• Thursday, October 1, 2020

Airline Meals

Galavante Confidential - Pie in the Sky
August 1, 2012
By , Galavante Contributor

Coffee, tea, or me? The Golden Age of Pan Am is almost urban legend in modern-day airline service. In recent years, culinary standards have dropped significantly – and airplane food has suffered a less-than-savory fate. And if you are served, the term FOOD is a stretch for the foil-wrapped creation placed in front of you.

But there is relief (and filet mignon) in sight. Goodbye, freeze-dried. Hello, fresh. A few international carriers are stepping up their game and proving that airplane cuisine is far from an oxymoron – even in coach. And if you score an upgrade (read our First Class, Up in the Sky for tips on how) or your company is picking up the tab, you’re in for a real treat.


Swiss Air

While regional wines may not be included with your economy meal, you won’t be missing out on one of the country’s must-eats: cheese. On all intercontinental flights, coach passengers can now enjoy a selection of delicious cheeses along with their hot meal. And we’re not just talking Swiss (though Emmentaler, which sounds way fancier is on offer.) Think more Gruyère and Appenzeller. We don’t know about you, but we can make a meal out of cheese. For those looking to go the vegetarian route, you’re also in luck. Swiss partners with Zurich’s renowned Haus Hiltl, Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, to create healthy meatless fare. Forget those plates of tasteless celery. The airline is also particularly sensitive to dietary needs, and offers a laundry list of special menus that run the gamut from vegan to kosher to diabetic and everything in between. And obviously no Swiss meal is complete without a chocolate finale. Talk about a happy ending. Clearly, the Swiss aim to please.

Virgin Atlantic

Free drinks in coach? Sign us up. Virgin’s new Welcome Cocktail, a yummy mix of fruit juices with or without vodka, is now part of the economy experience. Plus, after two years in the making, the airline just introduced a new three-course menu in coach, which includes items like braised beef with green beans, carrots, and mashed potatoes; chicken korma with mixed basmati rice and lentil dal; or penne pasta with creamy spinach sauce. Afterwards, enjoy stepped-up desserts like tiramisu, and hot chocolate on night flights (a non-caffeine option is a nice touch so you can catch your zzz’s). And when the lights dim and the in-flight entertainment starts, flight attendants come around with treats like ice cream and popcorn. You might forget you’re actually in the air and you’ll definitely forget you’re in economy.


Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel, a crack team of master chefs, works to create delectable in-flight menus for every class of cabin. So if you end up in economy, you may be missing out on the extra legroom – but not on a gourmet meal. Chef Suzanne Goin of LA is the newest member to grace the panel, and she injected her California style to dishes like beef daube with baked ricotta, baby spinach, cherry tomato confit, and feta salsa verde; and crabmeat salad in a chili-lime salsa with avocado, roasted baby beets, and crème fraîche.Bonus: If you’re a picky eater, a hardcore meal planner, or just want a wider selection of dining options, Singapore offers the chance to choose your main dish on select routes prior to flying with their easy-to-use Book the Cook service.

Etihad Airways

Onboard classically trained chefs who cook your meal à la minute? You bet. As part of their new First Class Chefs program in the Diamond First Class cabin, Etihad hired 110 international to make your meals on the spot. Etihad also overhauled their previous menu in favor of a new one dubbed Mezoon Grille. If that sounds like a restaurant, that’s precisely the point. In-flight dining now includes mix-and-match proteins, sauces, and vegetable options, along with an Arabic mezze menu. And if nothing is piquing your fancy, the chefs are happy to tweak any dish to your liking. You may find yourself booking a flight just for the meal.


If you’re a fan of Mandarin Oriental, then you’ll love dining onboard Lufthansa. Why? Because earlier this year Lufthansa partnered with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s top chefs at their San Francisco, New York, and Miami properties to create a rotating set of menus. Every two months, a new chef takes the reins, so you can expect fresh culinary delights no matter how often you fly Lufthansa. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. Currently, it’s acclaimed chef Toni Robertson of Mandarin Oriental New York who’s at bat, and she delivered a homerun menu that includes items like beef tenderloin with shiitake mushrooms and oxtail bread pudding, and green-tea layer cake with fresh mango.Yum.

United Airlines

Brand-new premium cabin menus (in Global First and BusinessFirst) are now available on long-haul international flights courtesy of United’s longtime executive chefs who teamed up with their Congress of Chefs – a curated group of culinary experts which includes Roy Yamaguchi and Michael Cordúa. You can now stuff yourself silly with five-course (BusinessFirst) and six-course (Global First) meals, plus regional options like sushi or noodle soup on Japan- and China-bound flights, respectively. And of course, leave some room for United’s signature dessert trolley, stocked with all the fixings for made-to-order ice cream sundaes.

In the end, though, we’re happy as long as the champagne is flowing. Securing a biz-class ticket can be worth it just for the unlimited Veuve, Dom, and Krug. But since you asked, we’d love the beef tenderloin with shiitake mushrooms and oxtail bread pudding. Surely you can’t be serious? We are -- just don’t call us Shirley.