The idea of hoarding plane food might seem stingy at best – and downright ludicrous at worst. After all, in-flight cuisine has something of a bad reputation. Why would you want to eat more of it than is strictly necessary?
But airline meals have come a long way from the inedible gruel of yore. Thanks to the assistance of food scientists and talented cooks - even Heston Blumenthal did a few shifts in the British Airways kitchen back in 2011 - it’s now possible to have a perfectly satisfying supper at 35,000 feet.
So why stop at just one? Can passengers reasonably ask flight attendants for a second hot meal? Or a third? And what about a few more bags of nuts while you’re at it?
Having spoken to a handful of airlines, the answer is a resounding yes.
“If a customer requests additional food, be it a bag of pretzels or an ice cream, we will always try to accommodate,” said a Virgin Atlantic spokeswoman. On the subject of hot meals, she added: “If we have some left at the end of service then we can always offer another.”
British Airways no longer offers free meals on short-haul flights. But for long-haul flights, where food and drink is included, they have a similar policy. “In the highly unlikely event that a customer asks for an extra meal our cabin crew will accommodate where possible,” the company said, with a somewhat surprising nod to the unpalatable reputation of plane food.
An Aeroflot spokesman added: “Requests for extra food from passengers are not turned down. Passengers who ask for an extra meal will be given one, subject to availability.”
So how often will there be leftovers? According to frequent fliers, more often than not.
Stephan Segraves, co-host of the air travel podcast Dots, Lines, and Destinations, told Condé Nast Traveler: “The times I have [asked for an extra helping] in economy were because I was coming straight from work, usually running late for the flight and with no time to grab something in the terminal. “I would ask the crew for an extra if they had any when they were done with service. They usually were a little surprised, and one even said, ‘You sure you want seconds of this?’ But all obliged.”
Nik Loukas, founder of the InflightFeed blog, added: “I've asked for seconds a few times. I know it sounds kind of weird asking for airline food seconds — but sometimes I've been quite hungry, or the portions were small. I just politely ask the crew, and I’ve yet to be met with a ‘no’ answer.”
So if you’re still hungry after your first meal, don’t be shy – ask for more. You may even want to pop a hot meal, or at the very least a few bags of crisps and a sandwich, in your carry-on bag for consumption at a later time. It could save you a few quid.
Hoarding plane food could help save the planet
As well as saving yourself a bit of cash, asking for an extra plane meal could have environmental benefits. That’s because if there’s any fresh food left over at the end of a flight, it’s simply thrown in the bin.
“At the end of the flight ambient sealed items that have not been used or contaminated will be reused on another flight,” confirmed Virgin. “Our fresh products will be thrown away as we have to be compliant to all food safety regulations and international food legislative regulations.”
So scooping up all these leftovers will prevent perfectly good grub, and its packaging, ending up in a landfill. Plastic waste is a hot topic and the airline industry is responsible for producing more than five million tonnes of rubbish every year, according to the International Air Transport Association, and with few exceptions most of that ends up being incinerated or thrown into a very deep hole. Barely anything is recycled. So do your bit to help.
Can I just help myself to extra food?
Now you’ve gone too far. While this correspondent has witnessed passengers helping themselves to Johnnie Walker and cokes on a flight to Delhi (with the tacit approval of cabin crew), flight attendants will usually be extremely annoyed to find you rummaging around the galley looking for another tub of Pringles. “Yes, you may ask politely [for more free food],” Nuralia Mazlan, a Kuala Lumpur-based flight attendant, told the website Quora. “If a passenger came to me asking if there's anything for them to munch on, I always give them anything that’s available. But don’t simply raid the galley - where are your manners?” We wouldn’t dream of it.