Most people don’t exactly look forward to plane meals. The food tends to skew bland and lack variety—and often, you have to pay for it, according to a new study that breaks down the costs of that unappetizing mush.
Airlines like American and Delta Air Lines have recently taken measures to bring back free food. Others are upping the in-flight experience by other means: Michelin-worthy meals like Dom Pérignon and caviar served at 30,000 feet. Below, five airlines aiming to add glitz and glam to in-flight dining.
There’s a reason why Singapore Airlines routinely tops Condé Nast Traveler’s and Travel + Leisure’s reader surveys: In addition to its traditional cabin service, the airline also offers a Book the Cook program, allowing first-class passengers to choose their main courses 24 hours before the flight. The culinary creations are themed according to destination; on Paris-bound flights, for example, there’s a Charolais beef with foie gras and white wine and truffle Périgueux sauce. Best of all, first-class meals are served on Wedgwood bone china that’s been specially designed for the airline.
The menu changes monthly on this Dubai-based airline, so it’s hard to keep up. Recently, though, Dom Pérignon chef de cuisine Pascal Tingaud designed a first-class meal consisting of delectable canapés (marinated feta with mango and basil, poached lobster with wasabi mayonnaise), an entrée of slow-braised lamb shank with a thyme reduction, a raspberry coulis for dessert and, to finish things off, a cheese board featuring selections from around the world.
Think multicourse meals are reserved only for places like Per Se? Not so on Etihad, which treats its first-class passengers to a seven-course dining extravaganza. First, there’s Champagne and bar snacks. Then, it’s on to chickpea soup, Balik salmon and a palate cleanser of raspberry sorbet before the main course—a protein (like beef or fish) of your choice, prepared to your desired temperature and served with a side dish and choice of sauce. The grand finale? Sweets, of course, like a hazelnut tart, and a freshly brewed cappuccino. Good thing those first-class apartments have actual beds—you’ll need a nap to recover from that food coma.
Krug Champagne and caviar is just the tip of the iceberg for first-class meals on Cathay Pacific, which enlists chefs like Daniel Green, who has developed in-room dining programs for hotel brands like the Mandarin Oriental, for its menus. Passengers can choose internationally inspired or contemporary Asian main courses—like a Peking duck salad with almonds and black truffle—or they can opt for a lighter meal altogether. Cap the meal with a cheese course (Fourme d’Ambert, Arenberger), creative desserts like snow fungus sweet soup, freshly brewed Illy coffee and Jing teas.
Air France has tapped French chefs like Daniel Boulud, Joël Robuchon, Guy Martin and Michel Roth for its in-flight menus, which rotate every two months in the La Première (first-class) cabin and feature dishes like Aquitaine Sturia caviar and Atlantic lobster with curried coconut sauce. Meals are served on white tablecloths with tabletop pieces created by Jean-Marie Massaud, a famous French designer/architect, including a Bernardaud porcelain plate and Christofle glasses and flatware.
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