Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Airplane Food


Let’s go a little random this week. What’s the best food you’ve had on an airplane? What airline was it?

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70 comments on “Topic of the Week: Your Favorite Airplane Food

  1. I only fly Y (economy class) because I’m on a student budget, so food tends to be universally poor.

    However, I’ve been impressed with the food on Turkish Airlines, Austrian Airlines, and Asiana Airlines.

    My favorite airline in the world w/r/t food is definitely Air India/Indian Airlines. While they are a financial nightmare for the Indian taxpayer, the food is definitely as good as it gets in the sky. It is probably the single most important reason that my frequent flyer elite status is with Air India and not with a competitor.

  2. Singapore Airlines curry.
    Indian Airlines gulab jaman (mmmmmm!)
    The hot nuts they used to serve in C on UA.

    However, the red cabbage soup on Aeroflot never arrived – sold on the black market before we took off:(

  3. I had a really nice portobello mushroom and brie sandwich (well, finger sandwich) on Porter. It was with a nice pasta salad and the darkest of dark chocolates. Not bad for short haul Canadian flight!

  4. I flew to London on BA a few years ago in Club, on Christmas Eve. They served an entree of ham, roast turkey, and roasted potatoes that was exceptionally good. I still talk about that meal.

  5. They still serve food in-flight?! Even the few times I’ve got “upgraded” to the front in the past few years the food on domestic US flights was minimal. I have had some ok meals on foreign flag airlines crossing the pond, but great? No.

    To answer the question in a different way, the best food I had on a domestic airline in Y class “in the good old days” was in the mid-80’s on a CO DC-10 from Stapelton to IAH. It must’ve been a repositioning flight because it was empty and the flight attendants lavised upon us the first class meal which I recall was steak. It was good, then again, childhood memories are always better, right?

  6. Many years ago I flew a night flight from Los Angeles to Miami on Eastern Airlines, where I would connect to San Juan. The LAX-MIA had a choice of a breakfast (in coach) or soup/sandwich. I had the breakfast which was the best tasting meal I had ever had in the air or on the ground. Since the flight wasn’t full and I raved about it to the F/A, she gave me another one.

    The morning MIA-SJU offered the same exact breakfast which I was so looking forward to it. Well on this leg the exact same meal tasted like garbage. So it shows with airline food the same exact meal can taste different depending on the kitchen that makes it.

  7. My favorite airline meal was on United Airlines. I was flying in First class Aug. 2006. OGG-SFO on a 767-300 ER aircraft. The airline was severing meals from Trader Vics Restaurants. I had the roasted lamb, Of course the ice cream sundae bar was a great as well.

  8. I’ll second Rohit’s comment about AI/IC. It’s too bad for their abysmal customer service and the financial black hole they’ve created for Indian taxpayers, but the food is indeed quite good. I remember many years ago on a flight from MAA-CCU on IC where the meal was catered by the Taj Coromandel in Chennai (a five star hotel).

    Elsewhere, TK has a decent Y-class meal service. The best meal I’ve had in J would have to be EVA. I very rarely go to bed stuffed to the gills on an airplane, but I did on that flight from LAX-TPE!

    1. That’s actually a third, not a second – Bobber already seconded in a comment above ;)

      As for abysmal customer service, that hasn’t been my experience. It can range from poor to incredible, but I usually find it to be adequate.

  9. Had the chance to fly TWA 747 CDG-JFK in F class in the 70’s. We had crepes, croissants, caviar, filet of sole and some awesome pastries. I went to the upper deck lounge and they had a fruit, cheese and veggie bar set up. I didn’t much care for the caviar but since I was 10 years old at the time that’s not surprising!

  10. I love flying in Business Premier on Air New Zealand between LAX-LHR. The experience is excellent, but the food is also great. Nothing beats starting out a long flight with a gourmet-like experience with excellent New Zealand lamb and perfect wine pairings.

  11. Bim bim bap on KE. The flight attendant even hands passengers cards to show how it is eaten. It’s quite a generous portion and they certainly keep that wine coming, even in Economy Class.

  12. I don’t know so much that it was “the best meal I ever had” or anything like that, but it was still a memorable on-board food experience, if only due to the ridiculous quantity.

    A few years ago when I still flew extensively for work, I earned status on Northwest and eventually got upgraded to the front of the bus on an evening SFO to MSP leg. The only other time I had flown first class was when I was a child and was flying alone and my parents somehow finagled it, so it was exciting to get bumped up.

    I don’t remember the particulars — I think the entreé was some sort of beef dish — but I do remember the quantity. A drink before takeoff. Another drink after takeoff. A salad course. A bread course. A wine service. The entree course. More wine. A dessert and coffee course. An after-dinner drink/more wine course. And then I still think they came around with YET MORE SNACKS before we landed.

    Maybe it was all the alcohol, but I kept wanting to burst into laughter at the absurdity of it all. I’d flown that same route in coach maybe 30 or 40 times previous to that experiences and had no idea of the bacchanal that was going on up front. I really didn’t drink that much, but it seemed like everyone else up in first class was having a race to see how much booze they could put away before wheels down. It was astonishing.

    These days I’m self employed so most of the flying I do is personal, and is always in the cheapest seat possible, so I doubt I’ll ever have an experience like that again.

  13. I remember the meals on Hawaiian Airlines L-1011 flights from ANC-HNL back in the ’80s. Invariably chicken, lots of red peppers. And you could tell they were actually cooked in the flight kitchens, not the frozen stuff that they send out nowadays. i think they used red peppers a lot because the flavor is still pretty bold in the air (altitude changes the way food tastes). Logos everywhere, and on everything. Good salads, same old bulletproof roll, tiny slice of cake that always had either pineapple or coconut somehow worked into it, and that plastic coffee cup that came on every tray at every meal even though the FA’s always served coffee in styrofoam cups off the cart. On the inbound flight to HNL they came back through with macadamia nut fudge samples for everybody about an hour prior to arrival.

    Alaska Airlines in the ’80s/early ’90s was also very good. 90 minute segment from ANC-JNU on a 727-200 was a full hot breakfast. No choice, and the tray setups were delivered by hand from the aft galley (for breakfast only, meal carts mysteriously appeared at dinner service on the JNU-ANC return). Eggs, the best hash browns ever, reindeer sausage, an oversized (and nearly frozen) muffin, and the ubiquitous prayer card. Dinners were lasagna or a bone-in chicken thigh.

    I strangely remember back then the meal trays were rectangular instead of square. The covered the entire tray table and they were FULL. Meal trays seem to have gotten smaller (they’re typically square now, it seems). Once on a Delta flight from ANC-SLC circa 1994 I remember the huge tray being about half empty on a breakfast flight. Delta had taken away all the “extras” from the tray setup and were serving just the hot entree on a massive tray, unadorned.

    Another thing I remember during the period seemed to be a proliferation of croissant sandwiche snacks, wrapped in plastic wrap, on tiny snack trays on flights around or just under an hour. A Delta 727 PHL-CVG (1:20) and an Alaska 737-400 CDV-YAK (:45) come to mind.

  14. Many years ago I got booked on first class with Northwest because of bad weather in St. Louis (my original ticket was on TWA and I was already a day late). There I had the “cold breakfast” option (the airline ran out of hot breakfast). It consisted of General Mills (Minneapolis based, of course) boxed cereal (Oatmeal Raisin Crisp if I remember correctly) with milk and a blueberry muffin to die for. Simple, yet excellent.

    America West’s bag lunches (a decent cold sandwich and fresh fruit) were good, too.

    I really think that’s what airlines should do with their food overall. Keep it simple, fresh and good.

  15. I can’t remember the airline, but as a kid (in coach) we were served Short Ribs. It was the first time I ever had meat that was that kind of fork tender. To my young mind, it was one of the best things I ever had.

  16. Amazingly Brett, it was on your former employer and an airline that will surprise everyone. (very bottom)

    I was onboard one of the America West original Buy On Board programs and had a lovely beef/pasta type dish for $10 that was just *amazing*. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a meal this big in a long time. The meat was fresh, pasta was perfectly cooked, green beans were seasoned, and had a great little dessert cake with it. The meal also came with a few crackers & cheese.

    from the date on the photo, it appears this was 2003

  17. Despite all their former problems, Alitalia has usually had quite good food (and wine!) in economy when I’ve flown them. It often is just pasta and chicken or something simple, but they manage to get it just right, which is difficult on airplanes.

  18. First LH HKG/FRA Champagne and caviar well presented with all the accoutrements.. hard to mess that up…i was ready for it..and i enjoyed it immensely..

  19. Like a lot of you, my favorite memory is as a kid as well. Midwest Airlines – back in the 90s. It was my first flight without my parents, and I had never flown first class before. Getting served a meal on real plates with real silverwear while on an airplane boggled my mind. The meal was shrimp on some sort of fancy ‘lettuce’ I had never seen before.
    And come on…. those fresh baked, warm chocolate chip cookies….

  20. A bit on the exotic side, but in the late 1980’s British Airways had some truly extraordinary meals in the Long Haul First Class Cabin. The one I remember most was the roast pheasant out of LHR. Concorde food was actually somewhat disappointing.

    Some of the least memorable was courtesy of QANTAS.

    I don’t count was US domestic carriers serve as Food!

  21. 1. Air France, First Class, Saigon-Paris
    2. Pan Am, First Class, Upper Deck, 1st Class Dining Room, New York-London
    3. BA Concorde, JFK-London
    4. Austrian Airlines, Business/First, Vienna-JFK. (within the past two years). Perfect service and fabulous food with an ample pairing of wines. This surpasses its owner Lufthansa and Singapore First, today’s standard in service.
    5. (Short Haul) Lufthansa, Business/First, Frankfurt to Tel Aviv-Just Amazing!

  22. I guess the best airplane food was flying from Minneapolis to Hilo Hawaii on the old Western Airlines (that’s a while back). Everything was served fresh with complimentary champagne. Real cloth napkins and coffee poured from a carafe. Well those days are long gone so the most recent good food was on Icelandair to Europe. This was in economy class, but that service is gone now to for those in economy class. Now you can get half way palatable food for a price in plastic/syrofoam cartons. They use to bring you fresh rolls hot and fresh coffee from a carafe. Well, that is long gone too on economy class. I guess if you want service and better food you have to pay more and go first class. I think I will just wait until I get to Paris, London and Berlin to have a good sit-down meal of gourmet proportions thank you.

  23. Whenever I fly, I recall a flight from LaGuardia to Columbus, Ohio, on a TWA 727 when I was six or so. I’d flown before, but this was the first flight where I paid attention to what was going on and it was probably the flight that geeked me: I remember getting wings from the captain, being enthralled with the view from the window in the diminishing early evening light, and the Hungarian goulash, which in retrospect was probably nothing special but was at that point the wildest thing I’d ever eaten.

    More recently, Air New Zealand stands out (I happen to have saved the menus, it was so impressive): Red wine braised short rib with shiitake and lentils, smoked beets and wilted spinach LAX-AUK and New Zealand lamb navarin with truffled potatoes and minted peas AUK-LAX. Cheddar and chive scrambled egg with chicken sausage for breakfast coming and going.

  24. The best food I’ve had on a plane was definitely the Subway sandwich I brought on the plane with me, though I never fly anything nicer than coach and I know some upper class cabins offer better food than that.

  25. EVA Air?s gluten free meal, LAX-TPE, 2010-10

    Lunch was White fish (6~7oz?) and sautéed julienne vegetables w/ a hint of spiciness (Jalapeno?), and I remember seeing red and green bell peppers and some other vegetables, it was moist and crisp.

    As for pre-arrival dinner (local time was past 17:00), it was scrambled eggs, w/ halved tomatoes, and spinach, and maybe mushrooms?

    The portion and taste for both meals were much better than the regular meal options.

    I still dislike myself for forgetting to take pictures at the sight of food :/

  26. Easter Sunday, 1991, First Class JFK to HNL on PanAm, right before it went belly up. I had barely enough points to cash in before PanArmaggedon (I was going to Jakarta and picked up Garuda in Honolulu, where they presumably freshened up the rubber bands and paper clips that kept their aircraft intact.) Pan Am’s most senior flight attendants served the JFK-HNL route, and the service was personal and touching. The cabin was decorated with Easter baskets and other holiday charms. Everyone knew the airline was doomed, so it was a sort of unforgetabble, sentimental journey.

    Nowadays, I’m partial to the appetizers in TK’s Comfort Class on the JFK/IST route. The rest of the food is palatable, but for some reason the appetizers rock. Go figure! And if you’re lucky enough to while away a couple of hours in TK’s new CIP Lounge in Ataturk Airport… you’ll never forget it, and you’ll never again be content in any other lounge or airport.

  27. The first time I flew, a United flight from DC to Rochester, NY, the coach cabin fare included an excellent shrimp salad. The entree that followed wasn’t memorable, but I still remember that salad.

  28. I flew KLM last last year to AMS and really liked the chicken dish they served. I sort of downplay it in my original review, but I remember it having a lot more flavor than I expected.

  29. THe best food by far (and I flown just about every Star Alliance Carrier, BA, AMERICAN, Jet Blue) is ANA Airlines. THe Japanese menu (which I heartily recommend) in business class is absolutely the equal of a fine Sushi Restaurant in Japan. Never tried the “American/Western” Menu- but I can tell you that flying and eating on ANA airlines is a SUPERB experience. I can’t wait to fly one of their new 787s!

  30. Lobster – on our honeymoon – flying MIA/LAX in 1st class on National Airlines “fly me” (on airline passes) in 1974. My wife and I bother worked for UAL back then.

  31. Once I was flying business class on Malaysia. There were about four of us in the cabin, and they gave me something that they called a lamb shank. I think it might have actually been a pork knuckle, but in any case, it was real meat roasted very tender, still on the bone with a delicious sauce. Definitely did not taste like plane food.

    Then there was a Thai flight from Bangkok direct to JFK, over the pole. Business class had FOUR bathrooms, all big enough to walk around in, with a window and fresh flowers. The meals were excellent but they also had carts with various types of snacks set up near the galleys, with fruit, chocolate, pastries, sandwiches, etc. For a 22 hour flight, you need some distraction.

    I LOVE nationalized carriers.

  32. In the early 80s my brother (employee) arranged a non-rev F seat for me, LAX-DEN-PDX. Due to weather problems, the LAX-DEN leg was almost empty, 3/12 F seats occupied and Y was a ghost town. F was fully catered with 8-10 of everything for 12 seats. The FAs knew this particular meal service well and offered a buffet in place of the usual seat service, so the three of us experienced an eight or nine course meal. The meal components were bulk-packed and the FAs knew exactly how long to bake (reheat) each item. After small portions of three apps and a superb salad, we had the first entree, a primary fish course in other circumstances. Filet of sole with perfect veggies! For the real main course, it was perfectly seasoned braised short ribs of beef, the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever eaten and more wonderful green veggies. And the pushed second servings. Desserts and coffee reverted to seat service. We reached DEN as thoroughly stuffed, but very happy PIGS. I guess the weather problems resolved and they were catching up on delays, so I got bumped in Denver. No regrets!

  33. Best so far was business class on Air France DTW-CDG. A excellent lobster starter and a decent steak as the main course. Though the BusinessElite on Delta CDG-MSP wasn’t bad either and I enjoyed their dessert wine much more than Air France’s. I’ve still got that menu somewhere.

    For coach I enjoyed KLM on AMS-YUL. It was a wholly decent chicken and veggies. The red wine was less stellar, but that was perfect as my little brother got to try it and hated it. No real fear of him drinking much before age. He ate my bread and his trying to get the taste out of his mouth and still talks about how nasty alcohol is.

  34. Pre-9/11, NW used to have a Corky’s BBQ dinner entree option in F on flights out of MEM. Pulled pork, BBQ sauce, beans, slaw, a roll, and a great slice of chocolate cake. So good.

  35. The meal I liked the best was on Pre-Merger US Airways, around 2002. I was flying to PIT(PHL?)-SFO. We were on an A320/1 and the load factor had to be 20% or so. It was this simple cold noodle dish. The sauce just made it quite yummy and I had seconds.

    The flight attendants also took a row of coach seats right near me, and I had some very interesting conversations with them about their experiences on 9/11 and the airline biz in general.

  36. ANA First Class dinner — everything — from the starter to the wines. Actually as good as a proper multicourse meal in a New York restaurant. Except you’re enjoying $150 restaurant bottles of wine without the big hit.

  37. These comments are so interesting. As long as I have been in the airline business, I really haven’t flown that much, but sure loved my Premium Economy and First Class meals on Virgin Atlantic (VS)! And further back, I loved the first class meals on America West (HP) – today’s US. My husband loves LH’s first class meals and says that they could not be beat.
    I was a flight attendant for Trans Texas Airways (later to become CO) and I can tell you that I cooked those meals and that they too were spectacular!!!!

  38. Swordfish on America West 747 First Class to HNL.



    Jellied carp on LOT ATR72 flight from Warsaw to Helsinki

  39. My best overall food memory on a plane was flying EWR-DEN back in June 2010 on Continental just before they ended free ‘meals.’ (well more like a warm snack on that flight). It consisted of a bag of carrots (not my favorite) and a wonderful tasty warmed item labeled Chicken Enchilada served with hot sauce that made me immediately think I would pay for this type of airline food. I then opened up my real dinner, that I brought on board: leftover ribs and corn on the cob which prompted a ‘That Looks Good!’ from one of the flight attendants.

  40. 1. Midwest Express (in the 90’s). Amazing breakfast and of course the great cookies. Used to fly on a weekly basis and it was always the best part of my trip. RIP Midwest Express cookie :-(
    2. Korean Airlines. As has been mentioned the bim bim bap is one of my favorites. Great to see airlines focusing on their national dishes and pulling it off right. Haven’t flown on Asiana but I’ll have to try that next time.
    3. Qatar Airways. Have flown several times and never had a bad meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) also great service and constant food offerings.

    1. Ohh and the worst bar none was Transaero. I was in business class I wouldn’t have fed that c&$% to my dog…unless of course I was trying to kill it.

      A coworker and I also got extremely sick from the Malaysian Airlines chicken satay (it was the only thing we both ate that day that was the same) and it didn’t taste right from the start. I would add that Malaysian Airlines serves the worst airline food of the Asian carriers (even including Vietnam Airlines).

  41. MAA-LHR on BA, with food catered by Taj Catering. Some rice, naan, sambar, Indian sweet. Those people really know how to do airline food well.

    LHR catering is decent in general. Any catering out of the US sucks. And no matter where in the world Gate Gourmet seems to consistently suck.

  42. Singapore Airlines Economy Class meals are amongst the best, as are Etihad’s. The best airline food that we have ever had was with Asiana Airlines in 2007. We have flown (Economy Class) with airlines in the US (the food and service was generally garbage), Europe (the airlines are trying to emulate American standards of service, see above). My wife and I flew Qatar Airways LHR-DOH-BKK-SGN round-trip in April of this year and the food, service, et al was abysmal. Asia is currently our destination of choice for vacations and we plan our our itinerary around airlines that operate Airbus A340 or A330 equipment as we like the two-seat window row configuration – no sleeping person to awake several times on 13-hour flights. This doesn’t work for us on Boeing equipment as the window rows are a three seat configuration.
    If it’s Boeing, we aint going.

  43. I remember a trip on TWA, first class Ambassador Service, from SFO-IAD, back in the late 70’s I believe it was. We were on a Tri-Star, and the service was impeccable, lobster thermidor was served, dinner-ware was very chic, and they
    had a snack bar set up at the front of the aircraft with all sorts of fancy
    hors d’oeuvres. In those days, first class passengers were treated as royalty
    almost, with souvenir gifts, complimentary cigarettes, etc. Ah, to go back to that era again…

  44. Poached salmon on Scandinavian. Back when they flew SEA-CPH. Took off at SeaTac and was served some of the best salmon I have ever had anywhere onboard an SAS 767 somewhere over the Arctic

  45. A vote for the Delta business class meals from JFK-SFO / LAX.

    Great bold flavors and best cheese plate I have encountered in the air.

  46. Ozark used to serve steak and lobster on their DC9 DEN-DFW route in the late 70’s. But the best meal was on AA DFW/OGG… a rib eye roast, cooked perfectly medium rare, with a fabulous salad, veggies, desert, great wine, after dinner drinks and real first class service.

  47. Once in the late 1960s I was bumped to 1st class on Pan Am due to overbooking. I was on the way to Monrovia for a Peace Corps assignment. I was served prime rib individually carved at seat side.

    That was the best.

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