When you think about fast food, what images pop into your head? Greasy burgers? Limply pathetic salad leaves in a sesame seed bun? Fried chicken and fried onion rings? Soggy fries? Meals that are high in sugar, fat and salt – essentially all the ingredients that can contribute to a heart attack?
Or do you think, “That sounds like heaven. Yum, I’ll have some of that, please.”
Another question – what images come to mind when you think about the Japanese diet? Sushi? Sashimi? Wasabi?
I ask because Japan Airlines recently announced it will serve Kentucky Fried Chicken on its routes to Europe and the US, saying in a statement that from 1 December 2012 to 28 February 2013 “customers travelling in Premium Economy and Economy Class will be served KFC’s Original Recipe two-piece chicken meal during the second meal service”.
The United States and the UK are ranked in first place and third place, respectively, as having the highest obesity rates on statistics web site NationMaster. And where does Japan rank? Number 28, with a mere 3.2% of the population considered obese.
Indeed, the Japanese diet and lifestyle is said to be so healthy that Japanese women and men live longer than everyone else.
So why is KFC so “widely popular in Japan”, as noted by Japan Airlines’ own statement?
On her blog, Flying Lessons, journalist Christine Negroni says that in Japan, KFC is closely associated with the Christmas season. “A long ago marketing campaign by the company took advantage of expats looking for turkey for the holidays in a country where those critters don’t roam, and the next thing you know the Japanese have developed a taste for, well let’s just call it chicken tempura,” she writes.
Yet the carrier’s decision to offer KFC in-flight has elicited a mixed reaction on social media – some people are delighted; others are shocked; and still others are revolted. Here are some of the responses:
“What is the world coming to? Japan Airlines [is] to serve KFC on flights. Junk food with wings?”
“Japan Airlines adds KFC to its in-flight menu. I feel for the non-KFC eaters and vegans coz it’ll be on long-haul flights lol.”
“I don’t want to be served KFC ever! Its colloquially known here as ‘unlucky fried kitten’ not Kentucky fried chicken. Yuck.”
“Whoa… that sounds awesome.”
“The stench of fried chicken in flight- no thanks. ”
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO! No cell phones either! I want to sleep on my flights :)”
“Sure. Can I have a cup of hot fat with it?”
“Back for their 50th anniversary, Delta showed airline meals throughout the years. The most appetising was a box of fried chicken from the 40s. It was an airline staple back then.”
“Oh the stale fried chicken smell, yuk. You know folks will wipe their hands on the seats.”
“The smell would be one thing, but also the amount of waste from those discarded chicken bones. If they went boneless with chicken strips or a chicken breast sandwich that might work. ”
Obviously, airlines can’t please everyone with their menus. But Japan Airlines’ experiment will serve as an interesting case study into whether or not airlines should offer more junk food in-flight. If the KFC promotion succeeds, I wouldn’t be surprised to see other fast food chains seek to forge more deals with airlines (or vice versa).
But if that happens, the airlines might also want to seriously consider widening their economy class seats.
What do you think of Japan Airlines’ decision to offer KFC in-flight?