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Airline Food from Coach to First: Which Airlines Do it Best?

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Best Airline FoodThe words “good food” have never been synonymous with airlines. In fact, most are know to have inedible, unidentifiable not-quite-warm meals, often served in flimsy, cardboard boxes. Anthony Bourdain, travel connoisseur, skips airline meals altogether.

But like hotels, airlines are vying to set themselves apart with better amenities – food being one of them. From coach to the first class cabin, airline brands across the world are working to provide passengers with unique dining experiences. Here are a few types of cuisine in which specific airlines actually… gasp… excel…

Vegetarian: British Airways

For economy, British Airways makes a pretty decent meal, but where they really shine is in their first and business class cabins, naturally. Any vegetarian is going to feel extra special when traveling on BA, because they excel at catering (whether they try to or not) to non-meat eaters. The fresh and delicious Indian options are among my favorite – a simple, fragrant saag paneer (made with spinach and cheese) being one of the best in-flight meals I’ve had. There’ s also an afternoon tea service with warm scones, jam, and clotted cream.

Local Cuisine: Fiji Airways

Air Pacific recently rebranded itself as Fiji Airways, launching three new A330 aircraft which will allow the airline to transition to daily flights from LAX to Nadi, Fiji by the end of the year. This gorgeous fleet not only offers the plushest linens I’ve snuggled into, but the food in business class is top-notch. The South Pacific-focused cuisine sets the tone for an island vacation with coconut-flavored curries, grilled local fish, and fruit-filled desserts.

Healthy: Emirates

Emirates “Healthy Meal Options” on the business class menu have been created to bring out the food’s natural flavors without adding extra fats or oils – think ultra-fresh seared seafood and light salads. This kind of meal is ideal for feeling satiated, but not stuffed. They’re available on most long-haul Emirates flights.

Breakfast: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines receives high marks for their economy food, but it’s the breakfast that’s worth waking up for. They serve the full deal with (surprisingly decent) eggs, potatoes, a fresh fruit salad, flaky bread, and yogurt. Oh, the yogurt. It’s creamy, tangy, and downright tasty. Feel free to ask for seconds.

Desserts: Qantas Airways

There’s no denying that Qantas serves high-end airline grub, even in the economy cabin, but the sweet stuff is a big a bonus. My friend (and frequent flyer), Leah Still recently told me that she loves flying Qantas because the flight attendants often pass out ice cream after meals. “The chocolate ice cream bars are good, but my favorite is the vanilla ice cream with orange-flavored Popsicle shell,” she told me. They even give flyers hot chocolate.

Overall: Asiana Airlines

What was formerly Seoul Airlines, Asiana is one of two major airlines based in South Korea. The carrier recent won the 2013 World’s Best Economy Class meals from the World Airline Awards, so it’s a given that dining on Asiana is a treat. On a trip from LAX to Seoul, you can expect a satisfying Bibimbap (a bowl of warm rice topped with meat, veggies, and often an egg) with a lovely wine list – definitely the right menu for a Korea-bound trip.

Tell us: What’s your favorite airline?

7 Comments

  • Deborah says:

    Oct 8 article by Anne Roderique-Jones was heavy on the business first class scene for food recommendations and extremely light on airlines that carry good economy food. Change the article header or change the content…. not good

  • c curtis says:

    I traveled from Houston to Dubai on Emirates in business class. My first flight with them and very excited about the service and food as I heard it was one of the best. Very disappointed in both. Food was no better than a TV dinner. Service was very mediocre. After serving us and turning down the lights, a flight attendant was no where to be seen. Getting off we were almost run over by part of the crew trying to get off first. Some of them said they had to stay until everyone was off the flight.
    A couple of months earlier I flew from Houston to London on United in business class and was impressed with the attention flight attendants gave us. They were continually serving us something and checking to see if we needed anything. Food was actually pretty good too.

  • Martin Kurzer says:

    I disagreee with your favorable comment about the food on British Airways. This past March, we had the misfortune to fly British in coach from Miami to London and return. Aside from the smallest seat pitch I have ever seen, the food was horrible. My wife ordered vegeterian and, although it was served first, it was exactly the same meal as the regular food.

  • John Conte says:

    I am a frequent flyer on Delta with over a million Skymiles. I love the Michel Bernstein offerings and friendly service in Business Class – Coast to Coast, NY to London, and LA to Sydney. KLM comes in a close 2nd with service from Amsterdam to Cape Town. Wish Delta would dump Air France relationship. Air France service is awful and flight attendants rude.

  • Allie Madison says:

    TAP Air Portugal gets my vote for the best. The minute the plane was loaded,the cabin attendant came over to tell me they had my vegetarian meal on board. It was delicious. Worst? Delta. They consistently forget my vegetarian meal and seem surprised that I mind. My longest flight with Delta with nothing to eat was twelve hours. I avoid them but can’t always.

  • Reform School says:

    I had a lifelong hotel/cruise ship (up to 5 stars) career but hands-down the best Italian meal I ever ate (without a tomato in sight) was a Chicken Rosemary dinner aboard a June 1986 Rome-to-New York Alitalia flight.

  • Penny says:

    Lufthansa has delicious food! We flew United, operated by Lufthansa to Copenhagen. United sheet said no special meals. Lufthansa offered meal selections even though we hadn’t ordered specially. Several meals offers during the flight, both ways.

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