You know the feeling:
You’re sitting in the airplane, and they slowly start to roll out that cart through the aisle as you anticipate the airplane food and drink you’re about to eat.
Some of you love airplane food, others of you not so much. But what can be said for sure is that eating is one of the major parts of being a passenger on an airplane.
I recently took a round the world trip for food with Star Alliance on Business Class. In this post I’ll share the airplane food I ate, and what was the best (and worst).
During my round the world trip, I didn’t have a chance to fly on all the Star Alliance airlines (I’ve heard Singapore Air and EVA Air might have some pretty good food as well), but in this post I’ll share the meals I had on the airlines I had an opportunity to fly with.
A couple of quick things to mention when it comes to airplane food:
- Some of these flights were long, others were very short
- There’s a correlation between length of flight and service / food quality
- I tried to always order the local food option (for instance on Air India they had an Indian choice and a Western choice)
- I can only share my personal experience on the flights I took
Ok, let’s get started with some serious airplane food.
Flight #1: Air India – Bangkok t0 Mumbai
We were served dinner, and for my first airplane food meal of the trip I had prawns curry, which came on a full tray with daal, roti, salad, some kind of mousse dessert, and yoghurt.
Though I was expecting some small little scrawny prawns, they turned out to be big giant meaty prawns with a wonderful muscular texture. The prawns were good quality.
Then I tasted the curry, and I was honestly quite impressed. The spice blend was fantastic, and I could taste especially the cumin and cardamom, and what I liked was that the curry wasn’t oily either, but rich with spices.
Flight #2: Air India – Mumbai to Muscat
After spending 5 days in Mumbai, my wife and I caught another flight with Air India from Mumbai to Muscat, Oman.
Our flight was again at night, and we were served dinner. This time on the menu was angara chicken masala, which came with aloo gobi, salad, and roti.
Again, the chicken masala was really tasty.
The spice blend was what you would expect from an Indian curry, and not watered down. I thought it was excellent, perhaps not quite as good as the prawns masala, but that’s partly just because I’m a prawns lover.
Flight #3: Turkish Airlines – Muscat to Istanbul
Istanbul is a city that I’ve wanted to visit all my life, and on this round the world trip I had an opportunity to fly with Turkish Airlines from Muscat to Istanbul.
Our flight took off at about 1 am, so we were served breakfast, and not just any breakfast, but the world famous Turkish breakfast.
My Turkish Airlines airplane food breakfast first began with a plate of assorted Turkish cheeses, tomatoes and cucumbers, and some seriously fresh and crusty nut encased bread.
At the top of the tray was some fruit, olives, some kind of Turkish spread (I think made from roasted red peppers), and honeycomb (pretty cool).
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The main course was an omelet accompanied by potato wedges, spinach, and a red chili pepper. The egg was a little on the bouncy texture side, but it was good and I especially enjoyed the cheeses and bread of this airplane meal.
Flight #4: Turkish Airlines – Istanbul to Rome
After an amazing stay in Istanbul, we caught another Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to Rome. This time our flight was in the middle of the day and we were served lunch.
Before getting started on this airplane meal of the flight, it’s also worth mentioning that the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul is one of the greatest airport lounges I’ve ever been to.
Ok, so on this flight the meal began with a cold appetizer of some kind of cheese (I think it was perhaps goat cheese as it was crumbly and slightly animal tasting), with slices of fresh tomato, all garnished with parsley and olive oil. Delicious.
Also, it came with an eggplant salad topped with avocado.
For main course, and I’m not making this up, but my wife ate too much at the Turkish Airlines lounge, and so she wasn’t hungry at all; So it was up to me to eat two entrees.
I ordered the Turkish adana kebab and Ying my wife ordered the poached fillet of sea bass with chard. The kebab, although a little drier than a kebab on ground, was nicely flavored, and pretty tasty. The fish was also wonderful.
For airplane food, this was some seriously good dining, and the service on this flight was fantastic.
Flight #5: Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) – Rome to Stockholm
From Rome we took Scandinavian Airlines, known in short as SAS, to Stockholm, Sweden.
Our flight was in the middle of the day, and we were served lunch, but it was a very light lunch, more like a snack.
I’m assuming since it was a short flight, business class wasn’t really much different from economy class, and I think the food was the same as well.
Lunch came in a little box, and it included sesame chicken, with apple kimchi, black rice, and ginger creme – and on the box it said “Taste of Scandinavia inspired by the world.” Quite a fusion combination!
Apart from being a little on the plain side, it was actually quite surprisingly refreshing. I was hungry for a bigger lunch, so it wasn’t really filling at all, but it did taste alright.
Flight #6: Lufthansa – Stockholm to Barcelona
When my wife and I flew from Stockholm to Barcelona, we took Lufthansa, but we had to take two separate flights, from Stockholm to Frankfurt and Frankfurt to Barcelona – so it included two flight.
On the first leg, there were no options for the airplane food, but they served everyone the same thing. They called it a light breakfast, and on the tray was a croissant, a muffin, fruit, some cheeses, and a selection of different cold cut meats. The meats and cheese were pretty good.
On the second flight, the food was similar, we were all served the same made up tray and this time it included some kind of really good dark colored ham, and and assortment of pretty good cheeses. Again, it wasn’t really a filling meal, but more of an appetizer snack.
I thought the food they served on Lufthansa was good given the shortness of the flights.
Flight #7: TAP Portugal – Barcelona to Lisbon
From Barcelona we headed to Lisbon on TAP Portugal.
Yes, the flight was really short, only a little over an hour, but the food was really not very good at all. The papaya was mushy and tasteless, and the cured fish (or turkey?) was placed over a piece of soggy bread with a messy handful of arugula on top.
I’m not complaining (and I will tell you that I ate it and somewhat enjoyed it)… but I don’t think it was up to business class standards.
Flight #8: United Airlines – Lisbon to New York City
From Lisbon, we flew to New York City on United Airlines business class.
The seats and the actual airplane was the best of all the airplane flights so far on the round the world trip. Ying and I were both pretty excited to have the full reclining seats, and especially because it was a long flight.
Our flight left Lisbon in the morning and so the first airplane food meal served on our United flight was lunch.
I ordered the salmon with couscous and some kind of tomato vegetable sauce on the side. But before main course was served, we were first served an appetizer of smoked salmon and a shrimp cocktail, followed by a salad.
The salmon and couscous was excellent. The salmon was flaky and moist, and it went so well together with the fluffy couscous and tart sauce on the side. It was a delicious airplane food meal.
In addition to the meal, they also had Goose IPA beer on United Airlines, which is an excellent perk.
For dessert, they came around with a cart of ice cream and toppings, and Ying loved it. But more my style of dessert was the grapes and cheese course with some kind of sweet liqueur to which I fully enjoyed.
Before landing in New York City, we were served another meal, this time breakfast.
Somehow omelets never quite turn out as good on airplanes as they sound (maybe I’m not a huge fan of those slightly rubbery textured omelets). However, it was still a pretty good breakfast, and the sausages were especially really good.
I had previously only flown short domestic flights with United Airlines, but I was completely impressed by both the service and comfort on United Airlines international flights.
Flight #9: United Airlines – New York City to Hong Kong
By far the longest flight of this trip was from New York City direct to Hong Kong on United Airlines, a 16 hour flight.
Being on business class, I was actually not dreading it, but looking forward to it.
For our first meal, I ordered the beef short rib with red wine sauce. But first, we had an appetizer of thick slabs of cured salmon, and it was amazing.
My wife doesn’t really eat smoked salmon, so I had two full plates to myself, and it was thoroughly delicious. Then came the salad course, also good and refreshing.
But undoubtedly the highlight of was the beef short rib. The plate included a pretty significant hunk of boneless short rib covered in red wine reduced sauce, plus mashed potatoes, and some vegetables.
The short rib was incredibly tender and juicy and full of flavor. For me, the short rib meal was about as gourmet and classy as airplane food that I’ve ever experienced.
Again for dessert on United Airlines, we had the full ice cream bar rolled out on silver carts, and cheese and grapes to finish it off.
I then slept for a very long time, and I’m not sure if I missed any food.
But I woke up before landing in Hong Kong, to eat our final airplane food on United.
I have no idea what time it was in the world when we were serve this meal, but I got the salmon with soba noodles, and again, it was an excellent meal. Something I would have ordered at a restaurant on ground.
Flight #10: Thai Airways – Hong Kong to Bangkok
For our final flight of the trip, my wife and I flew from Hong Kong back home to Bangkok on Thai Airways.
Perhaps my expectations for the Thai Airways food was a bit too high, Bangkok being our home.
For starters, I had smoked salmon again (recurring theme on business class? I don’t mind.), with dill and capers. It was good.
Then for main course, choosing to order the Thai dish of the meal, I got the basil chicken with rice and a fried egg.
The rice and the fried egg were good, but unfortunately the basil chicken wasn’t good at all. It was oily and sweet, with zero taste of the holy basil.
I may be a little picky when it comes to Thai food, however, I think the Thai Airways basil chicken needs some serious improvement.
Airplane Food – The Verdict:
Again, keep in mind that some of these Star Alliance flights were longer and served better food than others, just by chance of the routes I flew.
So this is just what I experienced – and if you have anything to add or any input I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
The Best Food
- United Airlines – 32,000 feet in the air with a boneless beef short rib was just spectacular.
- Turkish Airlines – The care and quality of the ingredients on Turkish Airlines really stood out.
- Air India – The prawns curry and the angara chicken masala were both delicious.
The Worst Food
- TAP Portugal – The soggy bread with cured something on top just didn’t cut it.
- Thai Airways – The basil chicken from Thai Airways; it needs some improvement in taste and quality.
Best service: Also, I would like to mention the best service was a tie between Turkish Airlines and United Airlines. I had never really thought highly of American based airlines, but United really proved me wrong. The service on their long international flights was fantastic, and the staff were friendly and helpful.
Disclosure: My round the world trip tickets were sponsored by Star Alliance, but I chose to write this blog post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks to all the airlines for flying my wife and I around.