The humble sandwich is becoming standard fare on some Cathay Pacific Airways flights as the carrier cuts costs.
Cathay Pacific and its wholly owned subsidiary Dragonair are cutting back on hot meals on some short hauls as their bottom line comes under pressure.
Since January 1, Dragonair has replaced hot meals with sandwiches for flights to Taiwan and Manila. Cathay is already serving sandwiches on Taiwan flights.
An airline spokesman said the carrier would make sure the sandwiches were heated and served with juice and biscuits.
The cost-cutting measures are expected to be unpopular, given Asian travellers' penchant for hot meals.
One traveller at web-based forum flyertalk, said: "I usually pick the KA [Dragonair] flights for the Taiwan routes over CX [Cathay] since they had nice hot meals and CX was just that cold sandwich."
Dragonair said it would listen to feedback and review inflight services as appropriate. "We believe the change will enable passengers to enjoy a smooth and more relaxed journey on such a short flight as the time for serving and retrieving the meal trays will be shortened," a spokesman said.
Replacing hot meals with sandwiches not only allows carriers to cut costs, it also generates income.
Shorter serving times means cabin crew can focus more time and energy on inflight retailing, a lucrative side business for carriers.
Cathay says that since January 1, two late-night flights, CX 798 departing from Jakarta and CX 791 destined for Kuala Lumpur, have been serving box meals with sandwiches instead of hot meals.
"We are conducting service trials on two late-night flights, both with departures after midnight," a spokesman said.
It is expected that Cathay will extend the box-meal service to other flights.
The spokesman said the aim was to develop an efficient meal service that allowed passengers to maximise their rest time.
"I have a feeling that they will try to cut back on staff to save money," said "Carfield", a contributor to the discussion on flyertalk. It takes an additional flight attendant to serve hot meals at the back end of the cabin.
Other carriers have downgraded or even ditched meals to cut costs, and British Airways scrapped sandwiches for all short-haul flights in 2009, except for breakfasts.
Continental Airlines, the last US carrier serving free meals and snacks on domestic routes, stopped offering free pretzels on most domestic flights in 2011.