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Special airline meals?

I don't have any pressing health, ethical or religious needs, but I'm wondering whether it is better to order a "special" meal - here I'm talking mostly overseas and long-haul flights - in my case from Montréal to various European destinations - such as a vegetarian one or any other, in chowish and nutritional terms.

Of course if you do have special needs, you are welcome to weigh in on how well - or poorly - airlines dealt with them.

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  1. Depending on the airline, some are know to have better general meals. I have often ordered a special meal, although I don't necessarily need it. I've enjoyed Kosher and veggie. I have also seen East Indian meals on some airlines, which have looked very yummy.

      1. re: Bob Brooks

        I always order vegetarian or kosher even though I am neither, though I also heard Indian is worth ordering too. I find with vegetarian you usually get fruit rather than some sticky cake thing.

      2. One "secret" I was told by a Flight Attendant after being recognized from too many weekend trips back east when my dad was ill was to order the "seafood" meals and snacks...

        Oh, the first time I got a 12 chilled shrimp with cocktail sauce, the jealous looks abounded. Wonderful treat compared to the half sandwich with chips and a cookie everyone else got.

        The tuna salad ended up being a favorite- two large scoops of mostly tuna witl light mayo and celery and not much else in it...dinner roll, butter...and because it is a "special" meal, to easily distinguish form others you get different fresh fruits on the tray.

        Just ask for seafood only.

        1. If anyone does have dietary needs, it's best to make them known while booking the flight as cabin crew may not have an understanding of what constitutes "vegan", "hindu vegetarian" etc. On my last flight the gentleman next to me needed a kosher meal, but didn't specify until too late. He tried to get the vegetarian option but there were none left so he settled for the fish selection, which turned out to be a prawn curry. It was a 14 hr flight so I felt really awful for him!

          1. I like halal meals where available. You increase the chance of getting lamb, mutton, or goat.

            1. I love ordering special meals... most of the time you will be served first!

              1. I order the kosher meal on international flights on occasion. It is always better than the standard meal.

                1. I gave up on ordering Kosher meals years ago because they only had them for me about 25% of the time (even with making the request at the time of the reservation and calling to confirm 2 days before). They also often double-boxed them so the airline staff couldn't read the heating instructions and therefore served them frozen. The vegetarian meals I've found are usually fresh made rather than frozen, and so are often better (although smaller) than the regular meals. They also have them for me much more often, maybe because they come from the regular kitchen rather than the Kosher meal purveyor. Thank you.

                  1. If you are sitting in coach you can order anything you want and it will be crap. The only thing decent in coach is the combo bag of doritos, cheetos and pretzels. And jfood remembers when they actually carved and served a ship roast beef on flights between NY and Houston. So let's just carve out coach, if you have to fly that class internationally. Jfood also stopped ordering "special" when he heard that the Kosher choice was good. Then the stewardess (yest that was what they were called when this happened) comes on the PA and says, "Will Mr Jfood who ordered the Kosher meal please stand up." What did they want to see my yamulke and yellow star on my lapel? The other vegetarian special-orderers were not summoned to do this, last time jfood did that mistake.

                    Next is the choice of carrier. some have pretty good food and others have horrible, jfood could never get to great. Montreal to Europe does not offer many great options, usualy asian carriers are better w food.

                    So jfood normally takes the last flight to europe, gets on the plane, falls asleep and arrives somewhat refreshed. not looking for a cuisine experience.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: jfood

                      Oh, jfood, neither is lagatta - she is just looking for something vaguely edible now that it is next to impossible to bring a packed gourmet lunch, which she used to do. What a stupid episode about the kosher food (Oy Gewalt!). I asked a similar question on a travel board I'm on (Lonely Planet thorn tree) and had an even worse episode. Poor gentleman on a plane had ordered a kosher meal and they lost his order, there were no vegetarian left over, so he thought he'd try the fish menu. Alas it was curried prawns, and it was a 14-hour flight. Some people have medical issues about going so long without food.

                      I've had some half-decent meals Mtl-Europe (usually Paris, Amsterdam, Belgium, connecting flight in Frankfurt or Zürich or somewhere in Italy). Once I was bumped to first class on Air France, though the room to actually sleep was even more memorable than the meal. I found KLM not too bad. Once two years ago I actually had to go Air Transcrap - there was nothing else available at the date - and on the way back the entire lunch was starch - a startch salad, starch main, starch dessert. Aieee.

                      1. re: lagatta

                        We just returned from a trip to Ireland and had no problems taking food onboard the plane: Epicurious's Orzo with Everything, cheese, crackers, fruit, raw veggies, homemade Roquefort dressing, freshly baked cookies on the way there. Smoked salmon, soda bread, fruit, raw veggies, wonderful Irish cheese on the way back. I haven't eaten airline food in many years.

                      2. re: jfood

                        jfood, coach in international flights not having anything to do with the US can have quite good food.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          Singapore A/L and Air Malaysia are perfect examples... For Europe, the old Swissaire...

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            sorry sammy but jfood has no expereince on coach outside of US. In the US it is a flying greyhound bus these days. The food in the US in coach is whatever you bring on board. Two weeks ago jfood travelling from Las Vegas to NY and he brough a corned beef and a pastrami sandwich from the "NY Deli" in one of the casinos. Probably the best sandwich he has eaten on a flight im 30 years. But if you want food in US coach it's definitely carry-on.

                            1. re: jfood

                              jfood, that is funny. Now that you mention it, I have to fly domestic Miami-LA and LA-Miami when going to or from Asia. The US leg is the worst; and I do have to eat well in the Miami airport on the way or bring food from the stopover in LA on the way back. Breakfast on American on the Cali-Miami leg is passable. Dinner for Miami-Cali is usually good. The food in coach crossing the Pacific is OK to good, depending on airline.

                        2. a lot of times the airline's sysco-supplied foodservice does the regular meals, but the airline will outsource the halal, kosher, vegetarian, etc. meals to a local (to the airport) company/restaurant/wholesaler which specializes in the cuisine. so no guarantee the smaller company won't also be syco-tastic but the odds of the food being fresher, higher quality, and made with some pride go up a little. of course it will vary wildly according to the locale of the airport or hub--worth a gamble! i'd be all over the halal meal flying out of my native msp, i'd probably order the kosher meal if i was coming out of nyc, and the veg meal if i was flying from sf or southern cali.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: soupkitten

                            I'd love to order the Halal meal (eat a lot of halal stuff here in Montréal) but I'd be a tad embarassed ordering a glass of wine with it!

                            1. re: lagatta

                              As mentioned above, I order halal--and drink the wine.

                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                I think you're safe. How many flight attendants know that people who order halal meals don't drink alcohol? Zero, I suspect, especially since most muslims I've known who travel internationally DO drink alcohol.

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  just eat in any hotel resto in dubai. very interesting diuscussions about alcohol, location and driving. then everyone orders drinks.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    jfood, I love your idiosyncratic posts. We seem to have hit many of the same high (low?) spots internationally. The role of alcohol in Muslim countries is interesting, and not frequently addressed. Dubai seems to be wide-open, but even when I lived in Riyadh 30 years ago, my father distributed bootleg gin and scotch from our home with the ptotection of Saudi princes. I doubt that much has changed.

                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                    Oh yum, so I can have some nice lamb laced with cumin and a glass of red wine.

                            2. I've done okay with the "seafood meal". However often the airline screws up your request, but this can work to one's advantage since you can get something left over from business class,etc. You do often get served first.

                              Vegetarian meals are a no go for me. I've seen a few of them (by mistake) and they usually are something like tortellini or something else with tons of cheese.

                              I've heard the "asian" meals are another good option.

                              1. After taking 11 hour international flights (on an intl airline) pretty much every 4-5 weeks for the last 2 years I have worked my way through the special meals. I find if you are in coach the East Indian ones are the best.