Airline food: Hot or not?
Is airline food enjoyable for you? (Peter CadeIconica/Getty Images)
Struggling for an answer? Me too.
That is why American Airlines' recent announcement that it is working on in-flight meals with two notable chefs, Richard Sandoval and Marcus Samuelsson, seemed so surprising and quaint all at once. Airlines still care about food?
I can't recall the last time I had any meal on a domestic flight, or the last time overseas food was more interesting than high school cafeteria fare.
But American's announcement — Sandoval's items will be served in American's business and first class cabins on flights between the U.S. and Europe, Asia and Latin America; and Samuelsson's will be for sale on domestic flights longer than two hours — got me wondering about the state of airplane food. That meant turning to Luis Ramirez, founder of AirplaneFood.Net.
Ramirez, a former flight attendant who lives in Washington, D.C., and works for a labor union, traces his fascination with airplane food to his childhood, when he would peel back the tinfoil with glee. He started taking photos of his airplane meals in 2005 and launched his website in 2009. He has accumulated dozens of photos of sky-high meals, many of them submitted by readers. The simple shots, taken on airlines around the world, are so amusing and absurd that they begin to take on a lowbrow artistic quality.
So what is the state of airplane food? Not good, Ramirez said. The first problem in the U.S. is obvious: a lack of free meals. The only major airline serving free meals in economy is Delta, and that only happens on long-haul domestic flights, he said. Several airlines don't even feed passengers on the 11-hour flight from Newark, N.J., to Honolulu.
First-class food is spotty; United in particular has drawn his ire. Like airline wine service, the quality comes on the overseas carriers, he said.
He is, however, encouraged by American's additions to its kitchen.
"They're trying to make it better," he said. "It's a great thing. It might even encourage people to pay the premium fee."
Which of course is always the bottom line with airlines.
The top 3 *
Singapore Airlines: "Offers a consistent, high quality product in all passenger cabins. Its economy class meals are tasty, surprising and filling."
Cathay Pacific Airways: "Economy class meals are tasty and generous. Its premium meals sometimes look like works of art."
Emirates Airlines: "Even in economy class, passengers can expect savory dishes with generous portions, comparable to some U.S. domestic first class service offerings."
The bottom 3
United Airlines: "Uninspired, unattractive, predictable, and most importantly, lacks minimum quality."
US Airways: "They've made a few improvements … but they are still miles behind when compared to international carriers."
Alitalia: "Alitalia's food is basic, lacks inspiration and usually looks unattractive."
* Per Luis Ramirez, AirplaneFood.Net
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