Traveling on airplanes isn’t a cakewalk; kicking feet on your seat, dragging heavy luggage in long queues, going through multiple security checks, or handling restless toddlers can tire you out by the time you get aboard. And when you manage to overcome these hurdles and settle at your seat in the flight, you feel like you have won the race of your life. After the exhausting experience, the one thing your stomach, and your nerves craves for, is food.
Now, eating in-flight food in Economy or Business can be tricky as you cannot predict the quality and integrity of what you are going to be served. Some airlines serve the best and some not so. And, if you are flying abroad and the food on the plane isn’t great, then it can make your intestines go haywire. The biggest turn-off is getting gross food served at your flight seat.
Some airlines partner with amazing and sensible kitchens, and ensure hygienic, safe, and colorful food and even exotic cuisines to tease your palates. On the other hand, some airliners may cater improperly stuffed burgers, cheap wine, uncooked meat, and stale bread.
However, food quality in some airliners may differ from region to region, class to class. There are several reasons why you and I may not have experienced the same kind of freshness or delicacy aboard the same airliner. But most of us don’t care about the reasons. Simply, we want and deserve safe food! Buckle your seatbelts as I walk you through 10 airlines that serve the best in-flight meal and 10 of the worst .
20 Emirates (Elegant)
Emirates, a Dubai-based airline company, has 451 menus planned according to routes, seasons and customers. From local to Oriental, Continental and Middle Eastern cuisines, it caters broad options to passengers.
Emirates-inspired food menu is even featured on Royal Doulton and Robert Welch cutlery. It serves exquisite puddings, desserts, scorns, pastries, teriyaki salmon fillets, mounds of rice, and rows of fresh green salads. It imports vegetables, fruits and ingredients from Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Brazil, Norway, Jordan and California.
If you are flying First Class, you can order a freshly-prepared seven-course meal.
In Economy class, too, you won’t get less-than-royal treatment, with items such as smoked tuna and soaked vegetable salad, charcoal-grilled lamb brochette with scented spices, thick date pudding, and more.
Emirates has a sound reputation in terms of hygiene, freshness, and variety.
19 Swiss International Airlines (Delicious)
Swiss International Airlines offers its passengers to choose from an exotic menu curated from the finest restaurants. It plates fresh seasonal and authentic products of “Swiss quality.” First class passengers can even order à la carte.
The airline company supplies only fresh vegetarian and nonvegetarian foods, and changes its menu every three months. The menu includes different types of meat, cheese, chocolates, and regional alcoholic beverages. The culinary in Swiss International Airlines takes its inspiration from the Maîtres de Cuisine to give it the authenticity of the Alpine region.
Swiss International Airlines is known for its perfectionist attitude towards culinary standards.
18 Air New Zealand (Delightful)
Air New Zealand’s fresh and innovative recipes can even tempt the toughest of travelers; or, so say people at the airlines. It serves delicious and clean food and fantastic beverages in its Premium Economy menu. In the Economy menu, you can savor delicious meals with complementary native wines. They also have a self-service refreshment bar where you can quench your thirst.
The airliner also gives an array of meals inclined towards dietary and cultural needs, on pre-order. You can also eat agricultural products such as honey, fruits and vegetables on elegant crockery.
Not only is Air New Zealand’s food humble and clean, it is also low on harmful carbs and fats, and sensitive towards your culture and beliefs.
17 Etihad Airways (Award-Winning)
The Arabic word Etihad translates to “together;” and what brings people closer more than food? The Etihad Airways – second largest airline in the UAE – employs award-winning culinary experts from the best restaurants from all over the world.
The dining experience at Etihad is said to surpass A-list restaurants.
Etihad delivers food in compliance to religion norms, medication requirements, and customer taste.
In its First Class menu, the Abu Dhabi airline company exclusively serves Mezoon Grille that includes beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, and mouth-watering desserts. Irrespective of the traveling cabin, the served food in Etihad is marked to be delicious and hygienic.
16 Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong (Humble and Satisfying)
Cathay Pacific celebrates the cuisines of Hong Kong in its menu. You can eat signature dishes from Hong Kong including crock pot pork with Hakka mustard greens, prawns curry, and wok-fried chicken with black beans.
They also serve hot Indian vegetarian food, diabetics-friendly food, fruits, non-gluten food for people with celiac disease, special food for people with cultural restrictions, diet food, and more.
The food lures not only Asians but also travelers from other nations. Fresh seasonal juices and sunrise-hued drinks are offered refreshments. Dim sums, poached egg with spinach and hollandaise sauce, and dingley dell pork sausage are few of the mouth-watering names on the menu.
Overall, Cathay Pacific’s food is sublime while sparkling fresh and diverse.
15 Air France (The Michelin Standard)
If you want to explore genuine French cuisine in the sky, then take Air France when you travel to Europe. Of course, unless you have enough money to burn, you need to check whether the plane takes you to your destination, and not just opt the airline for French food.
The airline revamps its menu every 10 days and gets a new chef every six months. It has tableware in compliance with Michelin-star standards. The taste of the haute cuisine won’t disappoint your tongue even if you haven’t tasted French before.
Not only for food, but Air France also is known for its top-notch hospitality.
14 Turkish Airlines, Turkey (Royal)
Turkish Airlines is known for its hospitality and serving the world’s finest delectables. The flying chefs of Turkish Airlines cook Turkish cuisines such as shish kebab, Karniyarik, manti, and imam bayildi for its passengers. The airlines changes its menu according to the season. It serves award-winning dishes to the customer.
The airline’s menu has starters such as olive oil-poached artichokes, grilled beef, and creamy eggplant to its coach flyers.
It was given the title of “Europe’s Best Inflight Catering Service,” and the passengers who have already experienced the food agree with it.
Of course, you need to fly on the Turkish Airlines to see for yourself!
13 Qatar Airways (Exotic)
Qatar Airways provides passengers with delicious food that is tailored for factors such as diet requirements. They serve food flavored in exotic spices, fruit platters, culture-sensitive dishes, and healthy meals.
Qatar Airways employs celebrity chefs to blend unique and diverse cuisines.
The airways has à la carte menu where you can order toothsome meals anytime at your cabin. You can choose from a long list of appetizers, main courses and puddings. The airline has a quirky combination of spicy zest and mocktails for you to ease travel stress.
Qatar Airways rates as one of the best airlines for in-flight food in terms of overall hygiene and quality.
12 Singapore Airlines, Singapore (Lavish)
Singapore Airlines ensures a world-class gourmet experience for its passengers. It provides a stellar Singaporean culinary treat to satisfy.
Famous for its “Book the Cook”, Singapore Airlines allows travelers to order their food in advance.
The airlines make every attempt to make your belly happy 30,000 feet above with the following celebrity chefs contributing to the menu creation: Alfred Portale, Carlo Cracco, George Blanc, Matthew Moran, Sanjeev Kapoor, Suzanne Goin, Yoshihiro Murata and Zhu Jun.
The airlines has several food awards to its name. It gives passengers more than 50 meal options including Western, Asian, and ethnic meals, with a change in menu every month.
11 Delta Airlines, USA (Premium)
Delta Airlines serves food with close attention to specific details including dietary, nutrition, and religious needs. It offers a deliciously wholesome menu in Business and Economy Class. It serves lavish meals with complimentary liqueurs.
Delta Airlines’ fruit and cheese plate is extremely famous, in which they use dairy products from Murray’s Cheese store. It collaborates with culinary experts to provide delightful food to its passengers. Renowned chefs and cooks put into the food their expertise and enchant you.
The airline offers free meals on its longest domestic flights. It designs an attractive culinary program for its international routes as well.
Now, get ready for some meals that are guaranteed to make you cringe.
10 Air China, China (Mediocre)
I will be straight here - Air China has the most awful in-flight food amongst all the airlines. It lags behind in providing quality food, which is the major reason it has only a 2-star rating from Skytrax. It is even more disastrous for vegetarian passengers who find it difficult to cope up with the options on the menu.
If you are a herbivore, then you better carry your lunch box rather relying on the in-flight food.
The rice and mushrooms in the flight can be surprisingly undercooked and cold. It doesn’t matter if you are flying Economy or Business - the quality of food doesn’t change. Passengers have rated the in-flight food of Air China “mediocre”. If you must use this airline, you are better off starving, or getting your own food.
9 United Airlines, USA (Not Recommended)
USA’s United Airlines has a rather tumultuous history when it comes to providing quality food, among other issues it has been facing for a while now. According to online reviews, the airline has a trite menu of food that will bore you. The methods of preparation can give you a bad stomach and worsen your jet lag.
Formerly one of the best airway companies, United Airlines has been underachieving in the food department due to unimpressive and hastily-made dishes.
Recently, the airlines scrapped tomato juice from its in-flight beverage menu. The news didn’t please customers, who took to social media to express their disapproval on the decision. Due to this, United Airlines had to put the juice back into the menu.
8 Air Koryo, North Korea (Underwhelming)
Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-owned airline, is the only airline in the world that uses refurbished Soviet-era aircrafts. This fact coupled with the iffy service and food have earned it the title of a “1-star airline” by Skytrax.
Even if you do like the retro interiors, you may not appreciate the in-flight food. Here's the kicker: Air Koryo only has one food item on its menu. Yes, you heard that right! The burger with a cult following among airline food critics is named The Koryo Burger. Its meat is of unknown origins and is probably made by non-cooks, according to passengers.
If you are going to tour the hermit kingdom, it is best to avoid the food.
7 Philippine Airlines (Raw!)
The second thought one would get after booking a flight ticket is the food the flight serves. But, we will suggest you give up on this thought if you are flying on Philippine Airlines.
Often held up in controversies, the Philippine Airlines’ in-flight food does an average job at satisfying customers. Several time, the food is either undercooked or overcooked. Of course, sometimes food criticism can be harsh and nitpicky. For instance, during a flight recently, the airline didn’t serve “authentic” dipping sauce with its Hainanese Chicken Rice. This received scathing remarks from the disgruntled flyers.
Passengers, on review sites, also have complained about the distorted texture and taste of the food in the airlines.
6 Adria Airways, Slovenia (Flavorless)
Adria Airlines passengers have said that the food provided there is just “inedible,” and suggest others dine in the airport before flying. As an example, the tuna sandwiches served in the Slovenian airline company are rather bland. According to food critics, except for the delightful sandwiches, other food items such as burgers and sausages are pretty much flavorless and make Adria Airlines not recommendable for in-flight dining.
The other options on the menu are also not exciting. Even Business Class isn’t particularly known for delectable food. However, Adria Airlines is making several attempts to revamp its food and woo the customers.
5 Jetstar, Australia (Uninspiring)
Australia’s Jetstar Airways is often branded one of the worst airlines for in-flight food. The airlines has even been in the news for providing substandard food. Passengers have complained that the in-flight food is way too expensive and unenjoyable.
Not only is the taste of the food unsettling, the method of preparation and serving is also amateur. Everything from Jetstar’s wines to its coffee are often rated low. During a few long-haul flights, the airline wasn’t able to cater sufficient meals to the flyers. If you are boarding this plane, you better load yourself up with a big meal before getting aboard!
4 AirAsia (Unimpressive)
If you board India’s AirAsia airlines for its competitively-priced air tickets so that you could spend a lot less on your flight and more on your trip, then we appreciate the idea. But the downside of that idea is that you may have to starve throughout your flight.
The food on Air Asia is nothing less than a nightmare. The in-fight menu is unappetizing. And if you are a vegetarian, then the menu gives you fewer options.
Recipes such as Spaghetti Bolognese lure the travelers, but then disappoint.
From the presentation to the taste of food, none of the efforts of the kitchen are satisfactory. Sometimes, the food may have excess salt and the meat can be leathery.
3 Lufthansa, Germany (Okay-ish)
Although a renowned company, Lufthansa, Germany’s (and Europe’s) largest airliner, can let down its passengers when it comes to food. It serves poorly-cooked vegetables, cold chicken, dry buns, and hard cakes. The origins of some of the food served will remain shrouded in mystery. Meals on Lufthansa are hardly gourmet, and can taste bland on some days.
Passengers aboard Lufthansa have expressed that most meals served to them was worse than the previous, and tasted dull. Amid these reviews, the airline has been revamping its food menu through its “buy on-board meals on long-haul flights” offer. If you don’t mind the food and are there for an overall entertaining experience, you can choose the famous airliner anytime over others.
2 Aeroflot, Russia (Lacklusture)
Passengers put Russia’s largest airliner Aeroflot at the negative end of the rating spectrum, mostly for its lacklustre cuisine. Its meals allegedly leave a terrible impact on tongues and moods. The food Aeroflot serves isn’t appreciated by many passengers and the menu isn’t diverse, sensitive, and colorful like in other airlines.
According to reviews of passengers who tried the in-flight food in Aeroflot, the dishes are often overcooked and not presented nicely. However, I did find a handful of positive reviews on Aeroflot’s burger.
Overall, the food in Aeroflot is undercooked and served cold, and not much effort is taken in creating a wholesome experience.
1 Hawaiian Airlines, USA (Certainly Not Recommended)
Hawaiian Airlines often makes news for serving unhealthy food. According to reviews from food critics, it serves high-calorie food with little hygiene.
A survey reveals that the meals on board Hawaiian Airlines have an average of 971 calories, enough to terrify any health-conscious person.
It doesn’t explicitly present the nutritional information of its food.
The airline has limited items on its menu for vegetarians. So, if you are on a vegetarian diet, you must consider relying on airports for food. Adding to this, poor quality and the lack of efficient hospitality services are the major setbacks of traveling on Hawaiian Airlines.
References: luxurytraveldiary, thrillist, tripsavvy