To Eat or Not to Eat: The Five-Hour Redeye Meal Dilemma

The Five-Hour Redeye Meal Dilemma

On my way from Europe to Japan earlier this month, I had a one-day stopover in Dubai, and a one-day stopover in Bangkok for the Royal Thai Air Force Children’s Day.

With the crazy itinerary consisting of three five-hour redeye flights in a row, I started thinking about meal service provided on those flights.

Basically, I thought the two choices were: wait for the meal and lose some valuable sleeping time, or skip the meal and enjoy the extra sleeping time.

While that is more or less the case, the service style on the third flight, with Japan Airlines, showed me another, perhaps the best, way airlines can deal with meals on this type of flights.

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Redeye #1: “Do Not Disturb” Sticker

My first flight, with Emirates from Vienna to Dubai, was scheduled to depart at 10:00PM, and arrive at 5:20AM. Knowing that I would have very limited sleep for the next three nights, I decided to skip the meal and stuck the “Do Not Disturb” sticker on my seat, and went to sleep.

About an hour after take-off, I was woken up by the crew asking whether I wanted to have dinner.

I certainly wasn’t in the mood for a meal after being woken up from fairly deep sleep in the middle of the night. …and the “Do Not Disturb” sticker certainly did not serve its purpose.

Redeye #2: Staying Awake for the Meal

As my second flight, Dubai to Bangkok, was departing at 8:15PM, I decided to stay awake for the meal which was served shortly after 9PM – a bit late for a meal, but still reasonable.

In either case, waiting for the meal and eating the meal cost me at least an hour of sleep.

Redeye #3: The Japanese “Omotenashi” Way

The final of my three night airplane stay was onboard JAL. The flight from Bangkok to Tokyo Narita was scheduled to depart at 10:25PM and arrive at 6:15AM.

Being exhausted, I fell asleep right after take-off.

I did not stay awake for the meal. I was not waken up by the crew.

I had good few hours of sleep and woke up one hour before landing.

On my seat, I found a sticker saying “as you were sleeping, you missed the meal service. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to let the crew know.”

Just as I was thinking about pressing the call button and asking for a cup of juice, one of the crew members was passing the aisle.

Noticing the sticker her or her colleague had placed on my seat earlier, she immediately approached me with “would you like to have your meal?” Within seconds, she brought the tray.

I felt refreshed after a fairly good sleep.

I didn’t feel like I missed out on the meal.

I was the only passenger having a meal at that time.

The experience, while so simple, felt very personal and premium – even though I was in one of the last rows of the aircraft.

Final Thoughts

While I am even questioning the need for a meal on this kind of flights, I also understand there are people who are “are in different timezone” as a result of a long journey. Still, my guess would be that in most cases, it makes the most sense to skip the meal.

Without a doubt, the JAL approach is the most considerate one. However, I understand that not all airlines are willing to offer that kind of service in economy.

Personally, I would be OK with not being woken up for meal in this kind of situation by default, but I understand some people might not like that. As such, I wish more airlines would, at least, implement the “Do Not Disturb” stickers (and make them work).

Have you ever had an experience similar to my experience with JAL? If so with which airline?

What are your thoughts about meals on this kind of flights?

Do you usually eat the meal or just skip it and head straight to sleep?

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