Skip to main content
Best News Website or Mobile Service
WAN-IFRA Digital Media Awards Worldwide 2022
Best News Website or Mobile Service
Digital Media Awards Worldwide 2022
Hamburger Menu




'We learnt a lesson': Singapore Airlines CEO on trial of paper food boxes, removal of appetisers

SIA should have "paid more attention" to how paper packaging for meals could be perceived by customers, says CEO Goh Choon Phong.

'We learnt a lesson': Singapore Airlines CEO on trial of paper food boxes, removal of appetisers

Singapore Airlines' chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong has said the airline could have done better with its response to feedback on its food. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman, Reddit/throwawayaway539)

SINGAPORE: The chief of Singapore Airlines (SIA) has admitted the airline could have done better with its rollout of paper food boxes and the removal of appetisers.

CEO Goh Choon Phong on Tuesday (May 30) addressed the "very strong feedback from customers" to the paper boxes for economy class meals, which were launched in March for a trial on some medium- and long-haul flights.

The airline has since decided not to proceed with the initiative "for now", after criticism about its food standards and presentation of meals. 

Explaining the rationale behind the paper boxes, he told reporters that SIA could serve varieties of "comfort food" it could not offer in the past on economy class, including laksa and mee siam, as the boxes could retain moisture and heat. This meant customers could consume the food "in the way that it should be served". 

02:49 Min

CEO Goh Choon Phong of Singapore Airlines (SIA) has admitted the airline could have done better with its rollout of paper food boxes and the removal of appetisers, addressing the "very strong feedback from customers" to the paper boxes for economy class meals. Jeraldine Yap reports. 

The management team, he added, had also tasted the dishes before the trial and found them to be "quite good". 

"However, we got very strong feedback from customers," he said. 

"We learnt a lesson ... (It is) not just how good (the food) may taste, but also the perception of using paperware during the inflight service."

When the boxes were first introduced, some said the move made SIA appear "cheap" and that it was a cost-cutting measure. The airline has clarified the boxes cost more than the current disposable plastic casserole dishes. 

Mr Goh acknowledged the airline should have "paid more attention" and been "more comprehensive" in looking at how the paper packaging could be perceived by customers.

"Because when we looked at it, we were really thinking about increasing varieties ... and bringing in things that we couldn't have done before. So it was about the enhancement of offerings to our customers."

SIA also uses paper food boxes for economy class meals on short-haul flights under three-and-a-half hours. This was launched in 2020 and will continue despite the end of the trial for medium- and long-haul flights.


Mr Goh on Tuesday also told reporters SIA "could have reacted faster" to requests to bring back certain food items, such as appetisers and bread rolls, that were removed during the pandemic. 

"If you ask me, could we have done better? I believe we could have reacted faster, rather than taking as much time as we did to actually put back those items. So that's certainly one learning point that we will carry forward," he said. 

Some items that were removed from the meal tray during the pandemic for operational and supply chain reasons, as well as to reduce food waste, have been restored. This includes cheese and crackers, and muffins for continental breakfasts.

SIA will from Thursday bring back appetisers for all economy class meals on medium-, long-haul and ultra-long haul trips – essentially any flight that is three-and-a-half hours and above. This is in addition to a bread roll, main course, cheese and crackers, and dessert. 

Also from Thursday, bread rolls and butter will be served with economy class meals on short-haul flights, along with a main course and dessert. 

An SIA review done before the pandemic found that much of the appetisers were not consumed, Mr Goh said. Customers also said they preferred a "more substantial" main course. 

As a result, the appetiser was removed, while a bigger plastic casserole dish was introduced. The latter increased the weight of the main course by an average of 30 per cent. 

Reporters on Tuesday were shown that the amount of food in the bigger casserole dish equated to a regular-sized portion when plated. 

A comparison of the previous smaller casserole dish (left) and the current larger casserole dish, whose food has been plated. (Photo: CNA/Grace Yeoh)

"The idea was to adapt the service, so that it better appeals to our customers and serves their requirement," said Mr Goh. 

"Of course, subsequently as more travel comes up, we got very clear feedback from customers that actually they would want to have the appetiser. They would like to have a fuller tray that they can consume during their flight.

"The learning point, really, is that we could have done something faster and we should have done it." 

Despite the criticism it received, Mr Goh said SIA must continue to innovate. 

Any innovation carries a risk of not achieving the intended results, he added. But if it doesn't work, the airline must be willing to "do what's right by the customers, and that's exactly what we've done".

"Organisations have to also learn along the way. We certainly want to ensure that we continue to hear from our customers and take their feedback and act in a decisive manner."

Source: CNA/gy(cy)


Also worth reading