What The Airlines Are Feeding You

If we ran airlines, we’d serve passengers saltines and install a water hose to drink from, and then funnel the saved money into, oh, reducing flight delays. However, the airlines obviously care more about your well-being than we do, because they’re all competing to see who can offer the most chef-tastic on-flight meals these days. It also probably helps that in lots of cases, they’re charging for these meals for a bit of extra profit. Here’s a quick run-down of what some of the major airlines now offer.

American Airlines
Snacks, $2-4
For 3+ hour flights (U.S., Mexico, and Carribbean only): Sandwiches, $5

Complimentary meals prepared by their in-house division

Cobb salad sandwich, shrimp salad, black olive spaghetti salad, all by chef Todd English, $7-10

Snacks (cashews, biscotti, “muchies mix”), Terra Blues potato chips, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee

Our personal favorite in-flight meal options are with Singapore Air—they pass out free wine, Snickers ice cream bars, orange juice, and little purple footies with textured no-slip bottoms.

The full article has more airlines and also includes first-class meal options.

“Will Fly For Food” [Business Week]
(Photo: mlinksva)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mandarin says:

    no southwest huh?

  2. Black Bellamy says:

    I hate all airplane food and consider it an insult to have the price for this “food” be included in my ticket. You ask for a fucking Diet Coke and they don’t even give you a full can.

    I bring all my food with me. I got sandwiches, fruit, veggies, and snacks. I eat like a goddamn king compared to the slop the others are given.

  3. Saydur says:

    Bah, I remain unimpressed. Like Singapore Air, Korean Air offers free wine and a full meal on a coach flight from Incheon-Kansai. Airlines in America have forgotten what service and efficiency are.

  4. bonzombiekitty says:

    Dunno if they still do it, but Virgin Atlantic used to give free alcohol (including wine) during drink service. When I made a few flights from JFK -> Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic the food was:

    Drink service

    Dinner about an hour after take off. Choice between three different meals, usually chicken, some other meat or fish, and vegitarian. With cheese and crackers

    dessert, usually an ice cream bar and coffee or tea.

    after a few hours it was another round of coffee or tea, followed by breakfast, which was fruit cup and croissant.

  5. Lars says:

    I just flew American and I can say that they give you the whole can if you get a soda. The snacks were all three dollars with no sandwiches available (Boston to Chicago). Among the three dollar snacks was a three musketeers bar, which you could have purchased for under a dollar in the news stand store. I was surprised to see a lot of people buying the snacks.

  6. MikeB says:

    @Black Bellamy: Just ask for the whole can. I have noticed that if I ask for a diet coke, I get a glass. But, if I ask for a can of Diet Coke I get the glass and the can.

  7. bohemian says:

    Argh. Do any of these airlines offer special meals anymore? It looks like many of them involve sandwiches, pasta or cookies. There are many people who can’t eat wheat for various reasons. I also though you could not bring your own food due to the security theater restrictions.

  8. I recently flew US Airways from London to Charlottesville, Va. I must admit it was first class, so the food was pretty decent. We were greeted with mimosas and blood orange juice. Not long after take off, we got a plate of toast points, smoked salmon, cheese and salad. Then we had supper with green salad and choice of good old chicken or beef. Dessert was chocolates and cookies, 3 different cheeses and crackers. About 2 hours later, we got ice cream and espresso. About 2 hours after that, we had salad, pizza and cookies.

    Drinks and snacks were freely available during the whole flight. It was cool.

    I’ll probably never pay for first class again, but I sure did enjoy it.

  9. JustAGuy2 says:

    You can absolutely bring your own food, but no liquids > 3oz (so non-instant soup would be a problem).

    They also all offer special meals, although not on all flights, and not all special meals.

  10. notallcompaniesarebad says:

    Flag carriers are always the best at things like this because they often have the gov’t to fall back on. Additionally, they likely charge for all those extras. You can’t have $100 one-way fares and wine at the same time. My experience on AirFrance and BA have been wonderful, but I also paid much more for the flights.

    That said, I flew Northwest for the first time in a while this last week (usually a Continental guy, myself). It wasn’t a huge flight (north-south across the country) so I didn’t need a full meal. I ponied up two bucks for a trail mix pouch, slightly irked at having to pay for it. However, it was a full pouch (little air, numerous servings, I couldn’t finish it all) with whole almonds, dried cranberries and some other quality ingredients (no nasty yogurt pretzel or some bastardized chocolate chips). For two bucks, 5 miles over Kansas, I think it was a good deal. Better than anything you can get on the ground for that price.

  11. UpsetPanda says:

    I’ve flown Luthansa plenty of times and I really enjoyed their food. It impressed me that not only was the meal hot, the other items on the tray balanced it out. You got a small roll, a piece of cheese, cold butter (because warm butter just smushes before you even get to opening the little foil pack) and after the meal, you can have coffee or tea.

    @mandarin: I read the article today in the paper edition of BusinessWeek, but I believe Southwest is rated on the article itself, just not mentioned in this brief post.

  12. UpsetPanda says:

    *edit: I stand corrected, there isn’t a mention of Southwest on the website. I swear though, that it was mentioned in the print article, but maybe not.

  13. legotech says:

    @bohemian: You can bring food, just so long as its not pudding or a drink, well, and sometimes pies if the TSA guys are hungry. Well, I guess that goes for just about anything since the rules state they can just decide whatever they want is banned…so just don’t carry anything that looks really tasty anytime near lunch or dinner I guess.

  14. CoolTri says:

    Hawaiian Airlines. spoiled me. After i used them to go to and from Hawaii i expected that all airlines provided a good meal on flights of 6 hr… wrong. USAir (company paid for) wanted to charge $10 or $15 (i think) for a little fruit bowl filled with Mellon’s, a smaller that kiddie size drink and bag of nut… Horrible!! that was on a 6 1/2hr flight.

  15. kimsama says:

    @Black Bellamy: I’m with you on that one. There’s a Potbelly in the terminal I make most of my int’l flights from. I get me some sammiches and I’m good for my 24-hours worth of flights. Of course, most the int’l carriers have decent food, but I like to get stuff I’d pay for on the ground.

    @Saydur: Oh yeah. ^_^ Might I add to the list ANA? They give you wine/beer/champagne in coach. I always get champagne and orange juice so I can make myself a mimosa! Ahh… And they have snacks all flight long on my BIG flight (pringles, brand-name candy bars, bananas, sembei, etc). Yum.

  16. jodles says:

    el al’s food (and service) is not too bad. they have free wine and beer,and lots of snacks between the two meals they serve on the 12-ish hour flight to israel. they keep chocolate chip cookies in the galley for anyone to take when you want to stand up and walk around a little, and they come around with water to keep everyone hydrated every 15-20 min throughout the whole flight.

    the length of the flights do suck, but they do their best to keep people from getting too cranky

  17. King of the Wild Frontier says:

    Don’t usually go on long flights myself–almost all of my trips have been between the Midwest and the East Coast–so the terminals usually meet my food needs, assuming, of course, that I’m not stuck on the tarmac for hours. I usually pack a few Snickers on my carry-on if I’m feeling peckish. (Snickers, wine, and little purple booties–man, that’s livin’!)

  18. JMH says:

    @bonzombiekitty: That’s good to hear, since I’m flying Virgin Atlantic from JFK to Heathrow in about a month. I’m not sure why they’d go out of their way to give people coffee or tea on what’s typically an overnight flight though – maybe they’re slipping people decaf without telling them!

  19. CurbRunner says:

    Just remember, that when your stranded on the tarmac in one of these planes for endless hours, that you will now incur the joy of having to pay for your (alleged to be) food while being held hostage.
    That is until they quickly run out of this crap to sell you. All this eating will quickly cause the toilets to overflow as a further reminder of the savings the airlines are adding to their bottom line while you’re in complete misery.

  20. Jasmo says:

    I find it baffling that more people don’t bring their own food onto the plane … bring some fruit, a sandwich, and cookies. People bitch and moan about the quality & price of airline food and it’s like, duh, pack a lunch.

  21. OwenCatherwood says:

    Or you can purchase something from the rapidly growing business of providing food to passengers beyond the security checkpoints, where they can sell all the types of food TSA just took away from you.

  22. Smackdown says:

    It’s been a long time since I’ve flown a non-US carrier, but it used to be that you got complimentary booze and food on international flights as a rule. At least on Lufthansa, KLM, BA, Air France, Cathay Pacific, Gulf Air, etc.

    They only mention Lufthansa – are the other non-US airlines still serving booze for free?

  23. Don Roberto says:

    Asiana was great with steak and wine on betwen SFO and ICN.

  24. UpsetPanda says:

    @Jasmo: With the way security checkpoints are now, plus all the hauling of luggage, I wouldn’t be surprised if the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I could pack becomes one with the socks I have in my carry on. I actually do carry a light lunch or a few snacks with me when I get on a plane, it’s just that most of the time, by the time I get on the plane, it’s been smushed to oblivion and no longer looks appetizing. I suppose a tupperware bin could remedy that – a lot effort though…

  25. jamar0303 says:

    I *love* the foreign airlines. Thai, Singapore, airlines like that are what US airlines should be more like. I shouldn’t have to upgrade to Business Class just for decent treatment.

  26. Daniel @ playreadwrite.blogspot.com says:

    I lol’d at that water hose thing…. It sure seems like they might as well put in some sort of trough for us to eat out of….

  27. FLConsumer says:

    On my JetBlue flight from TPA to JFK, snacks & non-alcoholic drinks were free and unlimited. Full cans were handed out without a problem.

    @bonzombiekitty: Been awhile since I’ve flown Virgin Atlantic (same route BTW), but I also recall the booze being free and wine being served with dinner.

    @radleyas: PIZZA in first class?!?! I’d be appalled! I want REAL food if I’m getting tattooed that much for a flight.

  28. quail says:

    All I can say is that I don’t miss flying. Flew mostly from the late 80’s to the late 90’s and watched as food went from tolerable to bad as cost cutting went into effect. Sad, but at one time the sandwiches in the bag were better than the steamed meal they used to plop in front of you. Then slowly the amount of meat shrank, the bread got plainer, and the greens disappeared. It was like eating a truckstop sandwich. Then it got to being like eating 1/2 of a truckstop sandwich.

  29. jeknee says:

    Mexicana Airlines still makes with the goods. Free liquor (not top shelf, but decent stuff!) and beer in coach, plus meals on actual plates with real silverware. I believe the only difference for the folks in first class was the bit of extra room, plus the top shelf liquor.

  30. dirty foreigner says:

    @Lars: Next time I fly American I’m going to stock up on snacks and sell them for $2/each. Then I’m going to complain to Consumerist when I’m kicked off the plane and arrested.

  31. jamar0303 says:

    @jeknee: Ooh- sounds like I’ll be passing through Mexico on my way back from China then.