In-flight food: the good, the bad & the ugly

Singapore Airlines Sea Bass dish

Image source: Singapore Air (Chef: Carlo Cracco)

Snacks on a plane - which airlines are cooking up cloud nine and which are dishing out mile-high messes?

Mystery meats, sticky pasta, sad cheese sandwiches… plane food isn’t exactly famous for its culinary finesse.

We might have nailed the whole tech-in-the-sky thing to an impressive standard - with wifi and in-flight movies available for our flying pleasure - but many airlines still struggle to produce top quality meals.

In fact, not all plane food is created equal. Some airlines even have their own cookbook, believe it or not.

So which flights delight the airborne tastebuds and which give us turbulence in our tums? We’ve rounded the best, the worst and the downright scary...

The Good

One thing chefs on the ground don’t have to worry about is cabin pressure. But it’s actually the reason in-flight food can taste so bleak: taste buds and sense of smell are the first things to go. Rich flavours become mild, especially salty and sweet. But not when you fly with Singapore Air. All dishes are tested under pressure, literally.

Singapore Airlines in-flight dishes

Image source: Instagram/Singapore Airlines

The airline - which won the Saveur Good Taste Awards 2015 for best airborne dining - also gives you the option to pre order your meal. Choose from the likes of pan-fried chicken breast with sweet and sour port wine sauce, Singapore bak kut teh (pork spare ribs in a peppered broth with rice) and seared beef fillet with fondant potatoes.

But you don’t need to travel business or first class to experience quality food in the sky.

Cathay Pacific, a runner up for the airborne dining award, has partnered with the renowned Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group to offer economy travellers dishes such as Hong Kong-style curry chicken with steamed jasmine rice and Haagen-Dazs ice cream for dessert.

Be sure to check out Inflight Feed founded by Nikos Loukas, who worked in the airline industry for more than 15 years before he began reviewing onboard dining for every budget. Take a look at his glowing review for Easyjet’s perfect croque monsieur for example.

The Bad

It seems the old plane food joke may soon become obsolete, with more and more airlines challenging restaurants themselves in terms of taste. But that doesn’t mean they’re a thing of the past - yet.

Skytrax, a UK-based airline and airport consultancy, marked North Korea’s Air Koryo as bottom of 681 airlines in terms of product and service quality. It received one-star in both, as well as the ‘quality of food served’ category. This burger was an example.

Air Koryo's burger

Image source: Airlinemeals

The Ugly

There you are, zooming through the sky at 600 miles an hour, gazing down on puffy white clouds, part of the glamorous jet set - and the view on your plate doesn’t exactly match.

See if you can work out what these sorry-looking dishes were in another life...

Dreadful in-flight dish

Image source: Twitter/@jelliman95

Green eggs and ham? Nope - green mash and bechamel soup, it seems.

Ugly in-flight English Breakfast

Image source: Instagram/@chriswilko

'After living off rice for the last 10 days, I couldn't wait to have an 'English Breakfast' when offered it on the plane. But then, I got this,’ say Instagram user Chris Wilko.

Unrecognisable in-flight food

Image source: Twitter/@epuddifer

‘I think it was cucumber with chicken flavoured whiskas (and extra jelly) #planefood’, was Twitter user Emily Puddifer’s caption for this tub of wonder.

Next time you’re taking to the air be sure to pop your phone on Airplane mode and take a snap of the delight (or dread) you’re presented with. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, terrible in-flight food will be a thing of the past, but until then it would seem there are many culinary disasters to add to the scrapbook.

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