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In-flight meals repurposed as bento boxes are proving popular in Japan at a time when many flights have been canceled due to sluggish demand amid the coronavirus crisis.

Such meals are now available online, and at supermarkets and department stores.

The daily number of in-flight meals made and shipped by Nagoya Air Catering Co. at Chubu Centrair International Airport in Tokoname, Aichi Prefecture, fell from 6,000 to around 100 as passenger demand dropped sharply. The plummeting sales numbers forced the company to make efforts to find a new market.

Late last year, the company launched in-flight meals as bento at supermarkets and other outlets in Aichi. In February, it set up a limited-time-only sales stand for such meals at Meitetsu Department Store’s outlet next to Nagoya Station.

On sale are three kinds of bento featuring Japanese, Asian and European cuisine, as well as a Kobe beef bento and beef fillet sandwiches originally intended for business-class passengers.

At the department store, customers can be seen lining up before the sales stand opens.

Nagoya Air Catering is considering making the in-flight meals available at convenience stores as well. It is also planning to launch a baguette meal that was originally for cabin crew members.

“We’ll develop products while hearing consumer opinions,” a Nagoya Air Catering official said.

In December last year, All Nippon Airways Co. began selling a limited number of in-flight meals online at the request of customers. They were sold out immediately after the launch.

Cumulative sales have topped ¥100 million.

“The best thing is that people take flights, but we appreciate if (such meals) contribute to earnings, even if only slightly, and make customers happy,” an ANA official said.

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