Airplane Food Is About to Get Better

Soon hacky jokes about bad in-flight meals will be a thing of the past.

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A glimpse at what Singapore Airlines’ in-flight food service has to offer.
A glimpse at what Singapore Airlines’ in-flight food service has to offer.
Photo: GMC Photopress (Shutterstock)

Flying isn’t what it used to be. Since the pandemic, there have been changes to the way we exist in the airport, there have been numerous masking-related outbursts on flights, and there has been less to eat and drink mid-flight. Pre-COVID, you could get as sloshed as you wanted (within reason) and enjoy a full meal on the way to your destination. During the pandemic, rules were tightened to keep passengers as masked and orderly as possible.

Sure, it caused us to realize the potential of all the snacks we can actually bring on board ourselves. But it also threatened the possibility of a mile-high cocktail forever. Luckily, the airlines realized that in order to fully recover themselves, they’d have to give the people what they want. And in this case, that means bringing back in-flight alcohol and spicing up food menus with some new additions.

Why airlines are stepping up their menus

In 2020, the amount of people simply not going anywhere caused the airline industry to suffer a loss of $35 billion, CNBC reports. Cutting costs surrounding in-flight food and drink was the first step in attempting to bounce back, and while people have started traveling more in the following months and years, increased demand still hasn’t been enough to make up for that major deficit. Airlines are hoping an upgraded in-flight menu will make booking flights, particularly first- and business-class seats, more attractive to travelers.

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This break from food service has also allowed airlines to hit pause and address the looming issue of social media reviews. TikTok and YouTube videos dedicated to reviewing niche foods like airline meals are becoming more and more popular, and they often factor into whether a customer chooses one airline over another, especially for longer flights. Airlines are now attempting to protect themselves from going viral for all the wrong reasons.

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Notable airline menu items to look out for

There are some classic favorites that airlines are ensuring passengers are here to stay, like the Biscoff cookie and the Stroopwafel. But unfortunately a balanced meal can’t consist of cookies alone, so airlines are bringing some new items to the folding tray table as well. There’s a larger overall focus in the industry on teaming up with award-winning chefs to create signature dishes, providing quality vegetarian and vegan options, and getting creative in the face of continuing supply chain issues.

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Here are some airline-specific highlights:

  • American Airlines: The airline is focusing on offering high-quality vegetarian options, including salads with fresh greens and a “fiesta grain bowl” with rice, quinoa, black beans, cauliflower, corn, and zucchini.
  • Delta Airlines: New to the menu is Biscoff-inspired sundae in a cup mixed with chocolate, cherries, and spiced speculoo cookies. The airline is also teaming up with chef Mashama Bailey of The Grey for a special Southern-inspired menu to be served on flights to Atlanta.
  • Singapore Airlines: The Golden Door chef Greg Frey Jr. is creating a vegetable-forward menu that he says is easier to digest during a flight that includes a completely vegetarian portobello “meat ball” with risotto.
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Next time you’re flying somewhere, don’t forget to check out the in-flight menu before booking your ticket. You just might be surprised at what your favorite airline has to offer.