Heathrow airport launches world's first 'on-board picnic' dining service

Heathrow Airport is offering passengers an "on-board picnic" dining option where they can bring a "bespoke hamper" with them on their flight. The service is available from today at all of Heathrow's 118 restaurants across its five terminals. The 49 brands involved range from chain cafés, such as Pret a Manger and EAT, to restaurants including Heston Blumenthal's The Perfectionist Café and Gordon Ramsay's Plane Food, as well as Caviar House and The Gorgeous Kitchen.

The hampers vary in price and size according to venue, but typically cost between $A9 and £91 and are around 40 x 20 x 10cm. All are collapsible and designed to be easily stowed away under the seat or in the overhead locker. Some hampers are insulated bags designed to "ensure the food retains maximum taste and freshness at 35,000 feet", keeping hot food warm and cold food cool, such as the ones from Caviar House which features an ice compartment. Passengers who return their insulated bags to Caviar House are offered a 15 per cent discount on their next on-board picnic purchase.

Hampers can be tailormade to meet any dietary requirements upon request at each of the restaurants and can be ready-to-go or prepared in about 15 minutes, depending on the type of meal selected. The Perfectionists' Café is said to offer pizzas to go in about a minute.

Travellers can sample the offerings of the on-board picnics available in Terminal 2 at a pop-up "park" which launches at the terminal today to mark the new service.

The park space, set up in collaboration with the Royal Parks Foundation, features the "scents of freshly cut grass and plants, the sounds of birds chirping" and sunlight-type lighting as well as a park bench, a lamp post and even street signs to help create a urban park-like feel.

Passenger can access the "park" and the food samples from today between 7am-8am, 12pm-1pm and 7pm-8pm every day until September 24.

Starting at $A9, the new picnics might even be a more affordable in-flight dining option for travellers when compared to budget airline food prices.

Passengers on an easyJet flight can expect to pay around $A11.25 for a meal that includes a sandwich, a snack and a soft drink, or around $A11.25 when ordered with either a hot drink or soup instead.

Ryanair's in-flight food prices range from around $A6.47 for a sandwich and between $A2.15 and $A8.64 for snacks, to $A2.88 and $A5.05 for a soft or hot drink.

Last year, airlines were found to charge up to 2600 per cent more than supermarkets for in-flight food and drink, according to research by Travelsupermarket.com.

Budget carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair were singled out for applying the biggest mark-ups while the biggest price increases were found on hot drinks.

The Telegraph, London