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10 Secrets About Airline Food You Never Realized


10 Secrets About Airline Food You Never Realized

Airline food is almost universally panned and derided, but most of us want more of it when we fly. Maybe its stress or boredom, but eating is part of flying. When you learn the secrets of airline food you won’t be able to look at your tiny bag of pretzels the same.

10. Fly The Veggie Skies

I think we can assume that most travelers don’t want to spend too much time thinking airline meals because they are more worried about making their connections or getting through the long TSA lines. However, if you are inclined to give airline fare some effort you might find there are some choices you’ll actually enjoy. In addition to the usual chicken or pasta entry many airlines offer specialty choices including vegetarian as well as meals that conform to various religious practices such as Kosher. Airlines receive many requests for all kinds of specialty meals so they tend to offer a fairly extensive menu to cater to a range of issues including allergies, gluten intolerant, diabetic, low sodium and several different forms of vegetarianism. Most airlines also offer different food choices to appeal to children so it might be worth checking these out if you’re not happy with the adult meal choices. While there is no guarantee an airline will offer a meal you’ll like it can’t hurt to take a little time to investigate an airline’s menu options. Who knows? You might be pleasantly surprised with the results. On the other hand, if you just think airline food leaves something to be desired you can always pack your own food for the flight. 

9. Have Snacks, Will Fly

Perhaps there are a few people who aren’t sure if they can bring your own food onto a plane. while it’s true you can’t get bottles of water through security you can bring your own snacks. Most airline food is not very good and the food available in airports is usually just expensive junk food. Your fellow travelers might not appreciate you hauling a stinky fish dinner into coach. I once sat next to a gentleman who brought his own supply of hardboiled eggs onto a flight.  Most snacks that travel well will be fine such as trail mixes that include an assortment of dried fruits and nuts, protein bars, crackers, peanut butter sandwiches. If you’re going to bring fruits and vegetables its best to prepare them first: cut them into manageable, easy to eat pieces and carry them in resealable containers or plastic bags. Although some might recommend foodie choices like chick pea salad pitas and other sophisticated fare, it’s probably a good idea to keep your selections simple. A peanut butter or tuna sandwich is a serviceable choice for a flight – you can have the chick pea said pita when you land. Airplane air is very dry so hydrating fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, are always good choices for a flight. Of course you can also bring onboard any liquids you purchased after you passed through security. 

8. Take Off On Snacks

The above photograph that shows an assortment of airline snacks actually makes them look pretty good, but they reality is these tiny treats are often more of an unsatisfying tease than a satisfying snack. If you do find an airline snack that you like, however, you can often see to it  you get more than one. The airlines tend to want you to think the supply of snacks is limited and precious, but flights usually have plenty of these little snacks to go around. So whether your flying pleasure is a little bag of peanuts or a package of salty pretzels you can have several servings to satisfy your cravings. Ask the flight attendants nicely and you might get a handful of snacks that will last you though out the entire flight. Not all airline snacks are created equal and there might be some that you actually look forward to getting on your flight. Delta Airlines, for example, sometimes gives out a package of two Biscoff cookies. These might not be the best cookies you’ve ever tasted, but when you’re trapped on an airplane at 30,000 feet their sweet crunchiness will be a welcome diversion indeed. These sweet treats do go well with a cup of hot coffee and if you can get a second package – than so much the better!

7. Glutton For Punishment?

Complaints about the quality of airline food are more than cliches they have become axiomatic. However, it seems not everyone has gotten the memo because there are people who ask for and often receive a second meal. Maybe they really are famished or maybe they’re simply bored and want kill some time. But whatever their reasons might be some people do in fact want a second helping of airline fare. How do these passengers get a second helping of very mediocre airline food? They simply ask for it. Particular airlines or flight attendants may be less willing to honor these requests, but it is generally understood that if you ask politely and quietly you have a good chance of getting a second meal on your next flight. Why shouldn’t cramped, put upon passengers get extra helpings of exquisitely mediocre food? Why indeed. The airlines don’t want passengers to know this, but any food that isn’t consumed during the flight will be thrown out as soon as the plane lands at its destination. This policy doesn’t just apply to regularly completed flights, but even applies to flights that are simply delayed on the ground. if a plane sits on the runway too long the food is dumped and a new shipment is loaded onboard. Isn’t it better that passengers eat the food instead of all it simply going to waste? 

6. Final Destination

Unfortunately, the final destination for tremendous amounts of food flown around by airlines is too often the dumpster. Airlines usually pack extra food on their flights in the form of free snacks, first class meals and snack boxes for purchase. A lot of this food is never consumed during the flights and much like restaurants, the airlines discard left over food rather than serve it to customers. However, there is at least one charity that is known as a food redistribution organization in Australia is trying to make a difference. Called OzHarvest, this charity is working to change the airlines’ wasteful and expensive food policy. OzHarvest has teams of employees go to airports and gather up the airlines’ left over food including entrees, snacks and sandwiches. These volunteers often gather nearly a thousand pounds of food a day from the airlines. The airlines are eager to get rid of the food and the charity is able to offer it to people in need on the same day it was collected from the airlines. This seems to be a big win, but doesn’t it point out just how much food airlines are wasting? Perhaps if they weren’t wasting so much money on food they end up dumping in the trash they would be able to charge passengers a little less for their tickets.

5. Your Taste Buds At 30,000 Feet

We’ve been blaming the airlines for bland food. Although it’s easy to blame the airlines for pretty much every inconvenience we experience while flying. But it looks like they’re off the hook when it comes to the snacks. The first reason is just the basic fact that we are dealing with mass produced food that is packaged and shipped for convenience then reheated (safety regulations say that airlines aren’t allowed to actually cook the food in the air.) We can’t expect to have gourmet food at 30,000 feet in the air – at least when we’re in coach. Beyond the logistical realities of commercial food preparation there science behind our disappointing culinary experiences in the air. The air in a pressurized cabin at 30,000 feet is dry and at a lower pressure than we are accustomed to at sea level. These conditions interfere with our ability to accurately smell and taste the food. Surprisingly, the the constant noise of the engines also contributes to this problem. The airlines try to compensate for these issues by adding extra sugar and salt to the food. They are also guilty of adding too much sauce to most of the dishes. We’re probably not ever going to be happy with airline food, but they are supposed to fly us safely to our destinations, not run restaurants.

4. Everyone Is A Critic

We have good reasons to be critical of most airline food. Although we’ve explored how some of the problems are mostly out of the hands of the airlines but this doesn’t stop us from being amateur food critics. In this age of social media and self appointed influencers it should come as no surprise that there is a growing number of people who have taken on the role of airline food critic. One example is Nikos Loukas, who operates the web site His job requires him to fly up to five days a week and he has seized on this opportunity. For several years now he has been cataloging and critiquing airline fare. While he agrees with passengers that most airline food is substandard, there are exceptions if you are willing to seek them out. According to Loukas, one of the best meals is provided by Air France on its first class transatlantic flights. A rating organization called Skytrax. This organization rates flights, airports, airlines and airline food. This site invites passengers to write and submit reviews based on their experiences. It’s a good bet that most of these reviews are not very kind to airline food or airlines in generals for that matter.

3. The Exception Proves The Rule

The meal in the above photograph is a depiction of airline food, but this isn’t your average airplane food. Not that we’d fly for the food, but this looks like something we’d actually look forward to eating. But is this only a mirage? a Unicorn – some kind of airline industry urban legend? There are some travel web sites that have ranked some of the best food offered by airlines. This might sound like an oxymoron to many of us but nevertheless U.S. Airways has received kudos recently for selections like its lentil chili and speciality, seasonal chocolates. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been offered specialty, seasonal chocolates by an airline. That’s because these are first class meals offered to only a select few passengers. That’s fine, but you’d think they could do a little better than offer the rest of better than a flimsy bag of pretzels. Thai Airways is one of the notable exceptions for receiving good reviews of its food and service by both first class and coach passengers alike. Most of us won’t choose the airline or flights we take based on the food choices available, but I suppose it’s nice to know there is some airline food up there that is worth eating.

2. First Class Foodies

Flying first class is considerably more expensive than a standard coach ticket. For the privilege of flying in the front of the plane you get a little more leg room, additional space for your carry-on bags and more attentive service from the flight attendants. But is the food any better? Since the other passengers only get pretzels if they’re lucky the answer is definitively yes. But what can first class passengers expect for all that extra bread? Passengers on Emirates Airlines a fine meal with several courses that can include caviar and a delicious dessert. Finnair, perhaps unsurprisingly, offers first class passengers the option of dining on a reindeer tenderloin. However, you can always make the more conventional choice of healthy fish and vegetables. Air Canada has made a name for itself in airline culinary circles with choices that include lobster and barbecue salmon. Passengers are invited to wash these choice morsels down with a welcome glass of champagne. Breakfast can be problematic on an airplane with a soggy croissant or a bland fruit cup often your best options, but TACA Airlines seems to have solved this vexing problem. This airline offers French toast topped with fresh peaches and a custard sauce. Would this make it worth it to buy a first class ticket? No, but it would be tempting.

1. Flying On Their Stomachs

It’s said that an army travels on its stomach. Airline pilots need to eat too, but as part of the crew are they subjected to the same menu as the passengers? According to the airlines’ official statements the crew eats the same meals as the passengers. They can eat in peace because the autopilot controls the plane for most of the flight other than take off and landing.This seems a little silly, but one pilots has revealed that at some airlines the pilot gets the first class meal and the copilot makes due with the business class meal. Under this scheme the pilots must make do with whatever meals are left after all the passengers have made their selections and eaten. The pilots are subject to some of the same rules and regulations as the passengers so on a short flight the crew might not get a chance to have a meal at all. While the FAA doesn’t mandate it, some airlines require the pilot and copilot to eat different meals to eliminate the risk of food poisoning effecting both pilots. Some foods are usually avoided such as raw fish – who would want airline sushi anyway? The pilots, like the passengers probably aren’t big fans of the airline food. Like the passengers, the pilots always have the option of declining the airline food altogether and bringing their own food onto the plane. 

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