The Best Airline Meals

On most airlines, the food resembles the blankets—rarely free and small in size. Add a list of ingredients that’s weird and unrecognizable, and you’ll understand the less than enthusiastic response people have when presented with meals in the sky. But some carriers, mostly long-haul foreign ones, are embarking on a new culinary flight path.

Etihad Airways

Etihad lavishes first-class travelers with exquisite food and personalized service. Armed with top resort and restaurant experience, the onboard chefs do much of the cooking à la minute, and can customize sauces, poach eggs, and brew macchiato. In business class, a food-and-beverage manager caters to every whim. They work hand-in-glove with Etihad chefs and wine producers to guide guests through in-flight course selections and beverage pairings, and will even recommend restaurants in your destination city.

Emirates Airline

Wild Iranian caviar? Check. Dom Pérignon? Check. Charger plates? Yup, it’s just like eating at fancy restaurants on terra firma. With seven-course lunches and dinners, it’s fortunate that these Emirates flights are long-haul or there’d be no time to sleep in first class.

But who would want to snore through smoked tangerine chicken on lentil salad, duck breast glazed with wild forest honey, or exotic Arabic meze and hamoor? Business-class customers dine on five-course lunches and dinners, including a cheese course served with port. On the Emirates Airline A380 aircraft, business- and first-class passengers sip grand cru wines and nibble on canapés in lounges manned by a dedicated bartender.

Singapore Airlines

The menus on Singapore Airlines read like Michelin-starred restaurants thanks to heavyweight chefs like Suzanne Goin of Los Angeles’ Lucques, Georges Blanc of the Michelin three-star restaurant of the same name in southeast France, and Singaporean über-chef Sam Leong. All three are members of Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel, which works closely with the airlines’ own chefs to design menus for all seat classes.

Singapore Airlines is one of the few carriers to create menus in a test kitchen specially built to mimic the food-prep conditions found in an air-pressurized cabin.

Cathay Pacific Airways

At 35,000 feet, are free-range organic scrambled eggs with freshly toasted bread a breakfast must-have? On Cathay Pacific, the first-class galley stocks skillets, toasters, and rice cookers, so celestial morning meals are made-to-order—and served with fresh-brewed espresso or cappuccino, no less.

Passengers in all seat classes can enjoy expertly prepared Asian and Western dishes, such as braised duck with taro in preserved red bean sauce, or slow-simmered veal shoulder with parsnips.


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This article was written on 26 May 2017.