15 Airlines With The Absolute Best Quality Meals, Ranked

Food on airplanes isn't necessarily known for being the highest quality (though there are some ways to make your food taste better). Everything from the noise level to the dry air in the cabin are reasons that food might taste different at 36,000 feet. And that's assuming you get any food at all, as many airlines have done away with meals altogether, especially in economy classes. On the flip side, some major airlines known for a higher level of service have funneled more investment into the meal service in order to draw customers. We have been seeing everything from hiring celebrity chefs to design the menu to outfitting the plane's kitchen to be able to actually to cook food instead of just warm it.

For some, flying is all about bargains and saving money, even if that means they have to pack their own snacks. But, if you have the cash, springing for a more expensive seat might mean a much more luxurious airline meal. Check out our list to see which airlines are offering the best quality meals.

15. Alaska Airlines

After a few years of spotty dining service aboard some flights, airlines are revamping old menus to attract people to book tickets. Alaskan Airlines has some fairly decent food if you happen to be traveling in first or premium class and traveling over 670 miles. Dinner options as of Spring 2023 may be braised beef with fennel, jerk chicken with cilantro lime rice, or a quinoa bowl with roasted vegetables. The company strives to offer "regional touches" wherever possible, like ice cream by Salt & Straw or Ellenos Greek yogurt for breakfast.

Unfortunately, in the main cabin (or economy), you have to preorder and prepay for any kind of substantial food beyond a packet of peanuts or chips. While the airline does stock a few of each meal, it's subject to availability and could be sold out by the time the attendants get to your row.

14. All Nippon Airways

All Nippon Airways is another Japanese airline that operates routes between Japan and destinations in North America, Europe, and the rest of Asia. Roundtrip first class tickets between Tokyo and the States can be as much as $20,000, so you can bet that your meal service will be top-tier. First, you will be given an amuse-bouche course of small bites like goat cheese crusted with crushed pistachio or smoked salmon and scallop tartare while you sip a glass of champagne and peruse the menu.

The main course will be a selection between Japanese and Western fare, but you should definitely opt for the Japanese menu. You'll start with small bites of fresh sashimi, followed by course after course of the finest Japanese food. Even economy seats can splurge: guests departing from Japan have the option to upgrade their meal for an upcharge of just $23.

13. Lufthansa

Lufthansa is a German airline with international routes spanning the globe. The in-flight menu for first and business class tickets is full of German favorites, with some global flavors thrown in. An appetizer course might be a choice between Hokkaido pumpkin served with crème fraîche and lemon or lamb's lettuce with pine nuts, golden raisins, and feta. Main courses could be roasted Niedersachsen pike-perch accompanied by beluga lentils, creamy Savoy cabbage, and red cabbage chips.

On flights less than an hour, the airline only gives economy passengers a small chocolate and a bottle of water. On longer flights, you must preorder (and pay) for any food you get. These "Onboard Delights," as the airline calls them, range from heartier fare like salads and sandwiches to smaller snacks like pretzels and chips. A piece of cake and coffee costs almost 7 euros, so you're better off picking something up at the airport.

12. Japan Airlines

Many people know the secret: Japan Airlines serves some of the best economy food in the business. A route between Tokyo and Honolulu, for example, serves potato salad with sakura shrimp, sakura petals, and mustard blossoms. Upper classes enjoy meals made by star chefs and have the option between a Japanese meal and a traditional Western meal. The Western meal could be some type of beef filet served with truffle butter and bread by Maison Kayser, and the Japanese meal will involve a cold appetizer course with things like kelp-marinated sea bream and onion and broccoli tofu with crab, followed by a hot main course that could be grilled Wagyu beef or Spanish mackerel.

Every course is served in elegant trays and boxes with chopsticks and a trademark red origami crane chopstick holder. All that being said, the airline has come under fire lately for one customer's particularly dismal vegan meal, which consisted of a single banana.

11. Air France

The French are known for their love of food, so why would they stop at their airline? Air France has solid dining options in each class and has one of the finest wine and champagne menus of any airline (curated by master sommelier Paolo Basso). The company has made a commitment to preparing all the food with ingredients sourced locally, and 100% of the meat, dairy, and eggs are sourced from France. Every component that gets served to children and infants is made from organically grown ingredients.

Air France's upper class, "La Première," serves every meal on white linen tablecloths with designer porcelain plates and crystal stemware, and every meal begins with a foie gras terrine. The menu is frequently changing, but everything is designed by the best chefs France has to offer. Meals understandably go down in quality as you go down in class, but every single guest gets at least two hot meals on transatlantic flights.

10. Hawaiian Airlines

Year after year, Hawaiian Airlines is awarded the best domestic American airline for its impeccable service and above-average meal service. In a time when almost all domestic airlines have "temporarily" suspended full meal service, Hawaiian continues to offer a hot meal to every single guest, no matter what ticket class.

First class guests are treated to a special dining experience from the beginning of the flight, where each person is greeted with a choice of cocktail (champagne, Mai Tai, or passion orange guava juice) served with warm macadamia nuts. The main meal varies by time of day, but it usually comes with a dessert, a side, and a main entree with some kind of Hawaiian flair. Designed by chef Robynne Maii of Fete, current lunch or dinner selections between Honolulu and the West Coast are zucchini and pea risi e bisi with basil macadamia nut pesto and roasted asparagus or chicken schnitzel with lilikoi (passionfruit) mustard sauce, braised red cabbage and warm red potato salad.

9. Korean Air

Korean Air has won awards in the past for outstanding meals aboard its flights. First class guests are served two substantial meals, plus an assortment of snacks available at any time throughout the flight. Between Los Angeles and Seoul, the main meal begins with a pre-drink service of garlic cream cheese stuffed mushroom and tomato, followed by a super deluxe caviar service. After that, there's a soup course, then a palate-cleansing sherbet. Main entrees range from Korean bibimbap with seasonal vegetables and gochujang to Black Angus beef tenderloin with a baked potato. Dinner is followed by a cheese tray and a chocolate velvet cake with ice cream.

Economy and "prestige" classes are much less elaborate but still substantial. Flights across the Pacific always serve two meals, one of which is often the same bibimbap that's served to the first class guests (though not on ceramic plates). If you see a spicy noodle dish, be sure to get that.

8. Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand brings plenty of flavor to every meal it serves, with Asian and Mediterranean ingredients woven into many dishes. As of December 2022, flights between Los Angeles and Auckland are serving a lengthy menu to first class guests. For flights that leave at night, you have the option of a quick bite before you go to sleep. Options could be green pea and basil soup or Greek yogurt mousse. The full meal service begins with an amuse-bouche and a selection of freshly baked bread, followed by an appetizer course.

The menu also allows unique customization, with several options available to add to your main course to make it more substantial. Think of it like ordering a few vegetable sides to go with your steak at a restaurant. Generally, the consensus on these first class meals is that they are good if a bit small, so make sure you get the add-ons if you typically find yourself getting peckish during a long flight.

7. Virgin Atlantic

Although Virgin America is no more, Virgin Atlantic continues to operate routes between the U.K. and the U.S.A., Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. The Upper Class menu is considered one of the finest in all worldwide aviation, and meals are a four-course affair that starts with elegant appetizers and moves through a main course, dessert, and a final course of cheese and port wine. Selections change often, but the appetizer course could be grilled asparagus with quail's egg and chive mayonnaise, while a main course could be breaded chicken breast stuffed with garlic truffle butter and served with potato terrine and wilted greens.

Upper Class customers flying on an Airbus A350 have the additional option of eating in "The Loft," a social space located on the plane designed for people to gather and sip Bloody Marys. Even economy seats get a decent meal that arrives hot and comes with dessert, bread, butter, cheese, and biscuits. Being a British airline, they also serve a tea service later on in the flight, which typically involves a small scone or another snack.

6. Turkish Airlines

While not quite as ritzy as some of the other airlines based in the Middle East, Turkish Airlines often gets top marks from frequent fliers and travel periodicals alike for its consistently great service and top-tier food in every class. To set themselves apart, Turkish Airlines has a dedicated onboard chef to prepare the meals for first and business class passengers, which allows you to choose how you want your food to be prepared, down to the degree of doneness on your steak. The menu is broken down into red meat selections (of which there are nine choices), fish and white meat (15), and pasta and vegetables, with a whopping 20 different options.

Economy seats get some of the best food for this class of any airline currently operating. Not only do passengers get a hot meal (even on short-haul flights less than three hours), but the food is served in dishes and bowls, as opposed to the dismal plastic tray on other airlines. In addition to a tasty and flavorful entree, expect a side, such as hummus, as well as a fresh green salad and a chocolate mousse dessert. The only gripe that some travelers have is that the options aren't rotated out that often.

5. Oman Air

Newer airlines have been popping up in the Middle East, and one with a particularly good combination of decent food and lower fares is Oman Air. This carrier offers meals on demand in the upper classes, meaning you can order whatever you like, whenever you like. Choose from a selection of six different appetizers, including Beluga caviar with all the accompaniments. There are just as many options for the main entree, which could range from vegetable tortellini with basil cream sauce to braised lamb with tomato and olive pimiento sauce.

Every course for both business and first class passengers is served on beautiful ceramic plates, with beverages in crystal stemware. Economy class passengers don't get quite the same spread, but there are actually meals for these tickets, unlike other airlines. The main meal comes with a soft roll and butter, as well as an appetizer and a dessert.

4. Etihad Airways

Etihad is one of the most luxurious airlines currently flying the skies, and first class passengers are entitled to special privileges like a private Etihad chauffeur for an escort to and from the airport, not to mention extravagant lounges at the airport. If you can spring for first class, you may get one of the exclusive apartments (which can cost as much as $4000 for a single route between Heathrow and Abu Dhabi). The apartments feature a double bed for couples traveling together, as well as a private bathroom with a shower.

On Etihad, flight attendants don't make your food — instead, there are dedicated onboard chefs to ensure everything is cooked and plated just right. Etihad doesn't publish in-flight menus, but you can expect some choices between traditional Emirati dishes mixed in with "destination-inspired meals." There's an on-demand menu available at any point during the flight, including the airline's signature Etihad steak sandwich.

3. Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific is known to be one of the top three most luxurious airlines in the sky, with constant upgrades and tweaks to service. With the recent pandemic, all the airlines are struggling to maintain a good reputation while catching up on lost revenue. Even so, Cathay Pacific remains one of the most consistently great carriers, with excellent food in each class. First class guests are treated to a white linen and crystal stemware dining experience in the world's widest seats, at 36 inches across. Supper service kicks off with caviar and champagne, followed by a staggering array of choices ranging from grilled beef tenderloin with wild mushroom ragout to braised garoupa with bean curd in ginger scallion sauce.

Cathay doesn't neglect the economy guests, either, offering the widest seats for this class of any airline. Menus for each class are available online, allowing you to reserve your choice ahead of time. Choose from larger-than-average portions of shredded pork with steamed jasmine rice or braised chicken thigh with a lemon thyme caper sauce.

2. Singapore Airlines

The first class experience aboard Singapore Airlines is the stuff of legends. Queen-sized beds, showers, and your own set of personal pajamas; this airline spares no expense to make the guests feel like royalty. Sure, a trip between New York City and Singapore may cost upwards of $30,000, but for some, it's a paltry fee. The food is not just good for an in-flight meal — it's as good, if not better, than some of the delicious food you might be traveling to Singapore to try. The menu has over two dozen items, from hot khao thom to roasted rack of lamb with pea puree to lobster noodles with ginger and spring onion broth, and of course, a chilled caviar appetizer.

Although Singapore Airlines was once known as the most luxurious airline in the sky, bar none, some recent cutbacks due to Covid have forced the company to make changes to the economy class service. While it is still one of the better options for the economy, it can be hard not to compare days past when every guest on the flight was served drinks in actual glassware, and a meal might consist of a big bowl of Singaporean laksa.

1. Emirates

For the best possible inflight experience and dining, Emirates leads the pack with unlimited pours of Dom Pérignon for first class guests. Passengers can select from a wide range of options for each course and are free to mix and match with no limitations. Appetizer choices include caviar with accompaniments, as well as Arabic mezze or a crisp and fresh green salad. Main courses arrive hot and plated, including a pan-seared trout with beurre blanc that is actually seared crisp in a pan. Not in the mood for a fancy multi-course meal? The airline also offers a separate "Movie Snack" menu with smaller bites like burger sliders, crispy french fries, and red-striped boxes of popcorn.

Even economy class guests get multiple courses, which can include bread, salad, and a dessert, on top of the main course. Choices could be a vegetable paella or grilled chicken with corn salsa, all of which are halal. Add on a glass of Moët & Chandon Brut for just $20 to feel first class without blowing your budget.