HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


another POLL: favorite airline food?

  • m

Granted, this may not go too far either, but I'm mighty curious about this. I do have to say I've had some mighty tasty meals on Delta lately (and if you're bumped to business class on an international flight, you'll have a 7 course meal! Always dress for 1st class, in case this is a possibility). One of the best cheesesteaks I ever had happened to be on a Continental flight, I kid you not. Also, Northwest used to have really tasty meals when originating from the west coast.

Airline? Class? Route?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. "if you're bumped to business class on an international flight, you'll have a 7 course meal!"

    Up in first class, I hear, they only make you eat four or five courses. You gets what you pays for.

    Hospitals, anyone?

    1. m
      Miguel E. Gierbolini

      Anything across the Atlantic. BUT I would not call it "favorite." I would call it least offensive. This is a lower category than fast foods. On that account, Popeye chicken brings the best memories.

      1. I always try to bring my own food on the plane because I love all those envious glances from other passengers as they're downing their gloppy-sauced mystery meat, iceberg lettuce mess and I'm dining on my own delicious sandwich/salad/whatever. However, the booze isn't bad on planes.

        1. Sorry, Ive never experienced that 7 course meal in business class to or from Europe. Business class is mainly a bit roomier cattle car. Airline food is always going to be highly questionable, because of the cooking/heating methods used but the best of our recent experiences were with Virgin Atlantic. And of course the food coming back from Europe is going to be better than food originating in US commissaries. Which seems to be getting worse and worse.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jen kalb
            Anil Khullar

            On Delta it is kind-of a 5 course meal on BizElite, and a tray in Cattle Class. CO & DL have moved to two
            class system. BE is much superior to Business in a three class of other Airlines. OfCourse they are not sleeperettes of AA/BA/CX/VS/SQ. But then F is much pricier that BE on those airlines.

          2. Relatively speaking (and this from someone who is OK with people liking some of the food at fastfood joints), the food on Air France is the most tolerable in my opinion (although perhaps that's the unlimited wine talking!)

            1. Like Ruby (post below), my favorite airline food is what I bring myself. Kinda goofed once, though. I made salads for my traveling companion and myself. Fresh mixed lettuces with ripe pears, toasted walnuts, and crumbled gorgonzola, dressed with a homemade walnut vinaigrette. Oh, they tasted wonderful. But I hadn't thought about how that gorgonzola aroma might play in an airplane cabin where not everybody was likely to be a lover of strong cheeses. Oops. Let's just say that we ate really really fast.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Dee

                ha Ha HA! LOL. To me the worst gorgonzola aroma is still better than bland nuked airline food.

                1. re: Dee

                  Salads at the "wrong time!" Ha! Reminds me of many years ago when my friend and I were both dieting and she prepared a salad for us to eat AT A FILM! There we were in the Carnegie Cinema, watching some foreign gem, and she whips out her tupperware, filled with mixed greens. I tried 'sucking' the leaves, but, heck, salad is NOT a 'quiet' food. Suddenly, this booming voice behind us decreed: "One does NOT eat salad in a theater!" Indeed! lol. That became our mantra for many years. By the way - back to airline food - the best I've experienced was on Air India, many years ago. Wonderful dishes. Now, the only food selections I seem to be served on airlines are those doughy pocket-things filled with mystery meat and cheese. (Remember the days of steak and lobster 'wars' as airlines fought for our business. Served in economy class, no less. Didn't last long...)

                  1. re: Dee
                    Jennifer Fish Wilson

                    Just got off a Southwest airplane--brought sushi from my favorite lunch place by the office and will pick up fried chicken from Stroud's in Kansas City for the flight back to California. I don't know why people complain about eating on airplanes! (g) BTW my 12 year and his friends fight over the processed "meals" I bring them from Southwest.

                  2. The best airplane meal I've had was box of cornflakes, 1/2 pint of milk and a banana. That was about the best - oh and Midwest Air has nice hot chocolate chip cookies. I have traveled extensively, granted on tourist class. British Air - Lord, what bad food.

                    1. Air Ukraine, yes, Air Ukraine. The food going over (from JFK to Kiev) was forgettable. But, the food on the Sunday 9:00am flight from Kiev was pretty good. (ok, granted we had been eating borscht and pierogis filled with chicken fat for a couple of weeks.) Nice portion of smoked fish to begin with, then tender, tasty roast beef with rich potatoes and al dente green beans. There was more, but I forget exactly what it was. It was adequately spiced, too. Not only was I surprised that they served such good fare, but they served it around 10:00. The added ambience of a bunch of natives smoking Marlboros and drinking vodka from the minute they boarded through takeoff (this was April 1995) is memorable. Love those Eastern Europeans.

                      1. This is ancient history as far as airline service goes, but the whole thing was rather surprising, even in 1982.
                        Luxair Boeing 737, economy class, Luxembourg to London Heathrow. Nice salads, pate, pickels, etc. served with decent bread on plates with nice flatware. Complementary wine in a glass, after dinner drink. Honestly, they barely could pull it off, given the length of the flight.

                        Joe Moryl

                        1. Good God! I haven't had decent airline food for years, let alone _good_ airline food! Then again, I've never gone first class.

                          The best airline food I had was on Royal Thai, but that was back in 1975. I recall that the food on MAS Malaysian Airlines in the 70s was also quite acceptable, befitting a country where spectacular food is considered normal. I seem to recall that the food on Garuda Indonesian Airlines was also good, for similar reasons.

                          The best airline food I've had in the last 10 years (well, barely) was when I flew on Sabena Royal Belgian Airlines from Florence-Peretola via Bologna to Brussels and then changed for a flight back to New York, in August of 1991. On the transatlantic leg, they served lox that was quite good with some kind of good bread or roll (no bagels :-), excellent jam, etc. - a very good Continental breakfast. Airline food in the U.S. is terrible.

                          1. I actually worked, years ago, as a temp in TWA's culinary department (corporate offices in NYC). If you can believe it, these people took passenger food VERY seriously. There was a kitchen on the floor, and they were constantly experimenting with new dishes and refining old favorites. Hundreds of exotic recipes were tried out each week. The 'big deal' while I was there was the introduction of in-flight Bananas Foster (economy class). Talk about the "good ole days!"

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Alice

                              Years ago when airline food started going downhill, I would call ahead to request a "special diet meal". The seafood one was good (though I always felt like I was playing Russian roulette!) and the vegetarian meal at least had recognizable food. Never got around to trying the Kosher meal. I'm interested to see what the food on Air Portugal will be like. I always pack plenty of snacks, just in case. pat

                              1. re: Pat Hammond

                                Years ago I heard that when you ordered a special meal for a flight, it was fresher and tastier. I ordered a child's meal for my daughter and myself. It was the worst airline meal I've ever had. Completely dried out!

                                When I just flew to Amsterdam, I packed salade norvege, (greens and vegetables with shrimp, smoked salmon, smoked mussels, avocado, and Russian dressing), hulled strawberries, and fresh lemonade as a beverage and a mixer. We were not tempted by that entree offered to us.

                                Several flight attendants commented on our meals, too.

                                1. re: ironmom
                                  Caitlin McGrath

                                  Following an entirely inedible airplane meal two weeks ago, I prepared myself yesterday with a last-minute repast of Chinese chicken salad, Kozy Shack pudding, and organic strawberries.

                                  Through the early '90s, I found that vegetarian meals on some airlines wee quite decent, and coach food on American actually saw some reasonable pasta preparations, but nothing seems edible beyond the pretzels and peanuts now.

                            2. Singapore Airlines - their food is
                              far better than any I've had on
                              other carriers.

                              PS: I'm speaking about coach because
                              I have no experience in the "upper

                              1. a
                                Anil Khullar

                                That would be BE (BizElite) on DL (Delta). Not to sound
                                too critical, the food is *not* that great.
                                Here is the deal - Nearly all Airlines out of major outbound gateways
                                are served by the same Catering establishment, SkyChef or some such. The Airline states the amount they want to spend, and the
                                kinds of things they would like to see in the meal.
                                Nearly all major foreign carriers have stopped serving caviar in F or BE/BF (in a two class aircrafts).

                                The inbound international flights on DL are also served in the same manner. The thing that DL has control over is the Vinum (which is quite uneven), the menu is printed on a large format paper but weak on selection.
                                Food - many hours before the flight, based on the manifest, they order food for BE. One thing I did like on the trans-Altantic run were the belgian chocalates, which I just gorged on.

                                The Delta scorecard earlier this year on the BOM-FRA run was slightly better as the catering that month came from TajGroup and had farely decent selection on BE. Two weeks ago on the SJO-ATL run, they served a very good Californian read wine and Salmon cooked with Mango.

                                Domestic First on Delta is a poor cousin to BE on international (transatlantic) in terms of food and amenities. There are a few domestic routes where DL has BE but not the same product.

                                Flying Coach, you can be assured the following - Chicken or Beef, small bottle of red/white wine. Domestically on shorthaul you get SkyDeli - you pick a bag in the jetway just before entering the aircraft.

                                SwissAir last year had excellent selection in F. Surprisingly AirFrance, you'd think, would excel in serving top-notch in First, not true.
                                Airline food is a frequent topic on http://www.flyertalk.com - This is a website where most frequent flyers hang around to exchange tips or groans ;-
                                All major airlines offer many special meals - Here is
                                one from Swiss Air http://www.swissair.com/service/air/s...
                                and another from Delta http://www.delta.com/travel/during_fl...

                                My onezy-twozy experiences on BA,LH,OS are similar. The exception is JAL - You like traditional Japanese food ?
                                Gorge on it.
                                If I'm flying Coach I pick special meals ;-) and this way get a slightly better offering.

                                You know most of the FFers may not be all chowhounds, but they sure are vocal about this, and things like SGB.

                                Link: http://www.flyertalk.com

                                1. Good food? Maybe not, but a GREAT cookie - on Qantas from LA to Sydney and from Cairns to Honolulu (circa 1997) I was served an Anzac biscuit with wattleseed. Being an American, I had never heard of an anzac biscuit or a wattleseed, but that cookie blew me away. Great texture and great flavors. Still looking for the likes of it in the US.

                                  1. Aer Lingus (Irish Airline) serves a good breakfast (cholest-fest, though). Eggs, bacon, black pudding)

                                    1. c
                                      Caitlin Wheeler

                                      I second Air France, especially on domestic flights. I've also eaten decently well on Virgin, where they give you a menu, usually with a relatively palatable vegetarian option (I am an entrenched carnivore, but will choose eggplant curry over "chicken with pasta" any day) I had a fabulous meal years ago -- either on Delta or American, of garlic shrimp on rice. It actually tasted good! Nowadays I try to bring my own food (California rolls are a mainstay) and not smell airline food.

                                      1. As alluded to in several of the posts, the best airline food is that you bring aboard yourself, but here's how I do it:
                                        Price a 1st class ticket and then buy the cheapest economy ticket available. Take the difference in price, usually around a thousand dollars for coast-to-coast or overseas flights and spend 1/10th of it on a carry out gourmet feast. It's the only time I had a full two ounces of real Sevruga caviar; the store packed creme fraiche, chopped eggs, onions, and great crackers for $7 more. I even shared it with my seat mate. Then go out to dinner when you arrive.
                                        Other than that, the only good food on domestic airlines I've had lately is on Midwest Express.

                                        1. Here's my take on it, based on eighteen plus years of regular business travel: Your own food, or even something picked up at the airport, is always better than anything the airline will provide. The special meals (vegi, kosher, low fat, children's, etc.) are usually light years ahead of the regular fare. Kid's meals are often a McDonald's happy meal or similar. You can also usually order a fruit or fruit/cheese plate, which is almost always palatable. When ordering vegi, specify lacto-ovo rather than vegan for best results. Another method is to order vegetarian, then bringing along a main course (the vegi main courses tend to be cold bean paste or something equally attractive). This way, you get utensils, a cookie, maybe a salad, etc. I've also found that if you quiz the reservations desk, you can find out exactly what's going to be served and plan accordingly. This is advisable, because there are exceptions to every rule (my husband still remembers the time I ordered us vegi, only to have the flight out of Chicago serve everybody else really good local pizza). Alaska is the only domestic airline that has served me a decent meal; international flights on any airline are much better overall.