First Class Meals Get Increasingly Delicious As You Suck On A Pretzel For Sustenance

We’ll have to take the New York Times’ word on it, but they say that First Class meals on airlines are getting increasingly decadent as coach passengers cling with desperation to a maxipad-sized package of trail mix. From the NYT:

Charlie Trotter, the Chicago chef, will soon introduce dishes created for premier United Airlines passengers. (Mr. Trotter’s personal tip? Try the short ribs spiced with Thai-style barbecue sauce.)

And on Emirates, chefs from nine luxury Jumeirah hotels recently began cooking airline meals, adding to a menu that included roasted lobster and veal with pumpkin bathed in coconut cream.

While the masses packed into economy continue to suffer through meals that seem to taste worse, cost extra or don’t exist at all, a resurgence in the excesses of airline dining is swirling through first- and some business-class cabins.

One regular first class passenger complains: “You don’t want a five-course meal on an airplane,” she said. “It’s almost an intrusion, the amount of courses that are being served.” Airlines are so focused on the dietary needs of first class passengers that their leftovers are weighed and studied so the airline can get it right next time. And you thought they didn’t care. —MEGHANN MARCO

What’s Cooking in First Class? [NYT]


Edit Your Comment

  1. superlayne says:

    I remember the cardboard I had to eat when I went to Washington. This is some sort of discrimination.

  2. homerjay says:

    How dare you invade my space repeatedly with the offer of more delicious food! Be gone with you, wench, and God help you if you come anywhere near me with champagne! Don’t you know who I am???

  3. royal72 says:

    i’ll pack a sack lunch with a nice sandwich, pretzels, cookies, and a capri sun of course.

  4. oudemia says:

    @royal72: You are so-getting put on the no-fly list with trying to take that Capri Sun of yours through security.

  5. RogueSophist says:

    The meals are getting increasingly decedent? I think most of us will agree that that’s not particularly…appetizing.

  6. RandomHookup says:

    This must really suck if you are waitlisted for First Class, but end up in steerage. Not even enough time to run to one of the pick-up meal places.

  7. MercuryPDX says:
  8. wildhobo says:

    Whoo hoo. Good news for me. I am going on my honeymoon in a week (hopefully) and flying 1st class for the first time.

  9. faust1200 says:

    I don’t think maxi-pad and trailmix should be in the same sentence.

    Cool kids click

  10. tcabeen says:

    @royal72: Kudos for saving all that money and still getting a decent meal on the plane. Likewise here, except I pass on the caprisun. Who needs all that sugar… :)

  11. fearuncertaintydoubt says:

    This doesn’t bother me at all. The reason most of us don’t fly first-class is because it’s not worth the money. Even will Charlie Trotter food, it’s still not worth it. This isn’t elitism any more than the guy next to you on the road driving a mercedes is.

    If people want to pay for that stuff on the airplane, I’m only too happy to let them subsidize my cheap coach ticket with their higher margin.

    If anything, I’m all for more amenities and more first-class stuff. Let them pay for it and help keep everyone else’s tick prices low.

  12. royal72 says:

    “take me to vegas or i’m blowing up this fucking plane!… wtf do you mean with what? i’ve got capri sun, now let’s go!… and don’t think i won’t use this pb & j with the crusts cut off.”

  13. Sockatume says:

    The first time I flew London to Edinburgh for an exam (on company cash, obviously otherwise I would’ve taken the bus) I went with BA. They happened to have the cheapest economy tickets for that trip. So I’d been on depressing, circuitous, foggy December trains since the afternoon, to get to the airport from East Kent. I finally collapsed in my seat for the 90 minutes or so it would take to get the final leg out of the way and meet up with my mates up north.

    About twenty minutes after takeoff, I am surprised to find there’s a complimentary meal. I’m handed a small plate of chilled pasta, salad, and a couple of different kinds of meat, some spring water, bread and butter, and a couple of little flapjacks. Then a couple of minutes later I’ve got a cup of tea. It cheered me up immensely.

    I’ve flown with them ever since. It’s amazing what food can do for your mood when travelling, and therefore your likelihood of going with that company in future. Another airline I went with did overpriced sandwiches and stuff on a cart service. However they cleverly set tea and biscuits at a comfortable £2, so they got away with it. Even a little gesture can make a big difference.

  14. asherchang says:

    @faust1200: and why not?

  15. Antediluvian says:

    I’m jealous that Meghann got a maxipad-sized package of trailmix — the only thing we got on Airtran last week was a tampon-sized cracker.

    And more importantly, since when did feminine hygiene products become comparative units of measurement?

  16. digitalgimpus says:

    You got a bag of pretzels? No fair, it’s often not even that.

  17. fishmasta says:

    You don’t even get pretzels on American Airline’s flights anymore. Last few times I flew them, you had to pay extra to get anything more than a beverage. $2-3 for a cookie, if I remember right.

  18. zolielo says:

    The peanuts are great… Tis all I want…

  19. FishingCrue says:

    It’s sad there isn’t a middle ground between business and coach on most airlines. I’d pay a little more for some extra legroom (I’m tall) and maybe a hot meal. I’ve been flying business class for quite a while now and it’s very hard to go back to coach (forced to fly Sao Paulo to Miami coach during the Federal Police strike a few years ago — I thought my knees were going to shatter)

    Focus: Exit rows are not premium seats, they’re perks for savvy travelers

  20. capitalass says:

    The AirTran napkin in that photo is actually a pretty funny piece of advertisement.

  21. Vegburgler says:

    There is one way to get first class food while being in economy. Try special ordering your food. Ya know, the vegetarian, kosher, etc. Usually on a long flight you are bound to have the same “dishes.” If you politely mention the fact that you’ve had the same food twice, more often than not the flight attendant will pity you and find something that you like from either business or first class.

  22. cabinaero says:

    @fearuncertaintydoubt: Try flying trans-Pacs in business or higher on a non-US airline. Then we’ll talk about ‘worth it’ ;)

  23. informer says:

    @FishingCrue: Well, United has Economy Plus?

    Anyway, I’m really not bothered by all the amenities and meals first class passengers get when I consider their ticket could have easily cost 10x what I paid.

  24. MaliBoo Radley says:

    I’ve never understood why they don’t offer a better meal when you book your ticket. If I was given the chance to pay an extra 40-50 bucks for a nice meal, I’d do it. Oh well ..

  25. faust1200 says:


    “Which size trail mix would you like? Light days or Red Sea?”

  26. str1cken says:

    The needs of the wealthy are being closely examined and met (or exceeded) while those less fortunate are pushed to accept less and less from life?

    I don’t believe it!

  27. FishingCrue says:

    @informer: I’m locked into AA and a few other international carriers (though not part of the one world alliance) by business relationships with same.

  28. Dervish says:


    You’re absolutely right – it’s amazing what food can do for your mood. I hate traveling for business, since I never sleep well and I miss my fiancee. Last fall I had to travel two weeks in a row, which might not sound like much to some of you road warriors but is a lot for my job.

    At the end of the second week I got to the airport late, arriving JUST after check-in cutoff. I was supposed to fly Northwest but was moved to a Continental flight leaving a few hours later. I was in a pretty foul mood over my own ineptness and having to get home later than expected. Then we boarded and took off, and the flight attendants started handing out food. I got an honest-to-god sandwich, and it was tasty and free, and it really lifted my spirits. WTF? Before that, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gotten more than pretzels.

    It doesn’t have to be lobster or prime rib or anything fancy – even simple stuff makes you feel better.

  29. acambras says:


    It’s really more of a pantyliner-sized bag of trailmix, right?

    Maybe feminine hygiene products became a unit of measurement with American Airlines’ women’s page.

  30. crnk says:

    First consumerist posts about how airfares are rising and it is supposedly becoming less affordable to fly. ‘Tis so sad that even someone with welfare won’t be able to afford a trip to Florida every year. Then, there come the posts about how awful the customer service and baggage issues are handled. Now, it is a bunch of complaints about the meals.

    People, Don’t expect first class service or even any free food if you’re going to complain about every single dollar you pay for an airfare. You can’t have it both ways.

  31. lapilot says:

    OK seriously, if people expect to pay $100 for a round trip ticket from LA to New York then don’t expect the super sized bag of pretzels. How hard is it to bring you’re own food on the plane??

  32. I don’t know if this is still the case, but Qantas has probably the best food I’ve ever had on an airline in coach class. Unfortunately, they don’t fly from SFO to LHR.

  33. ZekeSulastin says:

    @crnk: Thank you, Crnk. The reason they can afford all this for 1st Class passengers is because they aren’t pressed into shaving every last dollar off of the price of the ticket. They can charge more, so they can give more. If you cut them down to the margin, they’ll give you the margin.

    I’m sorry, fellow travelers, but you can’t eat your cake and have it too. Keep your money or keep your amenities.

  34. TheName says:

    They cannot make Coach more comfortable. What they are looking to do is keep the number of people who could actually afford to fly non-Coach but don’t to save money to an absolute minimum. This is accomplished by making sure the sentiment expressed by FishingCrue is the norm; “I’ll never fly Coach again!”

  35. Sonnymooks says:

    Thank God I only fly first class.

  36. orielbean says:

    Let them eat urinal cake!

  37. orielbean says:

    Put it this way – while I am concerned about getting a low fare, there is also a certain standard I expect while being stuck on a plane for 5+ hours.

    Would I accept a cheaper fare if the plane didn’t offer bathroom service?? No. The airlines continue to trim seat/foot space, and even those tiny basic amenities like some sort of food and basic beverage service.

    That, I think, is the major complaint from most passengers. I don’t want roast duck. But if your flight lasts longer than one meal period, gimme something!