A global field guide to design, (life)style and secret finds
est. 2007
  1. Show and Tell: Qantas Dinner Boxes

    Qantas lunch box media launch, via WeeBirdy.com.

    Airline food just got 48,493 airmiles better with the launch of Qantas food boxes on domestic and short-haul flights. And I was on hand to sample the new fodder at the spectacular Sydney-meets-Silicon-Valley Qantas Campus in Sydney last week.

    Qantas lunch box media launch, via WeeBirdy.com.

    Sitting down to lunch in ‘The Street’ at the Qantas Campus in Sydney. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Sitting down to a dinner table dressed with white linen and Marc Newson-designed cutlery and dinnerware is not the usual economy class experience. Nor was the beautiful light-filled setting in ‘The Street’, the title given to the expansive foyer at the Qantas Campus, which just happened to feature a spinning turbine engine statement piece.

    But these were the only differences to the new Qantas economy class meal experience, as I’m delighted to report the new food boxes were more Prêt-a-Manger than Prêt-a-Puke.

    Qantas Domestic Dinner Boxes via WeeBirdy.com

    Farfalle pesto salad with proscuitto and toasted hazelnuts in the new Qantas Dinner Boxes. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Qantas lunch box media launch, via WeeBirdy.com.

    Butter chicken with basmati rice and naan bread is one of the new dinner box options. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Qantas domestic dinner boxes via WeeBirdy.com.

    Qantas chefs preparing the dinner box samples. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Like so many people who have travelled business class a few times, making that right-hand turn when you board a plane is all the more painful. Sadly, your senses don’t forget past businesss class pleasures, so you’re all the more aware of every jammed knee, questionable odour and stodgy foil-sealed plastic meals of food that invariably looks, smells and tastes like a really bad beef strogonoff.

    It seems that the folk at Qantas are keenly aware of this difference, too, so they’ve made every effort to make flying economy measurably more enjoyable with the kind of meals you’d find on the hand-lettered chalkboard of any Rather Good Sydney Cafe.

    Before and After: New Qantas Domestic Dinner Boxes, via WeeBirdy.com.

    Before: the old foil-sealed economy class meal. Photography by Rebecca Lowrey Boyd/Wee Birdy. Right: The new cafe-style economy class dinner boxes. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Think Japanese slaw with poached chicken, ginger and sesame seeds; farfalle pesto salad with proscuitto and toasted hazlenuts; lentil, quinoa and falafel salad with feta and pomegranate dressing; beer battered flathead fillets with spiced wedges and lemon; butter chicken with basmatic rice and naan bread; beef with oyster sauce, shallots, red capsicums and Hokkien noodles. See? No grey meat covered in weird non-moving gravy in sight.

    So was it any good?

    Well, if you asked me if I would order the same thing in a restaurant again, which just happens to be the Masterchef test (so it MUST be valid), then yes, Qantas has passed with flying colours. Specifically, I would happily order the Japanese slaw with poached chicken, edamame, ginger and sesame seeds. It was crunchy and fresh and tangy and utterly delicious – the kind of adjectives one doesn’t traditionally use when describing economy class plane food.

    Qantas Domestic dinner boxes via WeeBirdy.com.

    Not beef strogonoff. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    The fresh new meals are packaged up and presented in smart French navy boxes, featuring hand-drawn illustrations by Nicole Falleiro. It’s a really clever, savvy move for Qantas, and the boxes also introduce a more streamlined service for faster meal delivery and clearing, while also providing customers more space to work, or in the case of kids, open up their iPads or colour-in.

    Wee Birdy at the Qantas Domestic Dinner Box launch, via WeeBirdy.com.

    Why yes, that is me. At the Qantas Domestic Dinner Box launch. Photography courtesy of Qantas.

    Lindt Lindor Balls at Qantas Domestic Dinner Box Media Lunch via WeeBirdy.com.

    Lindt balls for dessert? Nice move, Qantas. Photography by Rebecca Lowrey Boyd/Wee Birdy.

    As for dessert, it’s nice to see that Qantas have decided to stick to what they know is a popular people-pleaser. Enter a bowl of Lindt Lindor Balls. Ta very much, Qantas.

    Now, I know that re-heating a heckload of food at high altitude presents some tricky issues, but let’s see what you can do for long-haul flights, eh?

    Tell me: what’s been your best or worst plane food experience? I’d love to hear your stories!

    • astridvegas

      I love airline food because of the portion control aspect. And as a vegetarian I get served first usually, which is tops. I did have an incident once on Singapore Airlines where they had given me a delicious yellow curry thing which I spilled some of on my lovely vintage shirt. Yikes. I do love QANTAS’s vegetarian options so I’m excited to see what they’ve come up with for me.

      • weebirdy

        Ha, I never thought about the portion control aspect. But don’t you find that you eat more (on long haul flights)? I used to order vegetarian meals all the time, because you tended to get less mystery meat food and more fresh salad stuff until one airline (can’t remember which, maybe British Airways?) served me vegan instead, and that meant no chocolates or other tasty morsels. My tray looked so sad! Thanks for popping by, Astrid! X

        • astridvegas

          The thing I mainly like about the portion control is that the food bits aren’t touching each other and it’s all set out neatly. 😉
          I don’t usually eat more on long haul personally. But the timing of when I get hungry goes haywire.
          I ordered a vegan meal once and was only disappointed as of course there was no tiny ice cream for dessert.
          In the future maybe meal delivery can be like on Star Trek where you have a console, select a choice and it comes out through a thingie. It would help the flight attendants in not having to push those huge trollies around (which is usually when I have to get up and pee).

      • weebirdy

        p.s. I require a bib when eating on planes. Actually, make that eating all the time.

    • djjr

      It was all looking so tasty until I saw the Lindor Balls …. unfortunately my conscience won’t let me eat them due to them containing palm oil. Oh Qantas, you could have made this perfect by providing palm oil free chocolate.

      • weebirdy

        Now that’s something I didn’t know about Lindt’s Lindor balls. Hmmm, very interesting. Thanks so much for your comment. X

    • Peta Dewar

      That’s good to see since I’ll be making the long haul flight next year. Many many meals to eat on that long long flight. With a picky little man and two of us needing gluten free meals. I don’t suppose they mentioned gluten free options? I was wondering how much food I was going to have to pack….

      • weebirdy

        These are the domestic Australian and short-haul food options, sorry Peta! I mentioned at the end of the post that I hope they’ll re-jig their long-haul menus. You can request gluten-free when you book your flights!

        • Peta Dewar

          I’m sure by the time I get on the plane they’ll have changed everything. But will come prepared just in case 😉 I’ll get a chance to sample these dinner boxes though, I’ll have a few internal flights as well. I’ve always been a fan of airline food myself, I’ve always eaten anything I’ve been offered. Must just be the excitingness of being airborne! And being an eataholic. I went business class once, it ruined me for all other flights…

    • CateB

      Looks yummy. I’m flying Qantas tomorrow so hopefully they are up and running. Probably the worse meal I’ve had on a plane was on a BA flight. It was still frozen. I wasn’t going to complain since the general attitude of their staff was “couldn’t give a stuff”. Funny thing was I ate it! I eat when I’m bored……

      • weebirdy

        Gah! You ate frozen food?

      • weebirdy

        Yep, if you’re flying within Australia (or any other short-haul flight) you’ll get one of the new dinner boxes. You’ll have to come back and tell us what it was like on the flight!

      • astridvegas

        I have a friend who actually eats frozen fish fingers by choice …

    • Jennifer

      Qantas do what they to very well. Nice to see induce their “campus”. I noticed it the last time I was lost out that way. And it does look like a Silicon Valley campus – so cool.

      • weebirdy

        I had to smile when I got the address with “campus” in the title. Very Silicon Valley.

    • Emma George

      Worst = food poisoning for both cam and I on our way home from Hawaii. The new selections sound yummy!

    • Ashley

      Suddenly I am much more excited to travel!!

    • Jess

      The food looks so good!! I better start planning a trip!

    • Jenbug

      Sounds yummy. I love aeroplane food (when it’s good!). I think it’s the whole ritual of it more than anything and comfort on a long haul flight.

    • Andrew Dawes

      is good to see it and i