Economy meals on most airlines with international flights are pretty basic: a meat (or vegetarian) entree, a starch, a salad, and a small dessert. But that’s not the case with business and first class, where airlines go all out to impress their best customers with culinary prowess. Below is a list of what’s being served on 15 airlines around the world. Please note: actual meals served on flights will depend on the aircraft type, length of flight and time of year.
Canada's flag carrier has tapped Vancouver-based Chef David Hawksworth to oversee the meals in its international business class cabin. Starters include smoked salmon or grilled prawns. The main event features steaks cooked to order or a fish option. Meals end with a traditional dessert such as a flourless chocolate cake or a cheese platter.
You would expect that France’s flag carrier would offer cuisine to match the country’s reputation for gourmet offerings. On flights out of the United States and Canada, Air France has tapped Michelin-starred French Chef Daniel Boulud, owner of New York City’s “Daniel,” listed as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world. Dishes available in La Premiere class, rotated every three months, include Atlantic Lobster with Curried Coconut Sauce, Black Rice and Bok Choy, a Provencal Lamb Chop with Zucchini Pesto, Tomato, and Cheese Polenta or Peppered Beef Tenderloin with Cranberry, Squash and Spinach Custard.
The country’s flag carrier has partnered with consult Chef Peter Gordon for its Business Premier class. A typical meal starts with Roasted salmon with sumac, quinoa salad with tahini yogurt dressing, followed by Lamb shank with golden kumara mash, green beans, spinach and pea medley with mint apple jelly and ending with White chocolate and rosewater pannacotta with pistachio cream.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has partnered with four acclaimed chefs -- Maneet Chauhan, Mark Sargeant, Sam Choy, and Julian Barsotti -- to create fine dining in its first and business class cabins. Those flying from the U.S. to Europe and South America can sample Chauhan’s Duck Confit Pot Pie or Slow Braised Lamb Osso Buco. In premium cabins on U.S. domestic flights, Barsotti offers dishes including Lasagna with Sweet & Hot Pepper Crema and Grilled Chicken with Haricot Vert and Olives.
Daniel Gillaspia is a lawyer and the founder of UponArriving.com who flew BA’s first class on the Boeing 747 from London Heathrow to Houston’s George Bush Airport. The appetizer was duck rillette with smoked duck breast and kumquat confit. The main course was seared fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef and ended with a choice of Madagascan vanilla ice cream, a salted caramel brownie, and profiterole slice or a cheese plate for dessert.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier partnered with Chef Daniel Green, known for his light and clean dining philosophy, to create dishes for First and Business Class passengers flying to North America. Dishes include fettuccine, shitake mushrooms, white wine, garlic, chargrilled fennel, and white truffle oil and small roasted pumpkin, Thai red vegetable curry in light coconut milk and Thai sweet basil.
For those who want to indulge, the starter is the airline’s famous signature caviar served with Krug champagne, warmed blinis and traditional garnishes. Main courses include grilled U.S. prime Angus beef strip loin with portobello mushroom, asparagus spears and oven-roasted potatoes topped with Béarnaise sauce or red wine jus, mezze rigatoni pasta, artichokes, and carrot ribbons, topped with parmesan cheese and zucchini cream sauce or Peking duck salad with almonds and black truffle. Desserts include a cheese plate, warm Belgian chocolate pudding, vanilla ice cream, and raspberry coulis or papaya and snow fungus sweet soup.
Delta Air Lines
Michael Trager is the founder of TravelZork.com. On a January 2017 flight on Delta One international business class, he was served a duo of Chicken St. Tropez Chicken Roulade and a Confit Chicken Leg. Other meals available include strozzapreti pasta tossed with eggplant and cherry tomato sauce or a cold plate of beef tenderloin and gravlax, egg mousse stuffed tomato and jicama slaw.
The island carrier partnered with "Top Chef " cheftestant Sheldon Simeon to create meals in its first class cabin on flights from Hawaii to the mainland as part of its rotating Featured Chef Series. Among the items on his menu: Smoked Ham Croissant with Jarlsberg Cheese, Guava Tomato Jam, Basil Pesto; Roasted Beets, Lilikoi Aioli, Arugula; and Kim Chee Shrimp Poke, Salted Cucumber, Pickled Maui Onions.
The nation’s flag carrier offers Japanese and Western food options in its business class cabin. Japanese offerings included squid dressed with green miso or a fried lotus root cake rolled with grilled conger eel, grilled chicken & fried tofu dumpling, seaweed sauce, steamed rice, miso soup, and Japanese pickles. The Western meal options included snow crabmeat timbale with salmon roe and caviar and sea-bass fillet with artichoke parmesan sauce. Anytime food options include a Japanese seafood curry with rice, udon noodle soup with seaweed, octopus fritter balls, spaghetti carbonara with bacon and smoked cheese and tomato omelet.
New York City’s hometown carrier has always done things differently from the legacy carriers. It features the Mint premium cabin on the Airbus A321s it flies on long-haul routes. Instead of creating an elaborate meal, the airline partnered with New York-based restaurant Saxon + Parole to create small plates that travelers can choose from. Samples include a goat cheese croquette, kale & sweet potato salad, buttermilk fried chicken Green cabbage & celeriac slaw or Butter poached lobster Poblano chili basmati rice, pickled pepper rings. Dessert options include a seasonal fruit salad or organic ice cream from Brooklyn’s Marble.
Australia’s flag carrier has partnered with Chef Neil Perry and his Rockpool Dining Group to create menus in its premium cabin. To celebrate their 20-year partnership, the airline is bringing back some of its most popular menu items from the past two decades, such as Chinese style crab omelet with oyster sauce and Korean style yellowfin tuna tartare with sesame dressing. The regular meal options include potato gnocchi with roasted vegetables and spinach puree or herb-crusted lamb with pearl barley, mint and orange salad and asparagus with romesco sauce. Choose from a cheese plate, orange pannacotta with toasted coconut or baked chocolate cheesecake with raspberries for dessert.
The Doha-based carrier’s business class -- touted as five-star service -- can be easily compared to first class on other airlines. A starter is a classic Arabic mezze with hummus, tabouleh, muhammara, and lahim bil agine served with Arabic bread. Main courses include an Iranian mix grill of lamb chops, kofta and chicken tikka with broad bean saffron rice or stuffed spinach crêpes with mushroom, cheese, and tomato sauce. Dessert is a cheese plate or a banana caramel slice.
Matilda Geroulis is a frequent traveler and co-writer for The Travel Sisters blog. Her best meal was lunch aboard a Suites Class flight from Singapore to Shanghai. Her lunch consisted of multiple courses: canapés, appetizers, salad, soup, main course, and dessert. She was presented with an extensive menu and encouraged to order everything and anything she wanted. The highlights for her were the grilled tournedos of beef as the main course and the Belgium chocolate mousse cake for dessert.
The country’s flag carrier has announced a new initiative where starting in September, cuisine consultant Chef Vítor Sobral will work with five Michelin-starred chefs – Henrique Sá Pessoa, José Avillez, Miguel Laffan, Rui Paula, and Rui Silvestre – to create Portuguese-inspired in-flight food for the next two years. Each chef will create two Business Class and 1 Economy Class recipe, and will occasionally take flights to speak with passengers about their recipes and discuss Portuguese gastronomy and wines.
This Chicago-based carrier raised the bar on its premium cabin by introducing Polaris, its new international business class product. Appetizers are a choice of smoked salmon or a lettuce soba noodle salad. Main course choices include seared short ribs with basmati rice and sugar snap peas or an ancient grains risotto with asparagus and mushrooms. Dessert is a cheese plate or the airline’s popular signature ice cream sundae.