For years, airline food was regarded as bland, overcooked (or over-heated), and over-salted; that is if the carrier even served a meal. However, nowadays that is rarely the case, especially on long-haul flights. Today, food culture plays a big role in our lives and this continues even 30,000 feet in the air. Many flights now carry bartenders, on-board chefs, and well-equipped galleys, to ensure the finest in-flight experience for passengers. While some of the higher end gastronomy is reserved for first and business-class passengers, there are some airlines that pay good attention to their economy flyers as well. Every year, more airline companies are noticing this shift in cuisine quality, as well as overall amenities and services, thereby giving their clients what they deserve and expect.
Based on business and first-class traveler reviews, mouthwatering ingredients, and magnificent plating, we have put together a list of ten of the finest airline cuisines found on the world's greatest airlines.
Prepared daily, and fresh on-board, using only the best ingredients, the first luxury food item served is caviar, followed by eight extravagant courses that include shiitake wontons, perfectly grilled lamb cutlets served in an olive sauce, and quince tarts with double cream and spiced syrup.
Food lovers worldwide can appreciate a quality chef greeting and feeding passengers aboard a long-haul flight overseas. Closely overseeing the cuisine for those in first and business-class, these chefs work hard to prepare decadent meals, in both, on-ground catering quarters and in-flight galleys. Fresh and aromatic foods traditional to Turkey are served throughout the flight, amongst all classes, in generous portions. While coach flyers may be limited to starters such as artichokes poached in olive oil and entrées like eggplant stuffed with spiced meat, those in first or business class get to enjoy greater culinary luxuries such as a mezze of purslane with yogurt, soup, and fresh artichokes with olive and pepper croutons. Entrées even resemble restaurant-quality dishes, such as grilled sea bass served with red lentils, topped off with a sour cherry cake and cappuccino.
Known for providing some of the most comfortable journeys around the world, Garuda Indonesia offers a number of productive services, namely their on-board immigration service, which speeds up the process on the other end tremendously. For a taste of Indonesian culture, passengers can order beef rendang with steamed rice, among other delectable snacks. For a taste of other cultures, roast beef salad and ricotta and spinach cannelloni have made their way on to the widely celebrated menu as well.
Etihad Airways services their travellers with the finest treatment out there. First and business-class get the luxury of having some of the best on-board chefs available to their every beck and call, who prepare magnificent food and are more than happy to customize various orders. Dining is available whenever hunger strikes, and a six-course tasting menu is ready to showcase Middle Eastern cuisine, as well as Western, for the less curious and daring. The “Mezoon Grille” will satisfy any meat-lover’s appetite, as the air-steakhouse grills rib-eye steaks marvellously, whether rare or well-done, and provides a variety of sauces and sides. Even economy-class experiences the likes of Western, Middle Eastern, or destination-specific entrées, which are served with dessert and beer, spirits, and wine; they even serve cappuccino and espresso, which are rare offerings for those travelling coach.
Flying high at 35,000 feet, Cathay Pacific Airways makes sure to stock their first-class galley with the best rice cookers, skillets, and toasters. No matter the time, everything is made-to-order and truly fresh, which is not a term typically linked with airline meals. However, Cathay Pacific delivers when it comes to excellent food and service at high-altitudes. They even consider the dietary and religious restrictions some passengers may adhere to, providing numerous options to suit the needs of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, celiacs, and raw diets. Furthermore, no matter the class, passengers enjoy Asian and Western-inspired dishes that have been expertly prepared, like braised duck with taro and red bean sauce, or slow-cooked veal shoulder and parsnips. Of course, those in first or business-class have the added benefit of experiencing great dishes from popular restaurants in Hong Kong paired with glamorous grand cru wines.
Despite last summer’s fatal crash of an Asiana Airlines aircraft and the tremendous losses and injuries that resulted from it, the airline itself is quite stellar and especially accommodating. Not too hungry and more interested in canapés or tapas? Or have an appetite for a heavier snack or a full-on meal? Asiana Airlines has got it all, dessert too, of course. They serve a delicious fried shrimp with steamed rice, traditional Korean spicy ramen, and a beautiful, plump cut of steak, to name a few. There are a myriad of delicious options, and beverages such as Champagne, to be enjoyed throughout the smooth flight.
Attentive service, great food, spacious seats, and plenty of variety are some of the best qualities of All Nippon Airways. Those in first and business-class have the luxury of private seats that stretch out fully, allowing passengers to sleep with comfort. Numerous amenities are provided, such as a cardigan, pyjamas, and slippers, to name a few. In order to stay fully charged and connected, two plugs and a USB port are available as well. A delectable 8-course Japanese meal is offered, giving passengers a memorable taste of Japan while flying high, some of these meals consist of succulent blackened cod, a hearty miso soup, grilled scallops, and luscious parfaits for dessert.
While economy-class may not get such extravagant amenities and choices, they do get to enjoy a small Haagen Dazs tub of ice cream for dessert, spacious seats, and power ports to also keep charged and connected.
Thanks to world-renowned chefs like Georges Blanc, Sam Leong, and Suzanne Goin, menus found on Singapore Airlines take to standards of Michelin-starred restaurants. No matter the class, these big-name chefs work with the airline’s chefs to design quality menus for all passengers.
When boarding, first-class passengers are promptly asked whether they would like a glass of Dom Pérignon or Krug. For those in business-class, first-class, and suite, galleys are fully equipped to the nines, with different ovens that serve different purposes and, obviously, Givenchy china. These travellers get to enjoy Malossol caviar, homemade chocolates, gourmet coffees, and a variety of bread. For the main course, some of their options consist of Korean-style eel fillet and Wagyu beef.
Perhaps less sumptuous, but definitely not neglected, economy-class flyers can enjoy menu items like potato salad and baby shrimp as an appetizer, and wok-fried chicken with bamboo shoots in sesame oil as a main-course, along with a cheese platter, a delicious dessert, and various Asian and Western teas.
Qatar Airways is well-known for serving some of the greatest meals on first-class, and in the last year or two, they have put in much effort to revamp their mile-high menu. Now, passengers can choose from a luxurious 10-course meal, which is typically made up of caviar, prawns, lobster, Middle Eastern mezze, delectable chocolates, and delicious cheese platters. The pan-fried chicken stuffed with feta and tomatoes is a main-course hit. Of course, these are all served with the finest New and Old World wines.
When it comes to taking to the skies, especially on long-haul flights, Emirates airlines sure knows how to cater to their passengers’ needs. Interested in Wild Iranian caviar? Or simply a glass of bubbly goodness, also known as Dom Pérignon? They have it all, and then some. First and business-class goers have the added luxury of five to seven-course meals, both lunch and dinner, which include hamour fish, smoked tangerine chicken with a lentil salad, wild forest honey-glazed duck breast, and Middle Eastern mezze, to name a few. The A380 aircraft offers the finest grand cru wines and delicious canapés in the lounge, served by an exclusive on-board bartender of course.
Passengers in economy do not get overlooked either, while they may not experience the lavishness of first and business-class, they still get to enjoy beverages such as complimentary wine and a five-course meal that includes smoked tuna served with marinated vegetables, a salad, lamb brochettes with cinnamon-scented sauce, cheese and biscuits, sticky date pudding, and chocolates.