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Embrace the future: Why I won't miss inflight beverage cart service

Aug. 29, 2021
5 min read
Singapore Airlines flight attendant serving drinks from airplane bar cart
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I love a good inflight drink. There's nothing better than settling into a business-class seat after a long work-day and jetting into the night with a frosty beer or gin and tonic. It's the classic start to vacation for me and many other travelers — some of whom are up in arms about British Airways' decision to axe the beverage cart on select flights.

That's right: British Airways will eliminate beverage carts on its short-haul flights. Instead, passengers will need to preorder their favorite drink online or use a mobile app for in-plane ordering. According to Daily Mail, some BA flyers are calling it a service reduction. BA responded saying it will help the airline cut down on food waste and aircraft weight.

While I never advocate for a reduction in airline service, I think BA is in the right here. It's time for beverage carts to go the way of the in-flight phone, but not to help the airline. Instead, it's in the passenger's best interest for the airline to embrace a contactless future with remote ordering. Here's why.

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It frees up the center aisle

Keeping the aisle open is safer and more convenient for everyone. (Photo by Sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com)

We've all been there. Shortly after takeoff, the coffee you had at the lounge catches up with you. You need a bathroom — stat — but manage to hold off until you reach cruising altitude. The seatbelt sign is turned off, you ask your neighbor to move and make your way down the aisle. Only one problem: drink service. The single-aisle A319 that's whisking you from London to Paris is already small enough, and the beverage cart in front of you isn't turning around any time soon as it makes its way to the front of the plane.

I've been in this situation a handful of times during my years of travel experience, but it doesn't have to be this way. By removing the beverage cart and replacing it with a mobile app, we wouldn't need a cart running up and down the aisle and blocking access to the bathroom. Instead, a flight attendant can simply bring drinks to each row and skip the rows who don't want a drink.

Further, beverage carts and turbulence don't mix. Moving to a digital solution would keep passengers out of harm's way if a plane unexpectedly hits rough air, sending drinks (and possibly the cart) airborne. Keeping this massive hunk of metal out of the aisle is good in more ways than one.

It's that simple to fix a major pain point — one that many of us will appreciate at some point in the future.

Related: The best signature beverages in first and business class

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No more sleeping through drink service

No more missing your favorite inflight beverage if you doze off after takeoff. (Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy)

Other times, you get on the plane after a long day and fall asleep mid-way through take-off. You wake up an hour-and-a-half later craving a cup of tea, only to have missed the beverage cart 20 minutes ago. Now, you have to wait for the flight attendant to finish making their rounds, walk to the back of the plane and ask for it.

This wouldn't be an issue if all orders were digital. Preordered drinks would simply be left on the snoozing traveler's tray table. Or, the traveler could order said drink once they're in the sky. This is a much less frustrating experience than sleeping through the food and beverage service.

Related: Inflight service is back — here’s what food and drinks you can expect on your next flight

A faster, safer ordering process

Virgin America did seatback ordering right. (Photo by The Points Guy)

One thing I liked most about now-defunct Virgin America was the ability to order food and drink from the seatback screen. It made the process of ordering food and drink feel so much more seamless. Sure, there are aspects of the "human touch" that are lost, but it's much easier and less confusing to order from a touchscreen.

Plus, this just makes sense in the coronavirus era. Fewer people talking and moving about the cabin is good for all of us. Using your personal device to order and pay for a drink is far safer than speaking to a flight attendant, handing him or her your credit card and then signing on a shared iPad.

In a similar vein, since flight attendants aren't serving each and every row, they can spend more time on other tasks. I think that this will ultimately lead to faster and more prompt service across the board, as those who want a beverage will get them faster.

Related: Buzzworthy: 9 great spots to grab a drink in the airport

Bottom line

We're headed toward a beverage cart-free world, and I'm all for it. I love a good inflight drink, but look forward to the day I can order it on my iPhone instead of waiting for someone to come around with a cart. It will make the experience faster and safer, all while clearing out the center aisle for runs to the bathroom.

Feature photo by Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by Sorbis / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees