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La Jolla Mom

A Look at First and Business Class In-Flight Food

Slight confession to make: I am fascinated by food that’s served on board any airline. Why? I assume because of competitive pressures, most airlines have stepped up their game in this department.

And, the truth is that it used to be so disgusting—worse than a frozen TV dinner. In some cases, it still is.

Enjoy a few shots of premium class eats within the oneworld Alliance while I’ve been Instagramming (which hasn’t been for very long) so more to come.

Best Bloody Mary: Alaska Airlines

Believe it or not, very few direct flights exist out of San Diego. Alaska Airlines has recently taken advantage of this and started seasonal direct flights to Hawaii and year-round direct flights to Mexico. They aren’t a part of the oneworld Alliance, but American AAdvantage members may earn miles on Alaska Airlines.

My dad and I used to fly to Puerto Vallarta while drinking Bloody Mary’s on Alaska Airlines.

Best Cheesecake: American Airlines

I’ve had my fair share of complaints with AA over the years but I’m digging the New American. Customer services is better, food has become edible and, on occasion, the flight attendants in premium classes seem to cruise the aisles with wine bottles glued to their hands.
I’ve enjoyed loads of American Airlines cheesecake in a number of flavors. It’s really good (for airplane cheesecake) especially when soaked in caramel sauce.

An ice cream or cookie option is also usually on offer during longer domestic and international flights. The ice cream sundae is also a hit with me.

Outstanding Wine: British Airways/American Airlines

Wine is difficult for airlines because our taste buds lose the ability to differentiate between flavors at 35,000 feet—by up to 40%!

British Airways, I once read, buys 500,000 cases of wine per year and usually offers a decent selection of Bordeaux, which is a hit with me.

Ken Chase, the wine consultant from American Airlines, is the the life of the party. I had the pleasure of attending a wine-filled private event in Beverly Hills with him in December.

He’s re-vamped the airline’s wine program from training the flight attendants (see the heavy-handed pour reference above) to selecting wine that tastes good in the air. I haven’t seen it on my last few flights, but there used to be a section on the menu labeled, “Ken’s Choice” where he asks guests to taste a particular wine and email him with comments.

Most Beautiful Food: Japan Airlines

Always gorgeous,  Japan Airlines has been serving impressive airline in the decade I’ve been a fairly regular guest on board. The top photo is of ochazuke (rice in green tea soup) served in Executive Class. The kids meals are a bit exotic as kids in various countries eat differently, so keep in mind that soba noodles and steamed rice are always available.

If Japanese food is your thing, always order the Japanese option on Japan Airlines. The presentation, even in economy class, is stunning for airplane food. We’ve flying the Dreamliner in Executive Class in a few weeks, so I’ll prove it to you later. Did know that in all classes of service, a Yoshinoya beef bowl lunch set (our favorite Asian fast food) is on offer?

japan airlines food

Best Overall Experience: Cathay Pacific

From the welcome drink to dim sum breakfast upon landing in Hong Kong (if taking the overnight flight), the service on board Cathay Pacific is unparalleled. They do a nice job of spreading out courses and making premium class service feel as if you’re fine dining in a high-end restaurant. I fall so into the moment on this airline that I forget to bust out my camera. And, we’re talking over 100 flights in the last decade—to the point where the flight attendants recognized my daughter and I and brought us our favorite chocolates without asking. Expat life, at its finest.

Stay tuned as I Instagram our trip to Asia in a few weeks.

I also have a Pinterest board dedicated to airplane food. I have so much more to add, but if you’re like to pin to it, leave me a comment.

Join the Instagram Travel Thursday linky with some of my favorite travel and lifestyle writers! (For those of you reading La Jolla Mom for the first time, I’m a Southern California-based luxury travel and lifestyle writer who is a devotee of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts as a former resident and current writer for their food and family blogs. Please join me in the Luxury Family Travel community on Google+.)

*Ochazuke and Yoshinoya photo credits: Japan Airlines

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20 thoughts on “A Look at First and Business Class In-Flight Food

  1. I love airplane food (for reasons I can’t really explain even to myself, it has something to do with the presentation in a “surprise box”) but here in Europe many of the airlines don’t do food anymore, without an extra cost. Hence it was very interesting to see what’s an offer on other airlines across the Ocean! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great story, I often take pics of my airline food too. The Japanese food looks really great, which is not often the case with airline food. And I am so with you on Cathay Pacific, we have loved every experience and the kids food!

    1. Hi Reeta! Pre-Instagram I was taking airline food pics on my regular camera on occasion but I couldn’t locate any quickly enough for this post, which was disappointing because Cathay kids meals are really great with curly straws for juice boxes and the like.

  3. I’m fond of airplane food myself but I don’t think that I’ve had any meals quite as beautiful as these! I’ll have to pay closer attention on my next flight and maybe snap a photo or two!

  4. I love this! Mostly because it gives me a glimpse of how the other half (1%?!) lives! I can usually be found in steerage licking the salt off of the packets of peanuts and begging for a full can of soda.

  5. I like this topic. I work in airline catering in SAN and trust me, airline food on the business end takes a lot of abuse and very rarely gets appreciated. ‘Tis nice to see some love out there. Remember everyone, these images that are shown are “First” and “Business” class meals. I know you mentioned premium class a number of times but flying out of SAN, especially with all the short-haul and puddle jump flights, you will likely be getting nothing in coach class (expect on Hawaiian to HNL). Even on transcon flights you’ll only have buy-on-board options. British Airways and JAL are the only international carriers out of SAN (other than things like Air Canada/Volaris/Spirit/etc.).

    1. Love hearing from an insider! I think we have some direct Air Canada flights from SAN. Do these flights charge for food in economy class, too?

      I’m slightly nervous due to recent mechanical problems, but I’m psyched to fly JAL from SAN. I can’t believe we have a direct flight now.

      1. There is no SAN caterer that services Air Canada (except charter flights). If they do serve food, it is catered downline, which makes me believe that they do not unless it is some type of shelf-stable buy-on-board program.

        JAL is going to be a great experience. Probably the best you can get out of SAN. J Class on that aircraft is pretty magnificent.

    1. Thanks, Leigh! I actually know a decent amount about wine at 35,000 feet (just because I find dealing with various cuisines and taste bud issues to be interesting) but haven’t had time to write about it. Will do.

  6. I love this post and the fact that so many people besides me are excited about the airplane food, which usually gets a bad rep. Obviously there is a lot of bad food out there, but I do love seeing how many airlines have stepped up their game. Thai Airlines first class meals have been my favorite so far, and I am hoping to fly with Lufthansa or British Airways soon to test their latest, they have done a lot to make their food experience better.

    1. Hi Katja! I follow the #AVGeek hashtag on Instagram where frequent travelers occasionally mix in shots of various airline food. I’m glad I’m not the only one interested in the subject…it feels like such a strange topic! Ha.

  7. I am in shock and awe over this airline display of yummies! I just steer clear of it all together and load up before I fly because of past experiences. So glad to see there is some new plays in this game 😉 Awesome share! Glad you linked up on #InstagramTravelThursday this week!!

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