Long-haul flights afford only a few small pleasures, and airplane food is usually the most underwhelming of them—unless you’re flying with one of these airlines. Here are some of the best airplane food options in the sky, and which airlines the plane food expert behind Inflight Feed told me he prefers.
8 Airlines Serving Plane Food You’ll Actually Want to Eat
From cultural cuisine to international fare, these airlines are taking in-flight dining to new heights.
Plane food on Air France lives up to the French reputation for indulgent gourmet dishes. Top Chef winner Jean Imbert’s a la carte menu for Air France includes dishes like poached eggs and organic quinoa, a stew, and a French pastry for dessert, and is available for purchase on flights departing from Paris. Celebrity French chef Daniel Boulud is behind the dishes on flights departing from major U.S. cities, with options including Provencal lamb chop, peppered beef tenderloin, and sea bass.
It wouldn’t be a good French menu without wine. Air France wines are selected by a sommelier who in 2013 was dubbed the world’s best, and chooses vintages with cabin pressure and other in-flight service conditions in mind. According to airplane food expert Nik Loukas of Inflight Feed, it’s the real deal: “They have some savior faire when it comes to food and drink that’s hard for other airlines to copy.”
You don’t have to pay for business class to get first-rate food if you’re flying Austrian Airlines, which gives passengers the option to pre-order and upgrade meals regardless of seat status.
“Across all classes on long-haul flights Austrian is consistently great,” Loukas said. “I love pre-ordering their meal upgrade options on short- to medium-haul flights. In economy, it’s great to be able to eat something that looks and tastes like it should be served in business class. Highly recommended.” For about $18 you can choose from nine different menu options, including regional plates like schnitzel or international cuisines like Japanese.
The national airline of Turkey has raked in awards for best airplane food from the likes of Skytrax and Passenger Choice Awards for good reason: The airline employs chefs in in-flight kitchens to cook for business-class passengers. Even economy meals will satiate the pickiest of flyers, with an array of options like traditional Turkish borek (a savory pastry), kofte meatballs, and stuffed eggplant. Business-class options, like stuffed grape leaves and Turkish dumplings, include a welcome drink, Turkish coffee, and Turkish delight candy.
Loukas’s praise for Turkish Airlines is simple: “Some of the tastiest in-flight meals you’ll eat.”
While a taste of the local cuisine is what you hope for with any airplane food options, few airlines go out of their way to bring aboard specialty products from all over the country. Movenpick ice cream, Swiss cheese, and Swiss chocolate are available in all classes, including economy. High-end Balik salmon and Sprungli and Lindt chocolates are in business and first class. For meals, the airline’s Taste of Switzerland program collaborates with rotating gourmet chefs for only three months each, in order to highlight different regions of Switzerland and their food. Meal options range from charcuterie and brunch to gourmet Swiss traditional meals like veal alongside potatoes and Swiss pear bread.
“I love their Taste of Switzerland program,” Loukas said. “They’re always seeking out high-quality options for customers in premium cabins. There’s a new range of meal upgrade programs for economy class, too.”
Often making waves for its high-tech airport, Singapore also claims a namesake airline that’s a revelation when it comes to airplane food. Chefs from all over the world (India, Australia, Italy) contribute to Singapore Airlines’ in-flight menu, making for tasty options in business and economy class alike that you can book in advance. The airline’s super-luxe suite class offers remarkably gourmet options, like four-course Japanese feasts, Thai noodles, Indian biryani, and grilled seafood.
“Always my choice for super long-haul flights from Europe to Australia,” Loukas said. “Attentive and caring service and some great meals whether you’re flying first, business, or even economy.”
SAS Scandinavian Airlines
Sustainable new-Nordic food out of Scandinavia has dominated the gourmet dining scene’s “Best Restaurant” lists over the past few years, so it’s only fitting that Scandinavian Airlines has a high-end airplane food program to match, rightfully called New Nordic SAS. Local and seasonal ingredients rule the menu, which includes organic beef, smoked fish, and Scandinavian caviar. SAS has also created its own collection of 10 different breads, with fillings ranging from mushrooms and cheese to carrots.
The results are “so Scandinavian: so fresh and so tasty,” Loukas said. “SAS spends a lot of time and effort planning their in-flight meals.” The best options are found in first class, but paying for SAS Plus or premium economy means you’ll get to choose from two menu options and enjoy included alcohol service.
A business-class ticket on Spanish carrier Air Europa (which is otherwise pretty no-frills) packs a punch in terms of an airplane food upgrade. The menu includes options like gazpacho, cod confit, and cheeses from Galicia—Spain’s northern region, which is home to restaurants often dubbed some of the best in the world.
Loukas singles out Air Europa’s business class as having some of the freshest airplane food options you can get. “Absolutely loved their business-class farmers’ market offering,” Loukas said. “Best business-class concept I’ve experienced in a long time. So different.”
Another airline with a chef series onboard, Hawaiian Airlines showcases the work of celebrity Hawaiian chefs from on first-class domestic flights and long-haul business-class trips like those to Auckland, Brisbane, Beijing, Tokyo, and Sydney. The four-course business-class meals include Hawaiian dishes like seared monchong fish, or Asian options like pork belly and tofu soup. A celebrity executive chef, Chai Chaowasaree, also works with featured chefs who have worked everywhere from Maui to New York. In-flight wines are curated by a master sommelier, and signature On the Rocks cocktails like lychee martinis and li hing vodka gimlets are available to all passengers. These cocktails made SmarterTravel’s 2017 Editor’s Choice Awards as a finalist for best paid in-flight amenity.
Hawaiian Airlines’ food is “so close to their home roots,” Loukas told me. “Such friendly service and great collaboration with well-known chefs from Hawaii.”
More from SmarterTravel:
- A Guide to Airline Meals and Snacks on 10 Major U.S. Carriers
- These 10 Airlines Charge the Most Fees
- This Website Can Get You Money for Flight Delays
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