Reader Reviews: Which Airline Serves the Best Food?

Japan Airlines food (photo by Carol Shih)
Japan Airlines food (photo by Carol Shih)

Like I said yesterday, I was stuck in Vancouver because of American Airlines’ system failure on Tuesday, but at least I’d had a good meal on Japan Airlines before I landed in Canada. It helped tide me over.

During those waiting hours, I glanced down at my passport and determined that I’ve been to Taiwan six times in the last 4.5 years. And if you include those trips to Brazil, Russia, China, Estonia, and Japan in between – that’s a lot of international flights. Heck, that’s a lot of airplane food.

Over the years, I can’t remember all meals I’ve eaten above the clouds, but I do know that American Airlines serves the absolute worst food. They used to give you a free instant noodle cup in the middle of your journey from LAX to Taipei (which was really its only redeemable feature), but they’ve cut that service out in that last few years or so. Those cheapos. This time, on my way to Taiwan, I flew American and received a deep dish pizza an hour or two before arriving in Japan, and it was basically just a circular brick of baked dough with some tomato sauce on top. Lovely.

Out of all the airlines I’ve flown on, Japan Airlines is my hands-down favorite. The service is A+ and they even give you little Haagen-Dazs ice cream cups after dinner. I. Love. Those. Haagen-Dazs. Ice cream cups. Every meal is something that I’d be okay actually paying for if I found it at a kiosk. In the above photo, you can see cold soba noodles, a tofu salad, a tiramisu/pudding dessert, and a chicken karage with sushi rice entree. The rice even had sesame seeds on it! American Airlines would never put sesame seeds on top of its rice, are you kidding?

China Airlines and EVA are tied as a close second for me, right behind Japan Airlines. So if you’re ever heading to East Asia, SideDishers, now you know which airlines to book.

But what about other parts of the world? What airline do you guys use to reach other parts of the globe? I’m thinking Dubai next year. Or France. Or maybe even Greece. There’s no way I’m using American Airlines again. The food’s too crappy and I’m tired of the small leg space and worse-than-frozen-food frozen food.

19 comments on “Reader Reviews: Which Airline Serves the Best Food?

  1. When I flew Emirates from Syria to Dubai two years ago they had AWESOME Arabic food on the flight. Also, it was a double decker plane which was cool. Not sure if they only do Arabic food from one Arab nation to another, but definitely worth looking into.

  2. As an airline employee, I don’t think there’s a carrier whose food I haven’t sampled whether it be breakfast, lunch or a five course dinner.

    If you think JAL is good, wait until you experience the luxury Asian carriers. Singapore and Thai dish up three courses even on the shorter inter-Asia flights, and Cathay Pacifics transpac service is still the benchmark even with middle-eastern carriers like Qatar, Emirates and Etihad making moves.

    I will say my most memorable meal in the skies was on Oman Air from Nairobi to Muscat en route to London. I was absolutely famished, and almost cried when my plus-sized dinner was brought to me. Turns out? It was Ramadan, with fasting in full effect. My massive box contained one single date, and my tears of joy quickly shifted to tears of agony. I think I lost consciousness soon after.

    1. Singapore
    2. Lufthansa
    3. British Airways
    4. Qatar
    5. Malaysian

  3. This is an entire blog waiting to happen! Love this.

    Air France, ATL to CDG (it was so wonderful, I still have the menu):
    Quail w/ chestnuts and cranberry preserves
    Duck breast with scallop flan and tarragon, basil mayonaise
    Sauteed sea pike w/ fennel and flat beans
    Trio of chocolate mint cake, raspberry delight and passion fruit macaron w/ coconut.

    Champagne served with the quail to start, followed by wines paired with each course.

    Virgin America’s offerings are usually pretty tasty.

    Once had a lobster salad on Continental en route to Honolulu that was surprisingly good.

  4. I’d have to go with Aer Lingus, the national flag carrier of Ireland. The overnight flight from NY to Shannon or Dublin — business class — serves a lovely dinner on Wedgwood china, with the wine sipped from Waterford crystal. Dinner in economy class has an ever-so-slightly downscale presentation (and costs extra), but is also fulfilling and tasty. It will get those Irish eyes a’smilin’.

  5. JAL and Cathay are supposed to be pretty much top tier as far as airline food/service goes. Someday I’d like to fly Emirates too.

  6. I’m not a huge fan of Cathay Pacific food (what I’ve had has been similar to AA), but i do like that they have special meals for kids, which AA doesn’t.

  7. Just sampled Turkish Airlines recently from Europe to Hong Kong in economy and premium economy, the meals were amazing! Some of the Austrian airlines pre order meals (which you pay for) are very good too. Great article! As an airline foodie I agree with you, Japanese airlines always strive to offer great meals :)

  8. I don’t fly meal service flights very often but a few years ago, on a British Airways flight to Gatwick, I had a pear mousse that I still dream about.

  9. Southwest. Especially when they give you two packs of salted peanuts. I don’t care for the honey-roasted as much.

  10. Hands down the worst I have ever had in my life was Delta DFW to Tel Aviv.. It was beyond inedible.

  11. Some of my most memorable meals were on ANA and Korean Air, both in intl’ first class. ANA in particular was quite upscale for any class of airline (much less a real restaurant), and I got a great bibimbap on KAL. Both pretty amazing, but my favorite airline meal is one I’ve had multiple times. If you fly Lufthansa Business Class during the Christmas season, you get the traditional duck, purple cabbage, and spetzle holiday meal. It’s not fancy but super tasty. Really tasty.

  12. Aeroflot is good. Flew from JFK->SVO->FRU in economy, and the food was pretty solid for all 3 meals.