It's not news to say that airplane food is bad. In fact, unless you're flying a foreign carrier or are on a long-ish international flight, your flight might not even offer meals—in today's "pay extra for everything except your seat" era, Southwest Airlines is considered generous for offering free pretzels and peanuts.
To be sure, while travelers should ultimately be grateful for whatever they're given for "free" on a flight, some airplane food is so bad it arguably doesn't deserve thanks. The sad fact is that terrible food is about as common at 35,000 as sub-zero temperatures.
To say Air China (or any Chinese airlines) has a less than sterling reputation is a huge understatement. Objectively, the airline has a two-star rating from Skytrax, the authority on assessing airline quality. This is embarrassing enough on its own (both of the major airlines in neighboring Japan, for example, have recently earned five-star ratings), but especially when you consider that Air China has been trying.
For example, China's flag carrier has added dozens of new aircraft to its fleet, including the Boeing 777-300 and the 747-8i, the revamped version of the perennial "Queen of the Skies."
Indeed, while Air China is by most measures a mediocre airline on its best day, the food it serves passengers is especially abysmal, something that seems to be true whether you're in economy class, or even premium first and business classes.
What's worse is that the quality of food on Air China doesn't seem to improve when departing from Beijing's Capital Airport, where the airline's central catering department is located.
United Airlines has had a rough few years. Like American and Delta, the other surviving U.S. "legacy" carriers, United swallowed up one of its competitors during the last decade, part of a larger industry consolidation that was supposed to create a leaner, more consumer-friendly environment for air travelers.
Unfortunately for United, neither its revenues nor its brand image have improved much (certainly, not compared with the new American and especially Delta post-2008). Even the airline's genuine attempts to better itself have been met with opposition—sometimes, from the Universe. Last year, for example, the person United tapped to replace long-embattled CEO Jeff Smisek suffered a heart attack right after assuming his post. Ouch!
Like Air China, which just so happens to be one of United's Star Alliance partners, United can list terrible food among the reasons it seems to be performing so poorly.
Crazy as it sounds, North Korea is near the top of many people's travel bucket lists. Certain travelers love visiting countries that polarize public opinion, one way or another, and being able to argue for the opposite position after having visited themselves.
Unfortunately for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, one aspect of the country few can advocate for is the food on flag carrier Air Koryo, which was recently rated the worst airline in the world.
Ukraine International Airlines
Lately, the media has portrayed Ukraine as an unsafe place, in spite of simultaneously vilifying the Russian government who's arguably responsible for much of Ukraine's unrest. Even if you've been to Ukraine and have a positive opinion of the country, however, the food served on its flag carrier is indefensible.
Much of the food the airline serves seems to border on inedible, in spite of the fact that Ukraine has a relatively beloved culinary heritage. If only the world could blame this on Putin!
It seems strange that the national airline of Slovenia would be called Adria, given that Slovenia has only a sliver of shoreline along the Adriatic, but unfortunately that's not the weirdest thing about this carrier.
To be sure, the foodstuff they provide on their short flights is beyond inedible. TIP: If your travels necessitate you flying Adria (traveling to or from the charming city of Ljubljana makes this a good bet), dine at the airport before you get on the plane. Or, better yet, eat a big breakfast at your hotel!