Air New Zealand Eyes Changes To Its Domestic Inflight Catering

Air New Zealand is to trial ways to improve the food and beverage offering on its domestic flights. The airline has spent most of the last decade offering passengers a choice of cookies or corn chips. Now, Air New Zealand is open to expanding the inflight catering options.

Air New Zealand is trialing new food and beverage options on its domestic flights. Photo: Getty Images

After six years, have the corn chips had their day at Air New Zealand?

Air New Zealand’s domestic product is nothing to get excited about. Comprising Airbus A320s, A321s, ATR 72-500s, and Dash 8-300s, the all-economy class fleet gets its passengers from city to city safely, efficiently, and with few frills.

The food and inflight beverage service on Air New Zealand’s domestic services reflects this. Except for the eternally popular Koru Hour flights, the aircraft’s catering cart mostly sticks to tea, coffee, and the longstanding cookies or corn chips snack.

Given the longest domestic flight in New Zealand (Auckland to Invercargill) is just over two hours, that’s all most people need. But it looks like Air New Zealand is admitting even corn chips can get old.

“In the spirit of changing things up, over the next four weeks, we’re trialling ways we can improve our food and beverage offering,” said Air New Zealand’s Customer GM, Leanne Langridge, on LinkedIn on Friday.

“We know our customers love the cookie and chip combo, but what if there’s something else?”

Short flight times and an all-economy cabin means catering is kept simple on Air New Zealand domestic services. Photo: Getty Images

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Air New Zealand co-opting its passengers in catering trial

Because the airline is trialing an idea rather than rolling out a set-in-stone product, Air New Zealand will be co-opting its passengers as guinea pigs – in the nicest possible way.

“For all of our good ideas and intentions, the only true experts on customer experience are our customers,” says Ms Langridge.

According to the Air New Zealand executive, there are three stages to the trial. First, the airline wants to “try a new way of working.” Second, Air New Zealand wants to test new ideas and new ways of doing things. Finally, the airline wants to see how the proposed changes run.

The proposed reboot of the inflight food and beverage offering is the first standalone trial. If it goes well, Leanne Langridge suggests Air New Zealand may be open to rebuilding the airline, bit by bit, using the three-stage process. She argues it can make Air New Zealand a better airline for its owners, employees, and passengers.

“By opening ourselves up to feedback, we learn how to create a great experience for our customers.”

The trial will run for four weeks. Photo: Getty Images

Air New Zealand customers liking the idea

It’s early days, but judging by the feedback, the trial will prove a hit with passengers.

“Love it. The people closest to the customers are the customers. Involving them in developing improvements is taking interest-based problem solving to a whole new level,” said one comment.

People aren’t asking for the world. Most people know a hot meal with a side salad and a few wine pours isn’t a realistic time or cost option on a 45-minute flight to Wellington. But fruit, muesli bars, gluten-free biscuits, chocolates, and the availability of alcohol (outside Koru Hours) are some of the suggestions posted.

“One idea I loved when I used to fly in the UK was between 06:00-08:30 you could get a small panini with either omelet or ham in it. Kept me going!” suggested another response.

Air New Zealand is not going to reinvent the wheel here. And they don’t have to – Air New Zealand is the most dominant domestic airline in New Zealand by a country mile. But changing up the domestic food and beverage offering is one small step in the process of continuous improvement and evolution.

Leanne Langridge is encouraging feedback. She asks passengers not to be shy in coming forward.

“We’ll be using the age-old thumbs up, thumbs down approach onboard.”