Why I No Longer Eat on Planes

Innovations in food preparations and presentation have made eating meals away from home an incredible and usually delightful experience, except for one location: airplanes.

Source of images: Airline Meals http://www.airlinemeals.net/

Two years ago, I decided to no longer eat meals on trans-ocean flights. On a recent flight, while the meals were being served, I was asked which of the two meal choices I would prefer, to which, I indicated that I was fine and wouldn’t take anything. The stewardess smiled at me and said, “Oh, you’ve eaten here before then!” We had a good laugh about this.

What really frustrates me are the travel magazine that airlines put in the seat pouch with page after page of exotic resort destinations chalked full of amazing photos of exquisite restaurant dishes. The pictures of the meals look so mouthwatering that many is the occasion where I would rather have eaten the picture of the meal from the travel magazine than the meal actually served.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve all eaten a bad meal at someone else’s house and were polite enough not to comment about things, but when we shell out $2,000 (or more) to fly somewhere, I think there is an expectation that the food one is served should at least be palatable and not look worse than a dish of Kibbles & Bits.

On a recent flight, I read in the airlines travel magazine that their food is prepared 5 hours prior to the flight departure. There are ample opportunities to improve upon this. Given that trans-oceanic travel only happens from a select number of cities, there is no reason why this timeframe couldn’t be shortened. Preparation could be moved to a location considerably closer to airports and preparation could be one hour prior to departure, leaving time for transportation and loading.

While meal lead time is an issue, the bigger concern is the ‘grossness’ factor. The food that appears on the tray when it is plopped down in front of us, looks, smells and tastes worse than swill. Until I ate airline food, I had no idea that it was possible to cook food to taste that bland and unappealing. I’ve had burps that have tasted better.

I’m sure cost is an issue for the airlines, but they certainly go out of their way to make international travel as inhospitable as possible. I know the food can be improved for the economy class, as the food in business and first class is superior to the economy class tv-tray dinners they serve. Add on a meal fee of $25-40 to make the meal service better. When I spend in excess of $2,000, raising the cost by 1-2% isn’t going to impact my decision to travel.

A colleague of mine tells the story that she was offered the two meal options and inquired of the steward which one he recommended and his response was “Neither, here’s an extra bottle of wine!” We deserve better.


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