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Your options go way beyond meat, pasta, or vegetarian on these airlines
The Best Airlines for Economy Class Dining
Airline food is generally bad — it’s a fact that most of us have come to accept. And yet, there is still a scale by which we judge it. For first and business classes, that might include the number of accolades collected by the airline chefs, but for economy class dining, it’s a matter of presentation, taste, service, and options. Here are the best 10 airlines for economy class dining.
Air France gives you the option to pay extra to upgrade your economy class meal, but the economy class food ain’t too shabby, either. Longer flights have much-needed buffet mini-sandwiches, ice cream, and other sweet and savory treats, and their trays are designed by renowned Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet. Traditional French, Italian, and seafood menus are offered (these must be selected and paid for in advance), while a special menu called “Une Sélection LENÔTRE” is crafted by the prestigious chefs at the eponymous restaurant.
While Austrian Airlines offers meals that are included in your ticket, for an extra €15 ($17) you can have the option of cold breakfast, skillet breakfast, a bento box, or tapas. Many reviewers on airlinequality.com call the included food not comparable to that on other airlines — while it is varied and flavorful, it is a little on the salty side. Their coffee selection is top-notch, even in economy, and the service is warm and attentive.
Cathay Pacific Airways
Cathay Pacific Airways not only offers Illy coffee and espresso to passengers in all classes, but their economy menu options include some great blends of continental and Asian foods, such as shiitake mushroom congee and beef with merlot sauce. They also serve Häagen-Daz after meals, and if you’re still hungry, find a flight attendant at the rear galley, where they keep snacks like ramen noodles and chocolate handy. Their food is just one of the many factors that made them top the list at the 2014 Skytrax World Airlines Awards.
The high honors Emirates first class dining received from Saveur extends to its economy class, with dishes like lamb brochette with a smoked tuna appetizer and sticky date pudding and a breakfast of chive scrambled eggs with seared chicken sausages, sautéed spinach, and grilled tomato. Since their menus are always changing, those aren’t all the examples we have for you. They also serve chicken in chasseur sauce with potatoes, Szechuan beef with noodles, and more. The gourmet food goes especially well with the more-generous-than-usual legroom.
The problem many customers have with Etihad is that there are not enough Western food options available, or that they run out of them early in the flight. Well, you could stick with their chicken sandwich, or opt for lamb biriyani with an appetizer of Cajun chicken couscous or roasted lemon chicken with harissa potatoes. These are both available in economy at Etihad. Not that much of a complaint, if you ask us.
In our previous coverage of Icelandair meals, we noted how original the airline’s food is — and not much has changed in a year. The packaging is still admirably eco-friendly. Mini burgers with dipping sauces, as well as chicken and rice with green curry and mango salsa, are some items that make you think twice before assuming you’ll only be served Icelandic fare, though that on its own wouldn’t be too bad either. They are particularly well-known for their festive Christmas season meals, and currently serve “happy marriage cake” — a pie with an oat crust, rhubarb jam, and cardamom — and kleinas (twisted Icelandic doughnuts).
With a generally high rating of their meals on airlinemeals.net — one of those economy meals being beef medallion with asparagus and herb gnocchi and a pecan and pear salad — LAN Airlines gives travelers the best of South American cuisine, 30,000 feet above the continent. With complimentary Chilean and Argentinian wines, regional breads (yucca cinnamon roll, for example), and excellent customer service, LAN should be what you think of first when you’re planning trip to South America.
The meals on Singapore Airlines are curated to represent the cuisine of the areas passengers are flying to or from. Notable economy class menus include assorted dim sum, nasi lemak with fried chicken, salmon fillet in dill béchamel, beer-braised beef with mashed potatoes, wild mushrooms and smoked paprika and cumin stew with couscous and sultanas, and apple and cinnamon crêpes with berry compote. They offer a wide range of special meals, from lacto-ovo-vegetarian to low-salt to low-carb, and more — a total of 30 specialized meals. Saveur gave their Culinary Travel Award for Best In-Flight Dining: Economy Class to Singapore Airlines in 2014.
Commenters on airlinequality.com rave about Thai Airways’ various options — such as kaffir lime-stuffed omelettes, Thai duck curry, chile paste prawns — all accompanied by fresh fruit that’s actually good. They give out hot towels before meals and employ stainless steel cutlery; luxuries usually reserved for first and business classes in many other airlines. AirlineRatings.com named Thai Airways the Best Economy Class of 2015, and with good reason: According to commenters, even the folks at the back of the plane are able to get their first choice of meals, piping hot. It’s the little things that make a big difference, and people love the separate cup holders on the backs of seats. That way, you don’t need to hold your drink until attendants come around with garbage bags, or keep lifting the tray table up and down when the person next to you needs to use the restroom.
Turkish Airlines has taken home the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX) Passenger Choice Awards for Best Food and Beverage for the past two years in a row. It’s not just the food that’s great, but the presentations: sometimes, menus on flights to Russia come tucked in a matryoshka doll, while flights to London have menus shaped like red double-decker buses. Passengers are even greeted by the chef as they board the flight. Notable dishes include mezze platters and stuffed eggplant roasted in olive oil.