Airline Food: Better but Scarcer

Ten years ago or so, airline food was a joke. Today, it's a riddle, as in – what happened to it? Answer: The economy happened. Free meals in coach were just one of the things jettisoned by the airlines when they began massive cost cutting measures – which also saw the rise of bag fees.

The last free meals in economy class – on U.S. domestic flights – were served by Continental back in 2010, shortly before the carrier itself disappeared in a merger with United.

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Amazing First Class Meals

The irony of course is that airline meals are getting new respect for those lucky enough to taste them – in business and first class.

A site called is reportedly seeing "in-flight food ratings rocket" from "flying foodies"; it's the place to find pictures of airline food from calamari/shrimp skewers (Thai Airways) to roast duck (Cathay Pacific).

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Fine Wines and Celebrity Chefs

The airlines themselves eagerly tout their premium offerings: British Airways for example, crows about its fine wines including Grand Siècle by Laurent-Perrier (which retails for $192 a bottle), while other airlines boast about their celebrity chefs who at least consult on in-flight food. A couple of years ago, award winning Singapore Airlines went so far as to publish a cookbook of in-the-air delicacies includes a recipe from TV chef Gordon Ramsay for Pot-au-Feu with Beef Cheeks.

Economy Passenger: Food Upgrades

At least one airline allows economy passengers a taste of first class – for a fee, of course. US Airways coach customers flying between the U.S. and Europe, the Middle East or South America can pay $19.99 for a meal upgrade. A sample menu features chilled citrus-marinated chicken skewers on Mediterranean orzo topped with mango chutney, served with lavosh crackers, classic shrimp cocktail, marinated grilled vegetables and crème brûlée cheesecake with fresh berries.

No More Free Cookies

Still, some still yearn for the days of free meals – no matter what they tasted like – simply because they served as a distraction on longer flights. And anyone who ever sampled the free chocolate cookies on Midwest – which were briefly offered when Frontier took over Midwest – still mourn the passing of those warm, fresh-baked goodies.

Anne McDermott
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