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Airline Food: The Topic


chefette
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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.

Singapore is an airline that has made the decision to do a very good job for its premium passengers (first class and, to a lesser extent, business class), and to treat its coach passengers like chattel. The fact that their premium cabins deliver such good service, and that they rate high on the "gee whiz" factor by incorporating a lot of technology gets them good press as well as a good word-of-mouth reputation that encourages people who don't know any better to sit in the back of their planes. I get the impression this wasn't the case five or ten years ago.

I'd say British Air, the other example that you cite, is another airline that meets the same description. Some years ago, when prices were generally higher, both BA and Singapore probably delivered a good product in both coach and the premium cabins. More recently, as the cost of economy class travel has decreased, most airlines have cut back significantly on the amenities in coach.

Post September 11, this trend has crept up into the premium cabins, at least on U.S. carriers. I'm surprised to hear that Beachfan has found recent meals in United's business class to be better than in the past--while they certainly haven't declined in quality the same way that American's have, they're still not particularly good. And many of the luxury touches that used to go into the experience (Godiva chocolate, decent champagne) are now absent, along with the metal dinner knives.

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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?

No, I'm from NY, where there are several Prets now. I have to say I actually like their sandwiches, plus Prets were a godsend when I was in London by myself & trying to save money.

And as for the last meal, better a sandwich than rubber chicken! I don't particularly want fine dining in an airport anyway, just something halfway decent & a cut above McD's.

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I flew to China on United, first class...and it was "Celebrate California" wine week...wow, what a list of wines. I had the entire bottle of Dunn Cab, and slept like a baby until 2 hours before Hong Kong! Coming back, we had my newly adopted neice, so wine was not a good option..but it was a great Lobster Bisque soup and, though I forgot the entree, a memorable airline meal, especially since I also usually fly coach and grab the chex mix the airling attendant throws at me!

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Before SR (Swiss Air) went belly-up, their service in F was consistently excellent. Great cheese, caviar,fresh fruits, and really nice selection of wines.

Old PanAm (not the second, or third rsurrection) on South American routes had very good cuts of beef, since they were competing with Varig, known for its service then (not the current varig)

PanAm and Swiss Air are no more :biggrin:

anil

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Before SR (Swiss Air) went belly-up, their service in F was consistently excellent. Great cheese, caviar,fresh fruits, and really nice selection of wines.

Old PanAm (not the second, or third rsurrection) on South American routes had very good cuts of beef, since they were competing with Varig, known for its service then (not  the current varig)

PanAm and Swiss Air are no more  :biggrin:

I remember! ....and the planes had propellers.

"Super-Constellations" :laugh::cool:

Peter
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.........

I remember! ....and the planes had propellers.

          "Super-Constellations"  :laugh:  :cool:

Ssshhh !!! You are beginning to make us look really old by mentioning things like that :smile: Actually Varig was amongst the early few that made the initial order of Super Constellations, raising the ante for PA on the NYC GIG run. A very good database of Aircrafts and Airplanes is www.airliners.net

anil

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I recently flew on Midwest Express when it was the only flight my employer could find for me from NYC to Kansas City on short notice. I assumed it would be a horror show like ATA or AirTran but was amazaed to find an all business class plane with wide and comfy leather seats. Then the real show started... meals on all flights. Real meals. Breakfast was cheese and mushroom omelette with sausage or belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. Decent coffee, OJ in a REAL glass and the food was served on CHINA plates with REAL silverware and a CLOTH napkin! (plastic knife subbed for the regular knoife fo security reasons. It wasn't food-to-die-for but compared to any other airline food it was amazing. IIRC, dinner on the return trip was crab cakes, sauteed green beans, roasted new potatoes and blueberry cheesecake. Oh... did I mention the unlimited champagne served with breakfast and unlimited red or white wine served with dinner?

I just wish they flew more routes that I travel. My low price was a fluke as they usually charge about the same price as competing airlines but they are really a class operation and worth flying on.

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I did one long, cold, lonely year in Stevens Point Wisconsin back in the early 70's. Had to fly to Chicago every once in a while. The best choice was a prop place, seating 8 or 10 flying out of Wausau. I think the airline was Midway, Midwest or something like that. Maybe it's how either Midway or Midwest started.

The pilot was the owner. His wife did the food service. I remember a jug of fresh sqeezed lemonade and a picnic hamper of smoked sausage, Wisconsin cheddar and fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Some one took the provided kitchen knife and sliced up the sausage and cheese. Someone else poured the lemonade. Truly a party in the sky between Wausau and ORD.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I average 150-200 k miles a year, most of it in Asia or trans-Pacific in first or business. Someone (jordyn??) said earlier in the thread that none of the airline food is THAT good, and I agree heartily!

I think some of the "gee-whiz" factor is that the meal seems free. If you stopped to calculate the cost of that first class meal relative to what you could buy in a three star restuarant for a fraction of the difference, you'd hold the airline to a much higher standard.

The best part of the front 2/3 of the bus is that the seats recline so that you can sleep and go straight to work from the plane. Drinking anything but water (even DP!) makes it that much harder to adjust to 13 hour time changes, so I usually save my appetite for real food when I land.

The real foodies airline is one that flies to the city with the best restuarants!!

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The most difficult part of eating a non-tender meal onboard is trying to cut it with a plastic knife (post 9/11).

I fly Mexicana First Class and in my Tequila haze, remember some decent food.

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I've had the pleasure of flying a lot of first class long haul and the best, bar none, is Qantas. (no better way to use miles than upgrading from business, which my company paid for, to first) meals designed by a well known Sydney chef (Rockpool) whose name I can't remeber- leather menus, 6-7 choices, fresh eggs, etc. for breakfast- frechly baked bread on board, great aussie wines (although I'm not a big fan of those wines)- lobster, etc. and you can have it at any time during the flight. Breakfast is even better- i tried to buy their muesli and the yogurt is amazing. really first rate stuff.

Cathay Pacific is also pretty good, as is Singapore, but none come close to Qantas- It's amazing what you can do when the goal is national pride as opposed to profit.

Cheers,

Charles

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........

Cathay Pacific is also pretty good, as is Singapore, but none come close to Qantas- It's amazing what you can do when the goal is national pride as opposed to profit.   

Cheers,

Charles

Been there, done that - :biggrin: In the matters of First : SR,SQ and JAL were way up there. Now-a-days all catering is outsourced - you specify what you want and how much you are going to pay for it. In NYC, Luftansa Catering does it all :smile: Same kitchen, different menus, different prices. YMMV

anil

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  • 2 weeks later...

Let me tell ya my in flight horror story. I can still remember

the backwash of it. (gasp)

I was on a flight to Osaka, Japan on Japan Airlines from

Honolulu, Hawaii. The meal was ok; nothing special. I can't

recall what it was;but it was the Japanese course. Anyway

the horror happened during the snack period. I was served

a Yakisoba with Mayo on a hot dog bun. I ate it;but I woke

up 2 hour laters to the washroom and barfed up the sandwich,

the dinner, a lung and a kidney. It was awful.

Sorry JAL;but err....a starch and a starch do not go together!!

Cheers.

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Sorry JAL;but err....a starch and a starch do not go together!!

It was in Japan where I first encountered the starch sandwich. Potato salad (with mayonnaise) on a hot dog bun was not an uncommon snack. That would go a long way in explaining why the Japanese artist/journalist with whom we were having breakfast in Madrid, found the potato salad sandwiches a perfect accompaniment to his ham and eggs.

It gets worse. In France there are all sorts of awful sandwich shops which serve French fries as part of the filling in the sandwich. My understanding is that the British need nothing other than fries and bread for a sandwich.

While I have little but disdain for all of the above, inluding that which I've not tasted, one of my local bakeries, the Sullivan Street Bakery, makes a nice thin foccacia, which they call a pizza, with a topping of sliced potatoes and rosemary with no sauce. It's excellent.

All of that is extraneous to what brought me here--why are we always so quickly off target? In-Flight Dining is an oxymoron.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bux, while we're straying off-topic, exactly where is the Sullivan St Bakery ? I looked for it after they told me at Babbo that's where they get their bread, but I couldn't find it. Maybe you should also tell me where the nearest optician is :smile:

The British "chip buttie" is indeed an institution. It consists of two slices of thick cut white bread, buttered (although I guess margarine or dripping would do) filled with greasy, soggy chips. I'm told they have to be soggy to be authentic. This delicacy is obviously not just starch, it also contains a large amount of saturated fats. Plotnicki would love them. The chip buttie is still favored in Northern England, but is otherwise rarely to be found.

I have to say that the photos in this thread don't shock me at all. Within the bounds of my limited expectations of an airline meal, both look reasonably edible. I really believe that airlines would deliver a better service to their customers, and save themselves a lot of money, if they served pre-packaged cold food on flights.

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  • 9 months later...

A little rant on a subject which has been bothering me for some years now:

1) Airline meals taste of poo. Even the business class ones taste of poo, albeit poo presented in cute little china pots which make great souvenirs

2) Airline meals are inevitably overcooked; probably to fulfil hygeine requirements but partly, one suspects, because the look of horror on the faces of victims - sorry, passengers, as they peel away the clingy carton tops is a source of endless entertainment to the cabin crew

3) The only nice food I have ever had on an aeroplane was on Air France. And what's more, IT WAS COLD.

Simple point: Why do airlines waste time, power and money heating up insipid cartons of pap when they could instead spend the (or, even less) money on top-quality cold meals which require the minimum of effort on the part of the cabin crew. Instead of twice-baked, thrice-congealed turducken breast, I would much prefer a a few slices of a top-quality salami, a chunk of excellently aged parmesan and a slice of good quality bread (or, failing that, some Carrs Water Biscuits some grapes). Instead of a steaming wedge of steaming turd, how about a simple salad with some real parma ham, a few nicely marinated olives and a slathering of REAL vinaigrette (not that icky gunk in dinky bottles)

Surely if airlines spend the money which goes on preparing and refridgerating ready-cook meals (not to mentioned reheating them in the middle of a packed jumbo at 30K) on sourcing top quality local ingredients served a froid it would be a) cheaper b) easier c) dramatically decrease the level of flatulence in the passenger cabin.

Why don't they? Is it because they feel they have to offer "propah" hot meals? Is it because the demands of centralised catering means everyone means meals must be standardised across an airline? Is it because they simple enjoy watching us squirm????

Any thoughts?

J

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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One of the best airplane meals (sic) I ever had was on a TWA going to Kansas City. It was a box lunch. Cold. It was a piece of fried chicken, not the best but not bad. A cup of fresh fruit and a nice brownie. Maybe it was the chocolat fininsh that gave me the good memories, whatever it was one of the best. :cool:

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There are many people whose tastes are so benighted that they prefer a piece of hot (or warm) crap to a cold delicacy.

However there is a problem of food storage on aircraft. Airline food comes in two temperatures, frig(ging) cold or micro(nuked) hot. All of the wonderful foods you describe and which I would long for should be served room temperature. There is no room temperature in an airplane.

It would be possible to set aside the space to generate it, but that would require them to re-design the whole bloody mess. Even then many people still think they need a hot meal so they still would have to provide for them.

The solution is to pack your own lunch, to be sure that has its own problems, but...

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BA seem to have taken this issue on board, as with all flights within Europe they generally issue you with a packed lunch. A sandwich and drink.

Scott says that a BLT he had on a Paris London flight last year was his best ever sky meal :smile:

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Air Canada and Southwest seem to have the best cold food. North West try’s to put out good hot food but miss the mark more often than not. I will ad that Baked Ziti is bad on the ground so why try at 36000 feet?

Living hard will take its toll...
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In years past, I requested and received a cold seafood plate on several airlines, particularly Delta. Basically, some cocktail sauce, 3-5 shrimp, 2 crab claws, some lettuce. Not bad and generally, as with special meals, I'd get served first.

I'm hollywood and I approve this message.

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