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

by  Anne Roderique-Jones | Oct 8, 2013
Upscale airplane food
Upscale airplane food / Aureliy/iStock

The 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?

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