When Airlines Serve Arrival Meals Too Early

As a student traveling China by rail, regardless of time of arrival, an early morning blast of news followed by commotion of sales carts and other activity would ensue way too early.

Many airlines are the same. I assume it is convenient for flight attendants to get arrival meals out of the way early, allowing a buffer for things to settle down prior to arrival. How early is too early?

Korean Air is hard to fault in its in-flight experience, even economy has a candidate for best meal in the sky, bibimbap, and on-demand instant noodles. Their in-flight magazine publishes tables of meal service times and the arrival meals always seem to me way too early.

Korean Air Meal Timing

Take the Seoul-Incheon to Brisbane flight. Departs 20:05 local time and arrives 06:50 local, a flight just under 10 hours. Lights come on full brightness at the 7th hour, 04:00 Brisbane, for drink service. A full hour later, breakfast is served. This is by design and according to their published plan. Kudos for it being a real meal, not some Continental tray (even their Continental option is good). I could chug a dozen of the seafood seasoning packs that go with the porridge.

Korean Air Porridge

The meal is wrapped up a solid 2 hours prior to arrival and the lights are left on for the remainder. The gap between beverage and meal is unnecessary, or if it is needed then skip the separate drink service. Then the 8th hour wake would be less disruptive if even could be pushed back.

Readers, what airlines time things right? Yes, in this day we should be grateful for proper airline meals at all.

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  • Charles (CMK10)

    I’m glad you mentioned this. I flew ORD-ICN in Business (Prestige technically) earlier this year and the second meal was served five hours before landing.

  • Phoenix

    I’m a slow eater, so I would personally prefer not being rushed through any meal.

  • @Phoenix – what time prior to arrival do you think is the sweet spot to serve the meal?

  • Harold

    I fly KE between ICN and SFO or IAD regularly, and while most everything about KE’s in-flight service in economy is excellent, the timing of the second meal makes me insane. Just when I’ve finally fallen asleep, they turn on all the lights, serve a meal, clear up, and turn off the lights so everyone can sleep two or three more hours.

  • Phoenix

    @Stefan probably depends on exactly which meals are served. For morning or mid-afternoon arrivals where lighter meals are served you can push it closer (maybe 60-90 mins before arrival), but if lunch or dinner are served as the last meal, I want to enjoy it! I say at 2 hours min before arrival.

    A bit of time for your stomach to settle before the descent is also nice, I will also add.

  • @Phoenix – 2 is fine by me, the Korean ones where it is as much as 4-5 for their longest haul are excessive to me.