Like many airlines, Air Canada is transitioning to cashless cabins, but unlike the vast majority of carriers, Air Canada gives consumers the option of prepaying for meals online.
In fact, Air Canada has offered consumers the option of prepaying for a meal voucher online since 2008, and its call center agents have been offering meal vouchers as part of a la carte flight options for the past year.
Canada's dominant network carrier believes it is the only airline in North America to offer an online pre-payment option for meals.
Passengers can purchase Onboard Cafe, at a 20% discount, up to an hour before their scheduled flight as long as they haven't already checked in.
Once the meal is purchased online, a voucher code appears on travelers' boarding passes.
Internationally, AirAsia also gives travelers the option of prepurchasing meals online for 20% off.
AirAsia, incidentally, also offers travelers Live Chat from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Starting May 1, Air Canada -- with the exception of its contracted airline-partner Jazz -- will feature credit-card-only cabins, and Onboard Cafe will be available on most flights within Canada, on Canada-U.S. flights, and on trips to sun destinations.
Air Canada has used credit-card readers on all flights where Onboard Cafe was an option since July 2008, and for the May 1 launch of cashless cabins, the airline is doubling the number of handheld credit-card readers available to crews.
The availability of the online meal-prepay option for Air Canada flights punctuates the way in which many airlines are offering ancillary services on their websites -- and these services are unavailable to travel agents in global distribution system channels.
Air Canada was an early mover in implementing fare families -- including Tango, Tango Plus, Latitude, Executive Class Lowest and Executive Class Executive fares -- and it continues to be a leader with features like its online meal-prepayment option.