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Airline Food: The Topic


chefette
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In today's Washington Post Travel Section there is an interesting article on airline meals. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/artic...-2002Jun28.html

Carol Sottili has created a handy matrix of carriers, their meal policies, typical entrees for 1st class and coach, per passenger cost, and helpful advice. What intrigues me is that she indicates that Midwest Express is THE Foodie's favorite airline. Would you agree? Any others?

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I bring my own. I've heard that the best food is on the Concorde. Barring that, going first class from Dallas to Japan was an interesting experience for a friend of mine. He was called by the airline the day before and asked what his preferred wines were for the flight.

Sometimes, for the heck of it, I reserve a "special meal" ( kosher, Lacto-veg, kid's,low-cholesterol.) They all suck, but at least you get served first!

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He was called by the airline the day before and asked what his preferred wines were for the flight.

What airline was that? The airline I usually fly asks if I want peanuts or not..

Many years ago we were bumped from our flight and put in first class on a later flight. We were served prime rib, carved on a cart in the aisle, and later sundaes, with the scoops of ice cream in a huge bowl, and all sorts of toppings.

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I'm not sure I'll ever be able to repeat the opportunity - but about 10 years I flew Singapore Airlines around the world - first class.

The details are blurry, but I remember the only champagne available to make a morning mimosa was Dom Perignon, that they never ran out of caviar or fois gras, and that all the meals were incredible no matter how long or short the leg of the flight.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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Much of what was written in the article pertains to domestic routes - which are quite brutal in their RPM stats.

OTH, International routes, where there is competition from no-US carriers -- food is quite different (atleast in the flights I've taken - which are many)

Amongst the top - SR (before it went bankrupt), SQ, AF. The US airlines like DL try hard to keep up in B/E - Belgian chocalates, NewZealand wines from time to time and often a good single-malt :smile:

Keep in mind, 90% >= @ JFK is supplied from LH's catering arm -- All Airlines get to specify is $/meal and ingredients.... Chances that same caterer served up UA/AA/BA/LH/SQ/SR/KE/VS ..... is very high.

Otherwise, in Y it is always "beef or chicken..."

anil

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A long long time ago there used to be an airlines called "TWA". :biggrin: Once--only once--I flew something called "Ambassador Class", on the upper level of a widebody jet, where in addition to seats as big as chaise lounges, we were also stuffed with unlimited amounts of lobster, chateaubriand and reasonably good champagne (well, not me, I was underaged at the time--this was twenty years ago).

You don't get that kind of service anymore.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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I always liked KLM coach service when I flew to europe during my summers in high school. Food was much better than average, the seats were nice, and they gave you unlimited free alcohol. I remember asking the waitress on one flight to Holland to bring me a bottle Heineken every 10 minutes until I passed out.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I always liked KLM coach service when I flew to europe during my summers in high school. Food was much better than average, the seats were nice, and they gave you unlimited free alcohol. I remember asking the waitress on one flight to Holland to bring me a bottle Heineken every 10 minutes until I passed out.

Currently KLM is *ahem* -- how do I put it .... not that great. Both DL and

CO have better service on that sector. Since NW and KLM have an alliance

they have a major share of the NYC-AMS market.

Free alcohol still is the norm in most carriers -- this might change in the near future.

anil

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I recall flying Singapore Airlines first class on a short-haul trip. I didn't want to get off the plane - it was excellent. I have found Air France to be pretty good too - at least they don't ration the wine.

Bad experiences are too numerous to mention, but I once travelled Delta with a vegetarian colleague. The dinner was beef in a soft bun. When my colleague asked for a vegetarian option, the stewardess sweetly offered to take the beef out of the bun. :rolleyes:

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Singapore tends to be an early adapter on the "gee whiz" aspects of air travel. Among the first to have seat back videos in coach, a dozen different channels of TV or movies, staggered movie starts, etc. I believe they also allow coach pax to select when they would like meal service, or at least they have on the flights I've taken.

SQ also has intermittently aggressive pricing on some flights. Dee and I flew r/t Newark to Amsterdam two years ago for $259, and one of my colleagues flew LA to Singapore for $699 r/t. Usually they are in the pack pricewise, and let service tip the balance to them.

Our Amsterdam price was $300 under KLM NW CO etc's offering.

Apparently it's easier still to dictate the conversation and in effect, kill the conversation.

rancho gordo

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Singapore's really nothing special in coach. Practically everyone has got the personal video screens these days, and Singapore packs you in tighter in coach that many other airlines. Their business class product is quite good, and even comes with acceptable food, and I've heard very good things about their first class, but have not yet had the chance to try it.

Over the past 18-ish months, I've flown something like 300,000 miles spread amongst a bunch of different airlines and in every class of service. I'm struggling to recall a single meal that I would categorize as "good". Air New Zealand in business class probably makes it, as does Lufthansa in first (on the other hand, Lufthansa's business class meals are "not so good" and their meals in coach are downright unappealing). As indicated above, Singapore's business class meals are adequate, as are United's international first class meals. Most other meals I've had in the air have ranged from "mediocre" to "impossible to eat". I like SAS in coach, not because the food is particularly good, but because they give you warm rolls, which at least earns them bonus points for effort. As others have mentioned, U.S. carriers generally suck at food in coach, and post 9-11 this is true in business class as well. Only international first class retains much of a "gee whiz" factor with premium brands like Dom Peringon, and even there amenities like caviar carts have disappeared in recent months.

Overall, food in the sky isn't so good, although we could start doing "plane reports" instead of "restaurant reports" if people were really interested.

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For the best inflight meals it is a tie between Thai Airlines first class and Singapore Airlines first class. On Thai, they have taken half of what would be business class and have an actual working kitchen. On our flight from Charles De Gaulle to Bangkok, we were delayed on the ground waiting for Air France to lend us a part. While on the ground to keep us happy, they served Dom Perignon and unlimited Beluga Caviar. Once we were in the air, more Beluga (I think my husband ate over 8 ounces during the flight) plus satays and other assorted appetizers. The meal itself was also excellent. When we woke up in the morning (your seat turns into a real bed) they asked us what we wanted for breakfast. My husband had scrambled eggs that were made fresh with more Beluga on top. I didn't want to get off the plane.

Singapore has something called Book the Cook.http://www.singaporeair.com/saa/app/saa?hidHeaderAction=onHeaderMenuClick&hidTopicArea=BooktheCook. You get a huge choice of entrees which you can order in advance. Again, it was an incredible experience.

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Sometimes, for the heck of it, I reserve a "special meal" ( kosher, Lacto-veg, kid's,low-cholesterol.) They all suck, but at least you get served first!

It's been a while, but I used to get a pretty good cold seafood plate on some flights. Usually get 3-5 shrimp and a couple of crab slaws and some salad and cocktail sauce. Edible, light, and you get served first.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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Unfortunately I have never flown on Singapore Air and haven't done the whole First Class thing forever.

My Dad used to be an airline pilot on TWA back in the 'Good Old Days' flying out of NY to points overseas. This was great because we always sat in 1st class and all the stewardesses were incredibly nice to us (I'm guessing some of them had ulterior motives) and we always had chateaubriand and hot fudge sundaes (way way too young to even think of champagne). But I have a small set of TWA tiny silverware and good memories of what I thought (at that time) was phenomenal food.

I have never flown Midway so cannot comment on their entrees. Everyone else's 'coach' fare is pretty unremarkable by my tasting.

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......

My Dad used to be an airline pilot on TWA back in the 'Good Old Days' flying out of NY to points overseas.  This was great because we always sat in 1st class and all the stewardesses were incredibly nice to us (I'm guessing some of them had ulterior motives).......

See the joys of ID95 and Positive Space for NRSAs :wink:

In the CAB era, food and service were the differenciator since price of the tix was'nt.

anil

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In terms of coach food, the best I've ever had was Virgin Atlantic. I remember the quality being several cuts above the norm. Plus, they were the first airline I flew to have personal video screens in coach.

I've only been in business class once, and I was bumped up to it on a Delta flight from Amsterdam to JFK. Alas, I had the start of an awful cold so I couldn't appreciate the food (though I did appreciate not being ill and crammed in coach for 8 hours).

The worst food I ever had was (a) rubber pancakes on an old Eastern Airlines flight from Orlando, and (b) eggs that actually caused me to get airsick on a United flight from San Francisco.

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The dinner on Business Class in United widebody planes has went from mediocre to not bad, sometimes even good. Somehow, the chicken is usually decent, unlike the traditional airline rubber. Probably because it's injected with water and enzymes.

Breakfast is still mediocre. And the wine sucks big time.

In coach, American has a palatable seafood special meal, with reasonably fresh shrimp. United used to have a decent one, but now it's poor. The best bet on United in coach is the Asian Vegetarian special meal (not the regular vegetarian). It's good 50% of the time (if you like asian vegetarian food; 0% if you don't).

beachfan

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unitedairlines021.jpg

Gah.

Here's an online resource for those who haven't packed provisions.

"These pictures clearly show you get what you pay for," said Webmaster Marco Hart.

Clickety,

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Jon, hahahahahahaha. :huh:

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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What intrigues me is that she indicates that Midwest Express is THE Foodie's favorite airline.  Would you agree?  Any others?

I am more intrigued to know what her definition of a foodie is. That would help me understand the claim a little better. I don't know that I would characterize Midwest Express as "THE Foodie's favorite airline." If that claim were actully true, foodies would already have engaged in discussing it ad nausem because it would be such an anomaly.

Midwest Express has done some interesting, ambitious things in terms of the food that they serve. On a flight from Madison (Wisconsin) to San Francisco, I was served lobster thermidor. BUT, just because they make reasonable attempts at serving decent food (we are talking airplane food), the effort doesn't catapult Midwest Express into the classification of a flying Foodie Paradise.

Midwest Express is a domestic carrier. Milwaukee is its hub. The airline has always prided itself on its service--food being but one aspect. They have wide leather seats that only seat two across. There are no first class and coach distinctions. Meals are served on china with flatware and glassware. When I ask for a Coke, I get to have the entire 12 oz. can. I can even get another can if I want one, and it will gladly, rather than begrudgingly, be given. They also serve freshly baked chocolate chip cookies--no peanuts.

In terms of overall service and comfort, I would say that Midwest Express is one of the best domestic carriers in operation. In terms of the food, non-foodies are blown away, but that shouldn't mean much to the eGullet audience. Foodies will appreciate what the airline is trying to do, and give Midwest Express a more than favorable nod for trying to go above and beyond serving typical airline food. After that, I think the reviews would tend toward good and OK--much better than average-- but not great from a foodie perspective.

Midwest Express consistently receives high ratings and is well-loved by its passengers. The service is excellent; even critical foodies can appreciate all the other aspects that make it a great airline.

Internationally speaking, I tend not to eat the food. The meals a generally miserable, and eating on overseas flights makes adjusting to the change in time difficult for me. I tend to wait to eat until I have reached my destination. I have yet to see a meal on an international flight that was cause for celebration, and Air France was probably the worst I've seen so far. :hmmm:

I was served are very nice meal on the Eurostar. That was a total surprise because I boarded with a sack of goodies in anticipation of dismal food. Do trains count on this thread? :unsure:

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Singapore Airlines has most certainly declined in the last five years. It used to be that flying in coach class--even over a stretch of 24 hours or more--was bearable. The seats were roomy enough, the service was friendly, the food was interesting (Singaporean specialties) and somewhat edible. Unfortunately, I noticed a clear decline about three years ago and they've been sliding downward into the heap ever since.

I will say this, I was able to use the Business class lounge in Singapore in transit to KTM and home again and it was downright luxurious.

Of course, 12-15 years ago I had the opportunity to fly BA from London to the US in coach and it was an utterly pleasant experience--decent meal and more importantly, Belgian (?) chocolates for dessert with our after dinner drinks! Did I mention this was coach? I haven't flown BA since but this year I will have the opportunity to fly American to London and BA to Delhi so we'll see how the two compare and how BA holds up to the old standards.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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My one and only time flying first was this year when I flew to Australia with Lauda Air (I couldn't face the flight in coach). London -> Vienna -> Sydney. They've combined first & business into Amadaus class (groan) but they did have a chef on board & the food was exceptional (the wine were fairly bad but I hate drinking when I'm flying - I woke up once on a long haul once with a hangover and the journey was only half over - the flight from hell).

Apart from that food is usually awful.

What about airport food - Heathrow Terminal 1 is vile. Are there any good restaurants in any airports worth noting. Perhaps this should be a seprate thread: "At airport X should I eat before or after I've gone through customs?".

PS Why do they insist on calling them "terminals"

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What about airport food - Heathrow Terminal 1 is vile.  Are there any good restaurants in any airports worth noting.

Heathrow Terminal 4 has a Pret a Manger, which is certainly reliable if not spectacular.

They've spruced up the food options at Newark, including a pretty decent "Jersey Diner." When I fly out of there in November to go to Houston, I am definitely eating in the terminal rather than take my chances with whatever Continental will be serving.

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Heathrow Terminal 4 has a Pret a Manger, which is certainly reliable if not spectacular.

I take it you are not from the UK?

Also - who wants a sarnie to be your last meal?

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