IMPORTANT
Sangeeta Kocharekar

Airplane food. It’s a rarely discussed topic yet for frequent travellers, it’s an important one. After all, considering planes are now doing 17-hour flights, passengers are now sitting through a full day’s worth of meals. Or, in other words, a lot of bread rolls.

Between the longer flight times and the sheer amount of airlines customers have to choose from these days, quality eats are a necessity. And airlines are recognising that. Their meal recipes are carefully crafted; ingredients as fresh as can be; and, best of all, menus are constantly changing. Among the airlines seriously stepping up their plane food game, we’ve handpicked the best.

If you're about to embark on a long-haul flight, you may also be interested in checking out our tips on how to get through the flight comfortably. 

Emirates

Ever-evolving is the best way to describe Emirates’ food offering. The airline’s 1,200 chefs based in Dubai are constantly whipping up new recipes for monthly-changing menus. Currently, 984 recipes are being used. Passengers keen on knowing exactly what they’ll be served ahead of time can enter their flight details online and find out their flight’s menu.

The best part about Emirates dining however would have to be its accompanying collection of wines. All top quality and individually selected by a team of wine connoisseurs and specialists who deliberate every year, they’re free of charge even in economy (apart from champagne). First class passengers can choose from five reds, four whites and Dom Perignon.

air flight meal on emirates first class

Image via Emirates

Singapore Airlines

Australia’s leading chef Matt Moran helped put together Singapore Airlines’ in-flight menu so you know it’s a good one. Together with other acclaimed chefs in the airlines’ international culinary panel, he worked with the airlines’ own chefs to create a menu that aimed for locally-sourced food and fresh produce where possible.

However, it’s the new offering on premium economy classes and above that really takes the cake. ‘Book the Cook’ strives to bring fine dining to the sky.  Currently available from more than 20 destinations, it lets passengers pre-select their main meal up to 24 hours before boarding. Dishes include lobster thermidor, ale braised beef short rib with broccoli and Barrmundi and mash. Because cabin pressure changes rich flavours and aromas, the airline taste-tests each meal in a simulated pressurised cabin.

flight meal on Singapore airline

Image via Singapore Airlines

Etihad Airlines

If you’re travelling on longer flights with Etihad, you can count on dining options. They’ve structured their menu to showcase dishes with Arabic influences, international and ones with a nod to the destination the flight is operating to or from. Expect Arabic mezze, chicken kofta, orzo pasta with ratatouille and parmesan and baked dory fish. For dessert, you won’t go wrong with the sago pudding with peach compote. Warm snacks include wraps, sandwiches and gourmet popcorn.

The airline’s first class and A380’s The Residence meal options however are most note-worthy. First class passengers on longer flights will see in-flight chefs from hotels and restaurants all around the world on hand to discuss individual dietary requests. A completely tailored dining experience will ensue for those lucky few, beginning with staff contacting them in the lead-up to the flight to chat about their food preferences. Made-to-order meals are then presented to passenger on 24-karat gold-plated porcelain tableware by a personal butler.

flight meal on ethihad airline

Image via Etihad Airlines

American Airlines

Passengers on the American Airlines’ Sydney to the US routes are in for a treat. In April it was announced celebrity chef Sean Connolly would be lending his highly-regarded cooking expertise to the flight’s dining experience.

Connolly describes the menu he’s curated as simple, honest and rustic – made with the best possible locally-sourced produce. Highlights include Moroccan chicken with chickpea casserole and potato gnocchi with wild mushroom cheese sauce. The airline has also partnered with well-known chefs Maneet Chauhaun, a James Beard Award winner and TV personality, and Jun Kurogi, from Japan’s Iron Chef.

celebrity chef Sean Connolly preparing airline meals

Image via American Airlines

LATAM Airlines

The in-flight dining experience for LATAM Airlines’ economy passengers took 16 months to create. A major focus in its development was on the on-board experience. Suffice to say, the results are unique.

Unlike most in-flight dining, there are no trays. Replacing them are individual gourmet dishes that showcase Latin American, international and veggie cuisine put together by renowned chefs. A wide selection of wines chosen by South America’s only master sommelier Hector Vergara complement the meal.

flight meal on latam airline

Image via LATAM Airlines

Qantas

Qantas has also done away with its food trays. Not only that but it has more meal choices, lets passengers pre-order them online or through the Qantas app and has made a conscientious effort to serve them faster. On economy international flights expect spiced lamb koftas with tomato and honey chicken salad with roasted vegetables.

The premium economy’s menu is designed by Australian restaurateur Neil Perry and served on Marc Newson-designed tableware. Business and first class meals are all in collaboration with Perry’s award-winning Sydney restaurant Rockpool. In-flight snacks include Swiss cheese toasted sandwiches and signature chicken schnitzel.

qantas business class meal

Image via Qantas

As you’ve undoubtedly seen, when it comes to in-flight dining, airlines these days are flying into territory. They’re experimenting with their offerings and striving for the best – whether you’re in economy or the pointy front of the plane.

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Sangeeta Kocharekar is a freelance writer specialising in travel and life. When she’s not hunched over her laptop, she spends her days browsing plant stores and taking photos of beaches and brunches for Instagram. You can view them here.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.