Japan Airlines doesn’t let a passenger go hungry


Who would have thought an airline meal gone awry would reveal the over-the-top care of a Japan Airlines (JAL) flight attendant?

Stuck on a 12-hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Raja Gopalan of Tucson, Ariz., realized too late he completely forgot to order a vegetarian meal.

When the attendant learned of Gopalan’s predicament, she went to great lengths to make sure he didn’t go hungry.

The Good News Guy enjoys the multitude of feel-good airline stories coming down the runway, even the small ones.

What’s for dinner?

JAL enjoys a reputation for passenger care and takes pride in personalized service – including quite a spread of quality menu items. With advanced notice, they will provide specialized meal service per their criteria., and even ”minimal allergen meals” for those with food allergies.

But advanced notice is the operative phrase, and something Gopalan freely admits slipped his mind.

“Due to my own carelessness, I had somehow missed requesting a vegetarian meal,” he explained. “This was entirely my fault. I was resigned to going hungry for the entire flight.”

Twelve hours without a meal of any kind can be a stretch for anyone, and to his credit, Gopalan was prepared to suck it up.

A five-star meal

“There was one flight attendant, Ms. Yoshida Michiyo, who observed me refusing all the meals,” said Gopalan. “On her own and without being asked, she collected extra salads and fruit to make plates for me even after I informed her the fault was all mine.”

The message here is the attendant was under no obligation to do anything about this whatsoever during what was for her surely a long and demanding work shift. Yet, she voluntarily used some of her allotted get-off-her-feet time to help.

But then, Gopalan did something many others do not – he made the effort to recognize a simple act of kindness by researching JAL’s executive contacts on our forum and sending them a written letter of thanks.

Evidently, even seemingly big, impersonal companies can be starving for a kind word, since JAL did not hesitate to write back a detailed and personal “you’re welcome” letter. Perhaps we all can make more of an effort to compliment those who deserve it – instead of only complaining.

“I know that your site mainly works with complaints and you have been very helpful to us in the past,” said Gopalan. “In this case, I wanted to share kudos to JAL based on information we got from the forum. Thank you!”

You’re welcome.

Andrew Der

Der is an environmental consultant and travel journalist specializing in water science, nature, eco-travel, and cultural destinations

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  • Joe_D_Messina

    “With advanced notice, they will provide specialized meal service per their criteria”

    Something is wrong with that section. I don’t understand why “criteria” is crossed out and the link brings up a page not found message.

  • fairmont1955

    That’s awesome; I like to hear that this site/resources can be used for the power of good. I like it when people recognize they messed up, that they get there may be consequences and that, you know, being helpful anyway is a good thing.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Well that’s a weird one. I’ll report it. Thanks, Joe.

  • technomage1

    Every time I’ve flown JAL it was outstanding. Puts US airlines to shame,

  • judyserienagy

    Ah, another excellent example of people taking care of people. So refreshing to a forum advocate to see a passenger taking responsibility for his own error as well. Can’t you publish one of these every week, Andrew? A couple of years ago I was flying across the country on United and didn’t like either entree. The FA trotted right back to the coach galley, brought up some food and arranged it on china and served it to me. I’ve never gotten over it.

  • Judy – thanks! (I am trying to do it weekly, but unusually a bit slow on worthy stories of substance.)

  • Zarkov505

    I’ve been flying a few hops a year on JAL for some ten years now. This kind of service is absolutely par for the course for them. Their people don’t think for a moment about doing this kind of thing: they just do it.

    Every time I think I have JAL calibrated, to where I know what to expect, they manage to find a way to surprise me, and it is always a nice surprise.

    American, Delta, and United could learn a lot from watching JAL in action. (Whether American, Delta, and United WANT to learn just how bad their customer service is, when compared to JAL, is a separate question.)