Archive for December 7th, 2007

What Do We Eat On Board?

What do we eat on board? Do we eat the same as the pilots? Why do we always feel airline food tasteless? How come we get only a sandwich on the same route we had hot meal on during the outbound flight? How can we get prepared for the food served on our flight?

The Plane takes off, it reaches safe flight altitude, the pilot switches off the “Fasten seat belts” sign. For me this is the point when my first thought is: ok, now when and what shall we eat today? Somehow it belongs to travelling, just like when the train leaves the station and you immediately open your bag and start eating your sandwich. Although there must be some very scientific explanation to this phenomenon, I still believe that we are just bored and eating is nothing more than fun in thes ecases.

When my friends start telling me stories about their journeys, I can hear it many times: “food was not that good on the plane”. So let’s start by clarifying some misunderstandings as a first step:

– On 11 thousand meters high in a high pressure cabin with low humidity we loose 20% of our taste buds.

– Airline meals are almost never good.

Finnair meal - Helsinki-Budapest The reason is that by the time it gets on our tray, it goes through the following process: it comes out from the catering company’s production line, it is divided into portions, wrapped up in a box on a tray in a metal container, loaded into the catering car, taken to the plane and loaded into the galley. This process might take hours (as sometimes food for the return journey is also loaded at the original departure station) and in the meantime they are not refridgerated and they dry out. Therefore they all contain preservatives, so they are mostly like canned food.

Most airlines offer special meals like vegetarian, kosher, halal, low sugar, low colesterole, etc. These meals are prepared with special care, so they are better quality than the regular ones, so it is worthwile to ask for them when booking.

While earlier air travel was luxury, today it is business as usual for eevryone thanks to the low cost carriers. Regular network airlines have to comopete with them and decrease their costs. The most easily noticable cost cutting tool is decreasing the amount and quality of on-board food. Nowadays they serve only a sandwich on a short haul flight’s economy class.

The quality and type of meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a snack) depends on the time and duration of the flight. You can always find information about the meal served on the flight in the reservation systems, although it is not always displayed in e-booking engines, but the airline’s call center can give you information on it. If you find out more about the food in advance, you can protect yourself from a disappointment.

Malev meal - Budapest-WarsawThere is another way to get yourself prepared, though. Usually meals look much better on the airlines’ website than in reality (just like in the case of McDonalds). It was recognized by a very creative man called Marco Hart, who created a website:, where thousands of photos sent by travellers are displayed with airline meals in them. You can easily browse aong the pictures by airlines. Below the pictures you can find some background information: destination, date and time of the flight or description of the meal. There is a special section about crew meals, old pictures from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s and about special meals sorted by airlines.

 I hope my post will help you avoid those bad surprises, when the stewardess serves you with dry sandwich, omlet out of egg powder or that fashionable, but awful muesli bar. 🙂

By Szafi 



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December 2007