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Qantas upgrades economy meals: bigger serves, boxed dinner packs

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, inflight meals

Qantas will move to serving boxed dinners in September as part of an overhaul of catering for domestic economy flights.

The new menu, developed in conjunction with one of the airline’s suppliers of business class meals, will offer a choice between a hot meal and a “substantial salad” for dinner on short-range and medium-range flights.

This will include all flights on the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne triangle, with Qantas also promising that serving sizes will be increased by “up to 50 percent”.

Hot meals which will appear on the menu include: 

  • Beer battered flathead fillets with seasoned wedges and lemon
  • Beef ragu with spaghetti and parmesan
  • Stir-fried honey chicken with hokkien noodles

Cold dishes will include: 

  • Thai style chargrilled beef with rice noodle salad
  • Lentil quinoa and falafel salad with pomegranate dressing
  • Pesto farfalle salad with prosciutto

After dinner, customers will be offered a Lindor Lindt chocolate ball. 

Qantas is already serving a boxed breakfast in economy on most domestic services, such as this one snapped by AusBT journalist Chris Chamberlin on a Brisbane-Sydney flight.

The revamped dinner service was trialled earlier this year, with an airline spokesperson telling Australian Business Traveller the tests “garnered really positive feedback from both a food and service perspective.”

Meal trays will be ditched on dinner services and replaced by boxes “to allow for faster meal delivery and clearing”, Qantas says, giving travellers "more space to dine and work with a laptop or tablet."

“By getting the trays out of people’s way, we’re able give our customers more room to work and relax inflight” suggests Helen Gray, Qantas’ Head of Domestic Product and Service.

“It will also speed things up, so crew can spend more time providing a personalised service.” 

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 21/8/14 by deany83

Hopefully better than the box containing spiced pumpkin dip and crackers we were given on a 5:20pm flight out of Adelaide. I thought being after 5pm, it'd be a dinner meal. 

1 on 21/8/14 by watson374

Dinner does not commence until 6pm.

2 on 21/8/14 by moa999

Dinner service has historically been flights departing 6pm - 8pm.

Always felt severely ripped off by QF547 (5.55pm BNE departure) particularly during daylight savings as it landed in Sydney at 8.30pm

1 on 21/8/14 by watson374

I will miss the tray dinners in Domestic Economy, as they were truly special in this modern day and age. To be served a piping hot dinner on an 0h85m triangle hop was something impossible to find anywhere else, and I really enjoyed them.

Nevertheless, it was perhaps inevitable that the tray breakfast and now tray dinner would be replaced by boxed meals as they are faster and cheaper for the airline. Now that there will be both a hot and cold dinner choice, one can only conclude the new trayless is an improvement and not merely an 'enhancement'.

I am inclined to believe the new boxed dinner will be for the better, but I remain flummoxed at how fish and chips will work in a microwave box.

1 on 21/8/14 by watson374

Damn, that wasn't supposed to be a reply.

I agree though that BNE flights infuriatingly tend to be just 5 minutes outside the window. Happens during breakfast too, e.g. the 0835 SYD-BNE.

2 on 22/8/14 by SeatNextToYours

The fish offering definitely sounds suspicious. Perhaps it will be steamed, rather than microwaved..? Mmmmm, steamed batter.

Definitely agree this will probably be an improvement though. The FAs might now have enough time to bring me that second drink on short hops, so I needn't suffer the indignity of requesting two to start with!

1 on 24/8/14 by watson374

If it wasn't battered, I'd be a lot less suss about it. I don't see how you could steam a cardboard box, though.

It would be lovely indeed to have a second drink! I've also noted that the chocolate offering is a step up over the old one. It used to just be a generic fun-size offering, like a Chocolate Frog or Mars Bar; the Lindt ball will be a classier, yet more enjoyable treat.

The only thing that worries me now is whether or not the bread will be removed! (It probably will be, along with the butter; this probably explains why the main course is being upsized.)

1 on 28/8/14 by SeatNextToYours

I'm no airline catering expert, but I somehow always thought that the hot meals were put through some large industrial steamer (rather than a microwave), prior to being loaded on board. I'd assumed that this might also be done to these battered bits before boxing...

As for the bread, perhaps a move to an edible box might be the answer. I personally would see little difference.

1 on 28/8/14 by watson374

I actually quite like the roll, but for many I can see the comparison to the box, edible or no.

I'm less worried about how they're going to cook the meal initially (before the rapid chilling, etc.), because I figured that fried fish can be done in large batches. I merely express befuddlement at how battered fish will be fried, chilled and reheated on board the aircraft.

3 on 22/8/14 by VHOEJ

I question the spin from the PR department about 'upgrades' meals...........anytime they say that, it is usually a downgrade. I like the concept of boxed meals, it works better. But until we actually see the meals and taste them, I wouldn't want to share a view either way. When QF do these changes, they usually are not well recieved because the quality declines.

4 on 22/8/14 by stewardnurse

If you have been a flyer for more than 15-20 years you would of seen this box service on domestic flights in the past. Good thing about it was when you finished you could close the lid and put the box on the floor and get your PC out,where with trays you hVe to wait for them to be collected.

1 on 22/8/14 by Longreach

You may  have  seen it.

5 on 22/8/14 by Brian

Qantas cops a lot of flak on this site (and rightly so in many cases), but let's give the devil his due on this one - it really does seem like a genuine enhancement.

1 on 22/8/14 by PuriPuriMan

Brian I admire your confidence in an as yet unseen/experienced product!  Or, perhaps I'm missing your subtlety ... another of the much appreciated 'enhancements' for our delectation ... ROFPML!

6 on 22/8/14 by Robin

I rather liked the sandwiches in a box, especially at lunch time. You can't expect serious hot food meals on a shortish flight, but some effort in the evenings is appreciated. Besides, I usually overindulge in pretty terrible food in QC before departure.

1 on 22/8/14 by Robert

Why is a meal service required on any flights less than two hours in business or back end!

1 on 22/8/14 by TheRealBabushka

Hear hear!

2 on 22/8/14 by Al

Totally agree, meal service on SYD-MEL or SYD-BNE really is pointless. Even in business class, those passengers have access to lounge at either end with better meals than they can get on the plane. Does anybody really say "Oh, I will fly with Qantas on SYD-MEL because they serve me a meal"? I doubt it.

1 on 23/8/14 by Robin

IN the early '70s, I worked for the federal government and we were able to fly first class everywhere dometically, a lost golden age. The early morning flight from Canberra to Sydney was a bizarre experience as the crew tried to feed cooked eggs to virtually everyone on the 727 in the 26 minutes it took to get to Mascot (yes, the flights were shorter in those days, less political interference with flight paths).

1 on 24/8/14 by watson374

I disagree.

If you need to leave the house by 0500, you can't pick up food on the way (and you're not likely to want to cook). Options in the terminal are poor, and not all elites or J pax have time to hit the lounge and load up on machine-made pancakes and Vittoria coffee. By the time you land and get into the CBD, you need to get cracking so you don't have time to faff about getting a bacon and egg roll.

Likewise, for dinner, if you close shop at 1700, you need to dash to the airport so you can't spend time getting char siu noodles in Chinatown. The options at the airport are again uninspiring, and again not all elites or J pax have time to hit the lounge. When you land back home, it's too late to get dinner, and you're too knackered to cook, soo...

I'm a fan of the 'express' trayless hot dinner. Faster, smarter dining, and we'll still be able to enjoy the usual Bright Red Beef Stew with Tasteless Pearl Couscous. The substatial salad is, I'm willing to bet, the same sort of cold packed meal as served to Chris on the CBR B717 in Y. Which, if I'm honest, didn't look too bad.

1 on 25/8/14 by abudhabi1

What you can do if flying on a very early plane is get something say a sandwich from a bakery the day before keep it in the fridge and take it to the airport likewise at night depending on the airport you might be able to get something decent thing but the choices can be limited.

7 on 22/8/14 by Mayan

No vegetarian/vegan options >__<

1 on 22/8/14 by Al

What do you call a salad?

1 on 22/8/14 by Chris

I'm sure you can continue to order a special meal...

1 on 25/8/14 by abudhabi1

i think special meals only exist on the Breakfast,lunch and Dinner services You can't get anything for refreshments so in that sense get something before you go.In Adelaide we have Subway outside the airport now.

8 on 22/8/14 by bossaboy

I enjoy reading all these comments..... Hate to bring you more bad news but I'm sure it will get worse....  I'm assuming the meals you're talking about are NOT charged ? ...  We Americans last saw a free airline meal TEN years ago.. Nowadays you have to buy your chow... and I'd consider you lucky if they throw a free bag of pretzels at you !! ... Welcome to continually degraded airline service ! 

1 on 23/8/14 by Colin

Hawaiian still have free food :-) 

2 on 24/8/14 by Robert


As an Australin living i the US fo 30 years why is the US  standard that sadly you expect as the norm.The world does not center on the US airline standard and rightly so.

1 on 24/8/14 by watson374

America is the land of the free.

Australia is the land of the free airline meal.

2 on 7/9/14 by bossaboy

Hi Robert...

What I was getting at is the inexorable degradation of airline 'service' as a consequence of deregulation and the 'Southwest Effect', etc.  There are exceptions such as the Emirates and the like.  The early, evolving US airline industry pioneered new routes,service and technology but the Golden Age of air travel has sadly passed.  There is nothing sacred about US preeminence and it is definitely  declining over the years.  

Just my humble opinion as a former 27 year airline employee whose job was outsourced years ago. QF has done and is sure to do more of the same.

9 on 27/8/14 by the flight guy

Watson 374, When flying by QANTAS you pay for food and entertainment in your ticket... That's why when serving food you do not pay in the aircraft! 

10 on 27/8/14 by the flight guy

Will there be dinner service or proper meals to darwin?


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