We all like to complain how boring and disgusting airplane food is. There’s even a website devoted to posting passengers’ images of airline food: the good, the bad and – most of the time – the downright ugly. But there are airlines that actually serve delicious food at 30,000 ft, often created by selected guest chefs whose restaurants have received Michelin stars and Gault Millau points. It should come as no surprise that most of these airlines also feature in my top 10 lists of airlines with the world’s best longhaul Business Class cabins and airlines with the world’s most luxurious First Class suites. I hereby present you the 10 airlines that serve the best gourmet food in the skies (according to my opinion & culinary taste).
There is more info below the slide show. Think I missed one? Leave a comment, or take my poll below!
Emirates regionally inspired menus are all presented on Royal Doulton fine bone china with exclusive Robert Welch cutlery, providing an excellent Business and First Class dining experience. If you are flying First Class, you can enjoy a sumptuous seven-course meal in the privacy of your own exclusive suite. On the A380 aircraft, premium passengers may also nibble on canapés in a wonderful lounge at the rear of the mega-plane. But it’s a royal treatment for all, as Economy may start with slices of smoked tuna served with marinated vegetable salad, followed by charcoal grilled lamb brochette with cinnamon scented sauce, sticky date pudding, cheese, biscuits, and chocolates.
Official website: Emirates
9. SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIR LINES
Swiss Airlines’ Taste of Switzerland program was designed to highlight different regions of the country on flights throughout the year. First Class passengers dine as if they were in a gourmet restaurant, and enjoy meals inspired by the country’s best Maîtres de Cuisine. Menus change every 3 months and may include dishes such as beef tenderloin with ofetori or Nidwalden-style mashed potatoes made with veal bacon and cheese. First Class meals are also complemented by regional wines, and of course, a selection of local cheese. But also Business and Economy Class passengers rave about food onboard Swiss International Air Lines.
Official website: Swiss International Air Lines
8. AIR NEW ZEALAND
Famous New Zealander chefs and wine connoisseurs preside over Air New Zealand’s in-flight menus. Fresh New Zealand cuisine – mainly seafood as well as agricultural products like honey, kiwi and sweet potato – are served on elegant crockery, designed specifically for the airline. Air New Zealand also takes pride in serving native wines. If you get thirsty or peckish between mealtimes, there’s a self-service refreshment bar that contains drinks and snacks.
Official website: Air New Zealand
7. ETIHAD AIRWAYS
The award-winning on-board chefs and food & beverage managers of the Abu Dhabi based airliner are recruited from the finest Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. Their goal is to offer an inflight dining experience that surpasses that of a five-star restaurant. The Mezoon Grille menu, available to Etihad’s First Class customers only, features a variety of premium produce, including beef, chicken, lamb and seafood, along with a range of delicate sauces, sides and delicious desserts, all of which are prepared to order. Whichever cabin you fly in, you will find that Etihad’s food is delicious and portions are always generous.
Official website: Etihad Airways
6. CATHAY PACIFIC
In First Class, Cathay Pacific was one of the first airlines to have rice cookers, toasters and skillets on board their aircraft, enabling the flight attendants to prepare freshly steamed rice, toasted bread and eggs cooked to the passenger’s liking. Carefully prepared and selected by Cathay’s food culinary team, the dishes in all classes are a celebration of China. Those in the premium seats may see a menu of signature dishes from Hong Kong, such as slow cooked pork with preserved Hakka mustard greens, wok-fried chicken with black bean, or Hong Kong-style curry prawns.
5. AIR FRANCE
Given the high culinary standards of the French, it should be no surprise to find Air France on my list of the best food in the skies. With its refined details, considerate service, intense flavors, and porcelain tableware, Air France meal service is a truly pleasant experience. Every 6 months, a different renowned French chef will serve up special dishes on long-haul flights departing from Paris. And frequent fliers do not have to fear repetition as the menus are changed every 10 days.
Official website: Air France
4. TURKISH AIRLINES
Turkish certainly knows how to impress its customers when it comes to gastronomy. A chef in starched whites and towering toque greets boarding passengers at the plane door as if to welcome them into a restaurant. The “flying chef” is in charge of all cuisine, for Business Class passengers, served on long-haul flights. Coach flyers can relish starters like olive oil–poached artichoke and entrèes such as grilled beef with creamy eggplant. Even on short domestic flights within Turkey a substantial snack and drink are still offered.
Official website: Turkish Airlines
3. QATAR AIRWAYS
Four celebrity chefs have been chosen to create Qatar Airways’s unique and diverse à la carte Business and First Class menu: Nobu Matsuhisa, Tom Aikens, Ramzi Choueiri, and Vineet Bhatia. Together, they spent months adapting and testing their specialty dishes for Qatar’s customers, taking into account not only flavors and spices, but how the taste buds are altered at 30,000 feet. Be prepared for extraordinary cuisine mouth-watering dishes when you fly Qatar Airways.
Official website: Qatar Airways.
2. SINGAPORE AIRLINES
Singapore Airlines’ stellar culinary reputation is guaranteed by its collaboration with world-acclaimed chefs who own Michelin-starred restaurants, like Singaporean culinary maestro Sam Leong, Suzanne Goin of Los Angeles’ Lucques, Carlo Cracco of the Michelin two-star restaurant of the same name in Milan, and Matthew Moran of one of Sydney’s finest restaurants. The airline is famous for its “Book the Cook” service where you can select your gourmet main course from a premium selection of dishes at least 24 hours before departure. Economy Class passengers also benefit from the airline’s dedication to gastronomy, with appetizers like potato salad with baby shrimp and entrées such as wok-fried chicken and bamboo shoots in sesame oil.
Official website: Singapore Airlines
1. AUSTRIAN AIRLINES
IMHO, Austrian Airlines has its meal service down to an art. First, the food comes from DO & CO, a catering company that has upscale restaurants and cafés in cities like Vienna, London and New York. Then, to make certain the delectable dishes are complimented by the perfect drinks, Austrian Airlines has hired an on-board sommelier to develop wine pairings for its Business Class passengers. And when you need a caffeine kick (and who doesn’t on those long international flights?), you get to choose from 11 different types of Austrian Meinl coffee. So, it’s not hard to see why Austrian Airlines is popular among Business Class travelers.