice on short sectors and a substantial single-dish hot meal on economy long.

At Yates+ our F&B practice has looked at this from every angle. We have focused on three factors:

  • reducing interaction between crew and customers.
  • minimizing face-to-face contact as far as possible.
  • making masks compulsory for all guests to help reduce the risk of neighbor-to-neighbor transfer.

Of course, when guests are dining the masks are off and that increases the risk.

To reduce the possibilities for contact transfer, some airlines are taking all paper, pillows, blankets, head rest covers and surfaces potentially linked to fomite transfer off the aircraft.

Guests who need a pillow or blanket will be asked to request these via their app. Pillows and blankets will come in sterile packaging.

To take this further and to learn how the lounge audit is processed.

¹ Cholkongka, N. (2019). Identification of service quality competency framework for the lounge attendants: a case of a privately-owned airline in Thailand. ABAC Journal 39(4) , 123-150.

² Nghiêm-Phú, B. (2017). An analysis of airline/airport lounge service using data gathered from Asia Pacfic Journal of Advanced Business and Social Studies, 4(1), 127-134

³ YATES+ have taken the decision to include sustainability and keeping guests safe as these are notable in the strategic plan of many airline, airport and lounge operators and have received a lot of attention in the wider media. A number of studies highlight the importance of cleanliness of lounges and lavatories which is an important part of the perception of “keeping me safe”.  The following studies also support the addition of “sustainability” as important in lounge and airport experiences:
• Abdel-Gayed, A. H., Hassan, T. H., Abdou, A. H., Abdelmoaty, M. A., Saleh, M. I., & Salem, A. E. (2023). Travelers’ Subjective Well-Being as an Environmental Practice: Do Airport Buildings’ Eco-Design, Brand Engagement, and Brand Experience Matter?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 20(2), 938.
• Han, H., Lho, L. H., & Kim, H. C. (2019). Airport green environment and its influence on visitors’ psychological health and behaviors. Sustainability, 11(24), 7018

⁴ Cholkongka, N. (2019). Identification of service quality competency framework for the lounge attendants: a case of a privately-owned airline in Thailand. ABAC Journal, 39(4), 123-150.

⁵ Chua, B. L., Lee, S., Kim, H. C., & Han, H. (2017). Investigating the key drivers of traveler loyalty in the airport lounge setting. Asia Pacific Journal of Tourism Research, 22(6), 651-665.

⁶ Curkan, S. C., & Özkan, E. (2021). The effect of airline lounge services on the selection of airline. Journal of multidisciplinary academic tourism, 6(1), 17-26.

⁷ Han, S., Ham, S. S., Yang, I., & Baek, S. (2012). Passengers’ perceptions of airline lounges: Importance of attributes that determine usage and service quality measurement. Tourism Management, 33(5), 1103-1111.

⁸ Aditya Julio, S. E. Proposed service quality improvement using servqual method and importance performance analysis (ipa) of sultan executive lounge in sm badaruddin ii airport. Second International Conference on Theory and Practice (ICTP-2016), 28th and 29th, October, Melbourne, Australia
ISBN: 9780 9943 65613

⁹ Kim, Y. J., Ban, H. J., Kim, D. H., & Kim, H. S. (2020). Understanding customer experience of airline lounge using text mining of online review. Culinary Science & Hospitality Research, 26(2), 36-44.

¹⁰ Farris, P.W., Bendle, N., Pfeifer, P.E. & Reibstein, D.  (2010).  Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance.  Pearson: London

¹¹ Sharp, B., Page, N. and Dawes, J., 2000. A new approach to customer satisfaction, service quality and relationship quality research. Australian & NZ Marketing Academy Conference Proceedings, Griffith University.

¹²  See:
• Fisher, N. I., & Kordupleski, R. E. (2019). Good and bad market research: A critical review of Net Promoter Score. Applied Stochastic Models in Business and Industry, 35(1), 138-151.
• Keiningham, T. L., Cooil, B., Andreassen, T. W., & Aksoy, L. (2007). A longitudinal examination of net promoter and firm revenue growth. Journal of Marketing, 71(3), 39-51.);
• Kristensen, K., & Eskildsen, J. (2014). Is the NPS a trustworthy performance measure?. The TQM Journal, 26(2), 202-214.
• Mecredy, P., Wright, M. J., & Feetham, P. (2018). Are promoters valuable customers? An application of the net promoter scale to predict future customer spend. Australasian Marketing Journal, 26(1), 3-9.
• Romaniuk, J., Nguyen, C., & East, R. (2011). The accuracy of self-reported probabilities of giving recommendations. International Journal of Market Research, 53(4), 507-521.
• Pingitore, G., Morgan, N. A., Rego, L. L., Gigliotti, A., & Meyers, J. (2007). The Single-Question Trap. Marketing Research, 19(2).
• Sharp, B. (2006), “Net promoter score fails the test”, Marketing Research, Vol. 20No. 4, pp. 28-30.
Also see [] to see that according to this source Airlines such as Aeroflot, United Airlines and Thomas Cook score significantly higher than award winning airlines such as Singapore Airlines. Not surprisingly, this leads to industry experts to questioning the validity of the NPS.

¹³  Sharp, B., Page, N. and Dawes, J., 2000. A new approach to customer satisfaction, service quality and relationship quality research. Australian & NZ Marketing Academy Conference Proceedings, Griffith University.

¹⁴  Dawes, J., Sharp, B., & Adelaide, N. T. (2000). The reliability and validity of objective measures of customer service: Mystery Shopping. Australian Journal of Market Research, 8(1), 29-46.

¹⁵ Lowndes, M., & Dawes, J. (2001). Do distinct SERVQUAL dimensions emerge from mystery shopping data? A test of convergent validity. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 16(2), 41-53.

¹⁶  Halvorsrud, R., Kvale, K., & Følstad, A. (2016). Improving service quality through customer journey analysis. Journal of service theory and practice, 26(6), 840-867.

F&B Economy

Short Sector

Sustainable amenity pack offered to guests as they step on board.

Pack could contain tetra pack water, tetra pack juice, snacks, sanitizing wipes and a spare mask.

Medium and Long Sector

Sustainable amenity pack offered to guests as they step on board. At the appropriate time hot meal service. Choice of two dishes. Guests choose their dish via the app. Crew can see the guest’s name and dish choice on a screen on top of the cart.

This will enable an element of sociability as the PPE, masked and face visor protected crew use the guest’s name and repeat the dish selection when passing the small tray to the window seat even.The tray should be an underplate size to minimize potential fomite transfer and present a smaller surface for the guest to have to sanitize. No other items on the tray except the sealed cutlery pack in sterile wrap.

The hot meal can be substantial, up to 300 gm. It should also be sealed and display a food safety and hygiene procedures certification.A beverage should be offered with the main dish – water, fruit juice, beer or wine. Again, economy customers choose and request this via their app.

There are 20,000 inflight items delivered to a widebody long-haul aircraft for every flight. Items such as food, beverage, soft furnishings, and catering equipment.

We need to satisfy our guests and cabin crew that each item has gone through rigorous processes to guarantee it is COVID-19 free.

It is our responsibility, and opportunity, now to make changes to outdated practices.

Let’s re-design the onboard inflight service to be more practical, maintain the same high-quality F&B  standards but presented in a simpler easier format.

And let’s offload a lot of that redundant equipment.


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2023). [available:]. Accessed 19th February 2024.

Ahmed, F., Burt, J., & Roland, M. (2014). Measuring patient experience: concepts and methods. The Patient-Patient-Centered Outcomes Research, 7, 235-241.

Barry, H. E., Campbell, J. L., Asprey, A., & Richards, S. H. (2016). The use of patient experience survey data by out-of-hours primary care services: a qualitative interview study. BMJ Quality & Safety, 25(11), 851-859.

Campbell, J. L., Carter, M., Davey, A., Roberts, M. J., Elliott, M. N., & Roland, M. (2013). Accessing primary care: a simulated patient study. British Journal of General Practice, 63(608), e171-e176.

Coulter, A., Fitzpatrick, R., & Cornwell, J. (2009). Measures of patients' experience in hospital: purpose, methods and uses (pp. 7-9). London: King's Fund.

Coulter, A., Locock, L., Ziebland, S., & Calabrese, J. (2014). Collecting data on patient experience is not enough: they must be used to improve care. BMJ, 348.

Dawes, J., Sharp, B., & Adelaide, N. T. (2000). The reliability and validity of objective measures of customer service: Mystery shopping. Australian Journal of Market Research, 8(1), 29-46.

Daouk-Öyry, L., Alameddine, M., Hassan, N., Laham, L. & Soubra, M. (2018). The catalytic role of Mystery Patient tools in shaping patient experience: A method to facilitate value co-creation using action research. PLoS ONE, 13(10): 1-17 e0205262.

Granatino, R., Verkamp, J., & Stephen Parker, R. (2013). The use of secret shopping as a method of increasing engagement in the healthcare industry: A case study. International Journal of Healthcare Management, 6(2), 114-121.

Goodrich, G. W., & Lazenby, J. M. (2023). Elements of patient satisfaction: An integrative review. Nursing Open, 10(3), 1258-1269.

Jacob, S., Schiffino, N., & Biard, B. (2018). The mystery shopper: a tool to measure public service delivery?. International Review of Administrative Sciences, 84(1), 164-184.

Jenkinson, C., Coulter, A., Bruster, S., Richards, N., & Chandola, T. (2002). Patients’ experiences and satisfaction with health care: results of a questionnaire study of specific aspects of care. Quality and safety in health care, 11(4), 335-339.

Johansson, P., Oleni, M., & Fridlund, B. (2002). Patient satisfaction with nursing care in the context of health care: a literature study. Scandinavian journal of caring sciences, 16(4), 337-344.

LaVela, S. L., & Gallan, A. (2014). Evaluation and measurement of patient experience. Patient Experience Journal, 1(1), 28-36.

Lazarus, A. (2009). Improving psychiatric services through mystery shopping. Psychiatric services, 60 7, 972-3 .

Lee, W. I., & Lin, C. H. (2011). Consumer hierarchical value map modeling in the healthcare service industry. African Journal of Business Management, 5(3), 722.

Locock, L., Graham, C., King, J., Parkin, S., Chisholm, A., Montgomery, C., ... & Ziebland, S. (2020). Understanding how front-line staff use patient experience data for service improvement: an exploratory case study evaluation. Health Services and Delivery Research, 8(13).

Lowndes, M., & Dawes, J. (2001). Do distinct SERVQUAL dimensions emerge from mystery shopping data? A test of convergent validity. Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation, 16(2), 41-53.

O'Neill, S., Calderon, S., Casella, J., Wood, E., Carvelli-Sheehan, J., & Zeidel, M. L. (2012). Improving outpatient access and patient experiences in academic ambulatory care. Academic Medicine, 87(2), 194-199.

Sharp, B., Page, N. and Dawes, J., 2000. A new approach to customer satisfaction, service quality and relationship quality research. Australian & NZ Marketing Academy Conference Proceedings, Griffith University.

Werner Kimmeringer

Werner has extraordinary depth at the Senior Management level in Culinary, F&B and Guest Experience with world class airlines.

He is very hands on with transformational project management, yet inspirational in cuisine philosophy.

Werner is firmly established as a respected, global airline Culinary and F&B specialist.