A Question about Breakfast on Transatlantic Flights

I flew to Amsterdam last night (300 photos of me sitting in an airplane seat will be coming any day now — actually, they won’t), and I had a question:

We left at 645 last night.  They served dinner at 8pm (or so I guess – I was already Ambiened out).  Then at 1am (6am Amsterdam time) they turned on the cabin lights and gave everyone a croissant.

Question:  Why do they do that?

Seriously, is there an actual reason why they cut short your pathetic 5 hours of sleep to give you a breakfast?


  1. A light breakfast before arrival is standard for transatlantic flights from basically anywhere in the US (except the few East Coast trips that leave in the morning). It’s part of their attempt to acclimate you to the time change. They feed you dinner, turn the lights out for as long as they can, then wake you up and feed you breakfast. I personally find it helpful, because you’re not going to get a solid 8 hours anyway, and it helps you be in the new time zone mentally.

  2. They so that, so flyertalkers and bloggers don’t complain about not even getting breakfast anymore on transatlantic flights.

  3. I tend to agree with you. With so many flights NOT having food that should (like 8+ hour flights to Hawaii and Alaska from the East Coast and Midwest), I’m surprised the “breakfast” on east-bound transatlantic flights has survived in coach. I think it’s harder to tamper with transatlantic food offerings, perhaps given the foreign competition (although most of the US airlines have done away with free booze on these flights, while their foreign competitors have kept it — boo!).

    Personally, I wouldn’t miss it, and I think the majority of pax would feel the same way. It also tends to be a pretty terrible “meal” these days, too — definitely not worth losing sleep over. :)

    Here’s my radical solution for any airline exec who’s reading: put some muffins, etc. in the galley and let anyone who wants a breakfast snack have one. You’ll save money, look generous, and let passengers who want more sleep get it.

    BTW, I’ve noticed other strange food options on transatlantic flights. Last year, I took a DL flight that left the east coast after 10 pm. They still served dinner and the light breakfast. In this case, where you’re arriving at about noontime, wouldn’t it make more sense to serve the light snack at night and then do a more substantive “brunch” at around 10:30 or so? I mean, who hasn’t had something to eat before a 10 pm flight?

    But, as I said, transatlantic food service seems to run on autopilot, based on some ancient regime.

  4. I think muffins in the galley are a fantastic idea. It’s funny, though: when United floated the idea of charging for food on Transatlantic flights, people went nuts. They were demanding that they continue to serve a terrible meal that nobody wants. Odd. I brought a turkey sandwich, chips and a pear on my flight. I was happy. Plus I was able to get out of my seat when I was finished (which is not the case with the airline meal, whose tray sits on your traytable until the end of dinner service). I like how Continental (correctly, I think) spun their decision to remove domestic meals as a good thing because it allowed them to offer far better food for a moderate charge. I’d rather bring my own or pay $8 for something good. I’m not sure I understand why the 2:15am muffin has endured.

  5. Oh – and @Oliver, I think you’re right about Flyertalkers complaining about food (though I’ll give them credit that most of the reaction to Continental’s decision was positive.)

  6. I don’t know, I’m a fan of free int’l coach food. Not paying for things is generally good, and it’s not like I think the fares would go down if I had to buy my own food. And when I’m on the road, it’s not like I’m looking to provision myself for my long flight home. And It would truly be awful to have to buy food at most European airports to eat on the plane. Crazy expensive compared to most US airports.

    And, of course, nothing stops anyone from bring their own grub and declining the free meal. From my experience (and it’s pretty extensive), the free coach meals across the Atlantic are more than edible. Occasionally good, usually edible and rarely truly terrible.

    • Sorry – I should be clearer. Airlines can serve food — that’s totally fine. But I think the reality is that airlines are unbundling, and I’d be shocked in 4 years if they’re still giving us meals for free, even on international flights.

  7. Four years is forever in this business. We certainly haven’t see a lot of amenities added the past four!

    That said, coach transatlantic airfares are so high right now that I don’t see the food being taken away anytime soon. If you’ll pay $1000 to go to London, they’ll throw in some beef tips.