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Airplane Food: What's GOOD?

  • c

This topic came up on another thread and some Chowhounds named KLM and Alitalia as good airlines for the quality of food served. (I'm a KLM loyalist.) I recently flew Continental to and from Asia and found the food to be surprisingly good. Fish / meat / eggs were overcooked -- I sort of wonder if this isn't inevitable for airplane food -- but everything was actually seasoned very well. One of the appetizers, a daikon radish pastry, was legitimately excellent and we were served dragonfruit, asian pear and other fruit for dessert, along with a cheese service... followed by another dessert of Edy's ice cream with toppings and port for those who wanted it.

We hear so much about awful (or just plain non-existent) airplane food, these days. But which ones out there are good?

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  1. The best airplane meal I ever had was on a Northwest red eye from SEA-TAC to Atlanta. I boarded fully expecting to drink some water sleep the rest of the flight, but after the drink cart rolled through the flight attendants started passing out (free!) snack boxes. It was a simple meal, a few crackers, some cheese, raisins and a cookie, but it was just right. I wish airlines would give up on trying to transport, prep, and serve hot meals, fruit/cheese/bread is so easy!

    My other most memorable airplane food was on a flight to London on British Air (from Newark, I think). The meal was unremarkable, but dessert was a Cadbury Crunchie bar!

    The first time I ever flew was from Dulles to Beijing (via Denver, San Francisco, and Tokyo). I was 8 and don't remember the food at all, but the hot towels distributed before the meal made quite an impression. I'm sure the food was very good by airplane standards, but completely lost on me at the time.

    3 Replies
    1. re: mpjmph

      make it good cheese and good, fresh fruit and i'm right there with you, mpjmph! i also love the hot towels, tho neurotic l'il me is still trying to figure out whether to use them before or after the purel. :) good memories.

      1. re: mpjmph

        I agree with you about simplicity. The best airline meal I can remember was a corned beef sandwich and a piece of fruit on that giant of the airline industry Texas International Airlines. The most impressive was on an Olympic flight from JFK to Athens. I can only remember that it started with smoked fish and a lot of wine. The most unusual was on an Alitalia flight from Athens to Rome. Either Greek or Italian cold cuts. At least I thought they were cold cuts.

        1. re: mpjmph

          I agree! On an Air Emirates flight recently they gave us a veggie wrap(fresh spinach and feta) with a piece of fruit for a snack. It was perfect!

        2. JetBlue. Love the dorito mix and the chocolate chip cookies are really good.

          Just as long as they have Cran-apple juice, jfood can handle it.

          3 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            I love that when they ask which snack you want, if you hesitate (as I always do when confronted with making a decision as important as Snack) they are quick to say, "or you can have both..." LOVE JetBlue. I wish other airlines would figure out that there are simple, inexpensive ways to make your customers so much happier. In Toronto, we have a small airline that flies out of the small city centre airport called Porter (mostly eastern Canadian destinations, but they also go to NYC and Chicago now), and since they pretty much have that airport to themselves, the terminal has a lounge with free snacks/sodas/coffee that all passengers get to help themselves to with actual plates and coffee cups. And on my flight, my Diet Coke came in an honest-to-goodness GLASS. I don't expect a meal on such short flights, but it's so refreshing to be treated like a grown-up - usually when I'm flying I always feel a little bit like I'm back in kindergarten waiting for my cup of juice and that little, carefully rationed plastic tray of Snack.

            1. re: Wahooty

              jetblue says unlimited snacks. they mean it. free soda means less dehydration.

            2. re: jfood

              the chocolate chip shortbready things were awful, ymmv.

            3. Across the Atlantic: Lufthansa and KLM, followed by British and American, Air France is the worst - even in business.

              Across the Pacific: Singapore, Thai, Cathay Pacific, Korean, United (All of these Pacific flights have good food in business and economy. The Asian lines' food and drink in business are REALLY good)

              Europe - South Asia: Emirates (Maybe the best business class treatment and food)

              Europe - Africa: Kenian Air / Air Kenya (?) (Great people, good food and drink)

              Within Latin America: Copa (Even good food/snacks in economy). Avianca (Colombia) and Varig (Brasil) are very uneven in terms of food. National lines like Lloyd, Lan Chile, TAM, and many others are realy hit and miss, mostly miss).

              Central Asian republics: Turkish (Great Turkish food and wine!).

              Back and forth Cali - Miami - DC and back on American in business has been nice; although the Admiral's Lounges are wastelands.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I agree completely with Singapore, Thai, & Cathay Pacific. In that order, too! Well-cooked, flavorful food, and gorgeous to boot.

                I'd nominate China Airlines for worst breakfasts. Saddest congee ever.

                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                  Turkish airlines serves pretty decent food, especially if the flight is out of Turkey. The meal services on this side of the ocean don't do it as well). They even used to serve meals during 30 something minute flights between Istanbul and Ankara and we are talking coach class here. It was perhaps a waste if you come to think about it (who needs to eat every 30 minutes), but they had the best packaged salad I've tasted (including fancy deli chains): Fresh lettuce, grape tomatoes, red onions, olives, a little feta and a dressing made with real olive oil and lemon juice. Simple but perfect. Of course air travel in Turkey is very very expensive (I was simply connecting from USA, I wouldn't pay for a flight that short) so the customers had high expectations about the service during the flight.

                  1. re: emerilcantcook

                    Even the Turkish wine served with the excellent meal in cattle class was good on an Istanbul - Dushanbe, Tajikistan, flight.

                    Expensive! I had to laugh when I passed by a Burger King in the airport and a Whopper was $14.00!

                    1. re: emerilcantcook

                      I was served breakfast on Air India for an hour long flight.

                      1. re: Fromageball

                        They used to do this on Air Canada. Back when.

                  2. Taiwanese carrier Eva Airlines sells Din Tai Fung's xiao long bao in business class.

                    (or at least they used to... now it looks like beef noodle soup)

                    http://www.evaair.com/html/b2c/englis...

                    Mr Taster

                    1. For international airlines I've flown Lufthansa, British Airways, Virgin, Asiana, JAL, Continental and Northwest. Best meal and service was JAL and Asiana - both offered Asian or "Western" menus - I opted for the Asian and the food was seasoned well, veggies were fresh, colours were bright and nothing was too salty, wilted and definitely none of that grey mystery meat. The "ramen on tap" offered by Asiana is something my brother loves. I liked Virgin at the beginning when they first started flying from the UK to the US - they did great ice creams/desserts and decent food but now that's all gone a bit downhill.

                      I actually found the food and service with Lufthansa when flying between Europe and Asia a few years back to be one of my worst experiences. Same with Northwest. Haven't flown with either of them since. One of my friends flew on Air AFrance to come to my wedding and got food poisoning! Luckily, he had arrived 4 days beforehand and sufficiently recovered to attend.