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Why skipping inflight meals could be good for the planet

Cabin crew members can sometimes eat leftover, untouched meals.

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Window or aisle? Near the lavatory or closer to the cockpit? Meal or no meal?

When Gilbert Ott was specifying the booking of his overnight New York to London flight, he noticed something new in the list of meal preferences: in addition to options like a kosher or vegetarian meal, there was the choice to skip food service entirely.

He duly chose no food. It’s something, he says, all air passengers should think about doing.

“I skip meals no matter how I fly,” says Ott, who wrote about his experience on his blog, God Save the Points. “The idea of eating at midnight throws off your whole next day, and I think there’s credible science that it hurts your ability to recover from jet lag.”

While not everyone is as thrilled with the prospect of skipping meals on board as Ott is, a few airlines, including Delta (which Ott was flying) and Japan Airlines (JAL), are using the “thanks but no thanks” option.

The jury is still out on whether this will catch on with passengers long term.

Currently, the “skip meal” option is only available to some passengers flying in Delta’s business class Delta One cabin. A rep from the airline tells CNN that since the program started last year, about 1,000-1,500 meals are voluntarily declined each month.

That means only .3% of eligible passengers are opting out. But it’s a test case for what airlines could do to reduce fuel, costs and waste on board.

According to airlines, the “no meals” option isn’t just about being eco-friendly. It’s also about personalization.

“We’re always looking for ways to better serve our customers and create a more personalized onboard experience,” says a rep from Delta.

Meals also represent an opportunity for airlines to gather more customer data and potentially better optimize catering options.

Critics of meal-skipping programs say that airlines might be “greenwashing” by trying to hide a corner-cutting measure under the veneer of…

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