If at First You Don’t Succeed, You Might Be an Airline Caterer

Emirates, DXB-JFK
Baked beans and mushrooms?  Thanks for your contribution, Her Majesty

I’ve been hungry lately.  Next time I travel, I suppose I shouldn’t fly anywhere within the USA then?  The US airlines for the most part make it simple these days when flying between and in the fifty states- no free meals in economy class.  On the flip side, I guess we can’t blame them for the inevitably inferior quality if they were still serving meals.  Still, if I could get one of those rock-solid pieces of bread with butter, it could tide us over for a spell.  Better to have never received free food in-flight in the first place, because passengers wouldn’t be able to make that their excuse du jour.  Shoot, if I’m going to be stuck on an airplane for any amount of time, I’d rather be eating something I know is good, say a five dollar bottle of Hudson News-water, two Advil or take-out from a Salvadorean restaurant.

Ahh, Salvadorean food.  Sure, airport security in many places wouldn’t permit you to take the condiments– pickled cabbage being the número uno cause of airborne anarchy– through the checkpoints, but I wonder how many people have been introduced to a country’s cuisine based on the airline they were flying.  We’ve already taken a peek at a British breakfast above, but that was with Emirates, which might as well be the 3rd British carrier, but let’s see what kind of hometown pride other airlines have:

American Airlines, MIA-LPB
We’ll begin with the most painful volunteer, American Airlines, from Miami to La Paz, Bolivia.  Did you know that there’s as much fat in that salad dressing as there is in the person in the seat next to you?  Oh, hello rock-solid piece of bread.  La Paz Airport is the second highest in the world, so I couldn’t tell if I was sick because of the altitude or the…wait, is that Vaseline?  I’m getting out of here.

Dragonair, HKG-DAC
Dragonair (based in Hong Kong), Hong Kong to Dhaka.  Never thought you’d see feta cheese and soy-glazed pea pods together?  The most representative Hong Kong food in this picture is the TimeOut chocolate bar.  Why?  It’s produced by Cadbury, a British company.  HK was a British territory from the early 1840s until 1997.  Forgotten already?

Sichuan Airlines, CTU-SZX
Sichuan Airlines (based in Chengdu, China), Chengdu to Shenzhen.  Aviation food!  No need for the reminder, alas it’s not so much different from Chinese terra firma food.  That’s a standard Chinese breakfast food on the right, 粥 zhōu, or rice porridge.  In that oh-so-common air-tight packet to its lower left, pickled MSG.  No, it’s pickled daikon, a root vegetable.  If they gave a packet of sunflower seeds instead of pickles, the aisle would become louder than the engines at take-off.

Bangkok Airways, LPQ-BKK

Bangkok Airways, Luang Prabang to Bangkok.  Khao niao, whereas khao=rice and niao=sticky in the Lao language, is present.  That’s the best we can do here.  Are those carrots wrapped in egg?  I have to start prioritizing my memory.

I’ll throw in a few more in the next round, but how do you think the airlines fared up to now?




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18 Responses to If at First You Don’t Succeed, You Might Be an Airline Caterer

  1. PepperBento says:


    Certainly seems that the food got better as we went down (the post not to land hehe).
    The last one looks like something I would eat voluntarily, woohoo!
    The carrots wrapped in tama sound really tasty actually!

    At least the hard bread rolls could be used as a weapon in a hostage situation, should one occur, you’d be completely unarmed if there was decent food!

    Very interesting post :D, thank you for sharing!

    • Yep, that’s why we started with a US carrier. No need to save the cruelty for the end!

      Indeed, since the utensils have become plasticized depending on which airline you’re flying, that bread can come in handy. Or, is it a bargaining chip? I’ll trade you this delicious roll for that impossibly overcooked lobster thermidor…it never tastes the same as it would on the ground anyway;)

  2. In all fairness Emirates varies their food according to destination. They gave me hummus when I was flying from Dubai to Cairo

    • A number of airlines do this, but are they all successful? Not so much. Then again, if they’re going to offer something at all, an economy class-meal doesn’t have to be great, but it should be edible!

      Since I have no confidence in standard US airline chow, I usually get a special meal. On a Delta flight from Detroit to Tokyo, my Hindu meal contained a despondent and cold portion of couscous, two sour mandarin orange slices and a spork. Where’s a Potbelly when you need one…

  3. Some of the pictures looked good compared to what I have been getting on my flights to Brazil.. I know that American Airlines food well (second picture from the top). It tastes even worst than it looks. I now pack plenty of snacks so that I don’t go hungry! Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks for liking this post! How would you compare the rubbish of AA with say, Tam, GOL or (when they were around) Varig?

      • Can you believe I have never flown any of those, not even Varig. After 30 years flying back and forth to Brazil and other places I have flown on a lot airlines but the past few years have been mostly Delta (due to accumulated miles). The food on all have been forgettable (thanks heaven),and it has only gotten worst, but the service on Asian airlines is unbeatable (Cathai Pacific and Japan Airlines)

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  6. andmorefood says:

    I too thought the carrots in egg sounds delicious, but this post is hilarious! I started (a few years ago) opting for the choice of vegetarian or fruit, and I find myself eating much better that way :D..

    it also helps to take good airlines like singapore air, Emirates or Qatar, all of which dish up well (usually)..

    • Oh, do you have photos of the vegetarian or fruit meals? If it was carrots and tamagoyaki, that might work. Otherwise, I’ll give you mine:)
      I think the boat has sailed in this, but I was hoping (daring?) to order one of every special meal that airlines offer. I’ve checked off Hindu for sure, the fruit one by accident and maybe that’s it. There should be a “truffles-only” meal…not because I’m such a fan, rather just to stick it to the airline.

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