China travel: Budget airline asks for $200 online check-in fee, but delivers food right on the runway

Passengers on a Shanghai-based budget airline may soon be able to order food on the run and receive it upon arrival at the airport – and it all comes with a $200 check-in fee.

The instant delivery platform, which started recently in Shanghai, specializes in healthy food that is delivered to customers on the go.

“Ordering food this way is both convenient and healthy, with nearly 100 percent protein, ensuring passengers get the best nourishment all the time,” said Thomas Huang, chief executive of the Shanghai-based cabins operator Aeroflage.

Yum Brands Inc., the global restaurant chain famous for its Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut franchises, this month officially entered the online-ordering and delivery market with an integrated mobile ordering and delivery service across its various international restaurants.

“It’s a bit like having a beer delivery guy. It’s something passengers see and appreciate,” said Mia Li, an airline industry analyst for consultant CAPA.

Still, Li says the company is in a growing industry, noting that sales of so-called on-demand delivery of food and beverages are forecast to grow by nearly 1.6 million tons, or about two percent of global transportation and logistics consumption, by 2020, according to the China Logistics and Transportation Information Service Center.

But the United States is the biggest market, accounting for nearly half of sales in the on-demand delivery segment. China is the second largest, followed by Europe and Southeast Asia.

About 7,000 restaurants in 24 cities offer on-demand delivery, says US-based InnoOrders, which is a more comprehensive on-demand food delivery platform.

More than 1.6 million orders are placed each day for food, beverage and other goods, says InnoOrders co-founder and CEO Aidan Crennan.

Habib Chowdhury, a frequent flyer for Emirates and other Middle Eastern carriers, told Chinese-language news outlet the new on-demand food service was “better than ordering online before boarding.”

Like the co-founders of Alibaba, Yang Weiguo and Christopher Wu, Xue Li, whose future success depends largely on tapping China’s consumer online market, see no barrier to building a strong business.

Yang and Wang Daode, who founded Alibaba in 1999, traveled more than 1 million miles to serve consumers across China, including distributing to 60 percent of China’s airlines.

On the website, Xue Li says he and his partners chose Shanghai because of its location in eastern China, its political stability and its good access to 300 international airports.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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