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Airline Food: The Topic


chefette
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Years ago I read that the real purpose of in-flight meals wasn't so much to feed the passengers as it was to give them something to do for an hour or so on a long flight -- break up the boredom, keep people from drinking too much, minimize whining etc. Don't know if it's true or not, but it makes a certain amount of intuitive sense -- and explains the quality of the food.

There's an essay of M.F.K. Fisher's -- I think in fact she is describing her trip to Mexico after "Chexbres" died -- in which she describes in-flight food, and the passengers' reactions to it. It's... um, very funny, and one of the meanest things she ever wrote. And Fisher's a woman who could write some pretty scathing stuff.

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am flying to the Costa Brava on Saturday from the UK on one of the new budget airlines, whereby you can "pre-book" your meal for £5 extra. I'm quite glad that I will be saving £5 off the cost of the overall ticket to not have to eat foul plastic sandwiches or dishwater coffee.

Instead - will take my own large bottle of mineral water (it's the dehydration on large flights that makes me suffer) and some nice fruit and maybe a home made sandwich. That'll keep me going.

Having said that, I do have hazy memories of various flights at ungodly early morning hours, which meant checking in at 6am - in which case you want a greasy breakfast fry up in Heathrow before boarding!! :biggrin:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Singapore Airlines may have an answer ...

when the eight chefs on Singapore Airlines' International Culinary Panel met earlier this week - luminaries like Satish Arora of India, Georges Blanc of France, Matt Moran of Australia, Yoshihiro Murata of Japan, Nancy Oakes and Alfred Portale of the United States, Gordon Ramsay of UK  ....Once a year, the chefs meet up and share new ideas, besides giving SIA some 400 recipes (about 50 from each chef) a year to work with. They also help SIA's inflight caterers develop the recipes as the airline has three sous chefs

To quote from Senator John Edward's acceptance speech at the DNC: "Hope is on the way!" :biggrin: or was that "Help is on the way"?? :rolleyes: These chefs are not exactly lightweights culinarily ...

Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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I flew Singapore Airlines to Singapore last year, and the food (at leas in Business class) was really good, except that their idea of Atkins was grilled chicken salad followed by ...err... grilled chicken. To be fair they let me pick from the rest of the menu and sea urchin followed by filet steak was good.

The thing that I always find disappointing on long haul flights is that they only serve one main meal, and then a snack 8 hours later. That is not enough for a bored person for 12 hours. The inflight grazing is usually just something a stale cheese sandwich and a packet of snackfood or a bar of chocolate. That is where you need to supplement it with one's own resources.

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All domestic airlines have cut back considerably on meals. Northwest goes so far as to sell meals onboard. They're from the Hard Rock Cafe, and they taste about what you'd expect.

Bruce

I flew Minneapolis to New Orleans on Northwest last week (I love these partnering agreements-Delta Miles for Northwest Flights-woohoo-hopefully I will get to use them before Delta goes belly up)and the tasty treats being offerd were from TGIF. The guy next to me bought one ($10USD) and said that it tasted like it had been riding around in the luggage compartment for about a week.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I fly very frequently, both domestically and internationally, in classes from coach to first, and can remember getting very few non-objectionable meals. Most of them were in the "no-cook" category - a grilled chicken caesar salad, chocolate ice cream sundae, turkey sandwich, etc.

The most amusing was Air India, Bangalore to Hyderabad, a butter sandwich on wonder-white bread (crusts cut off) and a side of tomato ketchup. I declined future meals on any of the Indian airlines after that.

Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific had decent wines, but I don't remember anything favorable about the meals. Very good service on those airlines, though (at least in business class).

American Airlines to South America meals... stink. I've given up and just get a sandwich (for dinner) and granola bars (for breakfast). Even the attendants laugh it off... every time I decline a meal, I usually get the response "Oh, then you've had the meals before." Heh!

I really wish more would go with a simple sandwich and salad, some fruit, and dessert... things that are hard to screw up. I like having the breakfast option of cereal, fruit & a bagel, which is also hard to screw up.

...wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic, and the serious smile. --Alexander Pope

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When I used to commute between San Diego and Dublin I got in the habit of ordering the kosher meals. They always seem to have been made with a bit more care, although I would not go as far as saying that it was good.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Has anyone flown China Airlines (China, not Taiwan) from SFO to Beijing? How was the food? Any decent Chinese options? I plan on taking pastrami and cole slaw from Katz's on my flight from JFK to SFO, but after that, I may be out of luck. Maybe I should ask my brother to bring a Mission burrito on board for me from the Mission District...

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Improbably we've had some pretty good meals on business/first Aeromexico out of Mexico City to Sao Paolo, Paris and Madrid. That perhaps because they tend to fall in the stew rather than grill or roast category. Not so good on the return flights.

But I never fly without cheese or jamon serrano sandwiches (preferably my own bread and a good sharp cheddar), black olives, fruit, and good quality teabags (Earl Grey, Darjeeling, and Manzanilla). This covers breakfast, lunch and dinner as far as I am concerned.

Rachel

Rachel Caroline Laudan

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I've flown China Airlines within China, and it was miserable..........and not just the food! :biggrin:

Seriously, do NOT get on board that plane without all the food you're going to need - because there will be very few comforts on board.

In coach class, the seats were clearly using the 1954 biometrics, the snacks were "meat sticks" and the flight attendants were surly.

I'm sure the international flights are better, but I'm not sure in what areas.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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mmm one of my favorite topics.

I've been on many, many international flights (sure, it starts as just 'travel', but then you go and marry some foreigne... :rolleyes: ), and all have been on my own dime, so no Business class for me. :sad: One day I might make some big bucks and be able to splurge, but I won't be holding my breath.

KLM coach meals rank as some of the worst, in my opinion. I've heard some amusing anecdotes since moving to the Netherlands, on this very subject. I've tried to avoid flying with them when I could in the past, but now that Schipol is my local airport, I have a feeling I'll be flying with them again soon enough....

British Airways coach is one of the most consistently ... tolerable... in the meal department. Combine that with the fact that they always have 12+ channels for you to play with on your individual TV set, and that seals the deal for me.

Luftansa: you'll live through the meal, though the Germans around you will be sure to complain through every minute of it. It's okay, it's what they do. Be happy you don't know the language. Assuming you don't.

United: The carrier I've done all of my Australia trips through. I can't recall the meal. On one trip, they played Scooby Doo: the Movie twice one the main screen in my cabin. Who cares what the food was. bastards. :hmmm:

American: I had an interesting burrito on a Dallas-D.C. flight. That's all I have to say about that.

Air France: Not great, but lots of sparkling wine.

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I always fly United Business through to NYC from Australia (thank god for flyer miles :biggrin: ) The last few times I've actually seen a huge improvement in the food, the only problem being that because I usually fly NYC-LA-Sydney at night I end up with the same meals on both legs :sad: The last meal I had on United was smoked salmon and salad, followed by fillet mignon and bernaise sauce then on the next leg I skipped the seafood salad and had fillet mignon in a red wine reduction.

Cheers

Tom

I want food and I want it now

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I fly KLM or Continental to Europe, "business first" class, fairly regularly. I have to say that while KLM is pretty good, it doesn't even come close to Continental. I have even been impressed enough with some of the wines on Continental that I make a note to buy. (I don't know a lot about wine. I just drink it, so I need all the help I can get.)

Both do very well in the service department... friendly, efficient, and very professional.

Even Continental's back-of-the-bus service was, until recently, far better than many other carriers. I've flown KLM, Air France, British Airways and Continental to Europe, and for coach, Continental was top-of-the-heap by a long shot. Last April, I had to go to Birmingham, UK, on business and found the cheapest fare on Continental. Maybe it was just that specific route, but the food was just as rotten as airline food can be, there was NO FREE BOOZE (not even wine or beer) and the 2 movies (no channel-surfing here, my friends) were both crap that had gone straight to video on release. And because both flights (out and back) were crammed to overflowing, the flight attendants were overworked, harried, and even short-tempered.

With most domestic airlines either in bankruptcy or teetering on the edge, I don't expect things to improve any time soon.

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Face it, you're not there for the food. You know it, and they know it.

Absolutely I agree. However, if I am on a 5-hour flight and I have been rushing through the airport with no time to buy some food, and the only thing in coach is a crummy salad for $8.00, they are ripping me off.

I recently flew US Air across country and paid $8 for a Wolfgang Puck branded meal. It was suppposed to be chicken on a bed of greens. When I opened it up the chicken was missing and so all I had was a small bunch of dry cole slaw. At least the flight attendent returned my money. I was starving by the time I got to San Francisco!

I think that especially on longer flights, if they are going to charge you, they better provide something decent. And bring some crackers in your purse, just in case!

Oh, and on Air France I have had fabulous food.

*****

"Did you see what Julia Child did to that chicken?" ... Howard Borden on "Bob Newhart"

*****

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I've flown China Eastern from LAX to Beijing and vice versa in business class and it wasn't too bad. They have both Western and Asian selections, and the service is good. JAL in business class is good, too.

I got really good service when I was one of very few passengers on the plane during the SARS scare.

Edited by indybear (log)
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To make a generalization (but one that has some basis in fact), if you fly coach, forget about good food.  The good stuff is in business class and first class.

no question about it on domestic, but i've seen some outstanding examples on int'l flights. Malaysian Airlines had terrific coach food on their trans-Pac flight (LAX-TPE-KUL), including a peanut chicken and (slightly oversteamed) dim sum for breakfast. Cathay is supposed to be even better.

none of this stopped me from getting a bowl of chicken congee during our stopover at the Taipei airport, of course. 18 hours is a long flight.

domestically, i give extra kudos to JetBlue for at least devising decent non-meal snacks, and being very clear about their no-meal policy. by contrast, Alaska is a mess -- and they're stingy even with their club soda. and it only goes down from there.

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Malaysian Airlines Newark-Dubai wasn't too hot, though the Indian breakfast on the Dubai-KL leg was OK. On my way back to New York, I made sure to take some satay from a good satay place in Petaling Jaya (thanks for the recommendation, Shiewie!).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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China Airlines is the (crash-prone) national carrier for Taiwan. Air China is one of China's international airlines. The two are often confused with each other or misnamed - "China Air" comes up a lot. Have never dared fly China Airlines, so I can't speak for the food.

As an economy-only traveller, my best meals have been on Asian airlines: Cathay, JAL and Singapore in particular. Cathay's a fine airline, but the food is spotty: sometimes fine, usually okay, sometimes awful. Their reputation for always-great food I think is a little overstated. Booze is excellent though.

For food quality, I wonder if there is a connection to which airport you fly from. HK and Tokyo seem to be generally good, even UA and Northwest serve digestible meals on their HK-Tokyo flights.

I totally agree with the people who said keep it simple. Stews and curries taste good reheated; broccoli doesn't. Why the obsession with garden-fresh vegetables? Why pretend you're getting a restaurant meal? It just don't translate well to an aircraft cabin, and 90 per cent of good cooking is common sense, surely?

But, hats off to the airlines for at least trying, and for often succeeding. Good luck with rail. Try the buffet car next time you're in Britain. If they've got one. I've never had good food on a train, in any country, except what I brought on myself.

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China Airlines is the (crash-prone) national carrier for Taiwan. Air China is one of China's international airlines. The two are often confused with each other or misnamed.

Ooh, thank you for the clarification!

I stand corrected: It was Air China which gets my "thumbs down" for food and comfort.

But I arrived safely, and the airplane appeared (and smelled) new.

I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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I've never had good food on a train, in any country, except what I brought on myself.

Actually, I had one of the best lunches of my life on the Eurostar between Milan and Florence. Or rather, I had a very good lunch -- unbelievably fresh caprese salad, followed by clearly made-on-the-spot artichoke risotto -- only to realize, too late, that the smart Italians around me were having a truly staggering lunch, that began with maybe half a dozen passed platters of antipasti, went on to a choice of linquine with pesto or spaghetti with tomato and basil, then their choice of three different roasts with appropriate vegetables (and selections, of course, from the basket of fresh-and-still-hot breads and rolls), salad with a selection of cheeses, espresso and either fruit tart or some sort of semifredo, and all washed down with pitchers of Chianti. I just sat there in awe, thinking This is a TRAIN???? Jeez, Amtrack has a lot to answer for.

On the other hand, I was so excited when I made the return journey, thinking Boy oh boy, I'm sure ready to order my Eurostar lunch. :sad: Unfortunately, I got the train with the wheely-cart of overpriced pre-pack sandwiches and we're out of everything except the grilled zucchini croissant. If I could figure out how to tell the difference between one Eurostar and the other, I'd be a happier woman.

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