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7 airlines serving in-flight meals that are actually tasty

Most people will agree that flying and fine dining don’t quite go hand-in-hand. Unless you’re willing to shell out for first-class, chowing down up in the clouds is usually a bland experience. Or is it?

These seven airlines defy expectations, offering interesting meals that taste great at 30,000 feet.

1. China – Cathay Pacific Airways
Airline meal of grilled chicken, rice, roasted veggies with a side of exotic fruit and a mini KitKat bar. Served on an airline tray with a cup of water.
(Photo credit: Instagram/yeevillicious)

When it comes to in-flight food, Asian airlines seem to take the cake. Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific regularly receives top marks for cabin crew and comfort, but it also serves up tasty in-flight meals. A typical meal might include grilled chicken, rice and roasted veggies, or a dish of exotic fruits followed by a bite-size sweet for dessert.

2. Dubai – Emirates Airline
Airline meal of tomato okra, palak paneer and Basmati rice with a side salad and an unlabelled container of dessert. Served on an airline tray with a small bottle of Shiraz.
(Photo credit: Instagram/connoistre.ann

Luxury is synonymous with Emirates flights. When it comes to dining (even in economy), the airline spares no expense. Emirates serves food inspired by the destination, like tomato okra, palak paneer and basmati rice for the Middle East, or ras malai and chickpea salad for South Asia. Emirates even elevates the in-flight dining experience by offering silverware with each meal. 

3. Turkey – Turkish Airlines
Airline meal of chicken, grilled vegetables and mashed potatoes with gravy. Served with a side salad, bread roll and chocolate mousse dessert, topped with whipped cream.
(Photo credit: Instagram/inflightfeed)

With catering by Do&Co — one of the world’s most popular airline food caterers — Turkish Airlines dishes out a dose of deliciousness with every in-flight meal. Love chicken? Then you’ll love it when served with their mashed potatoes and gravy and seasonal vegetables grilled with a slight char. Sweet tooth? Satiate your craving with a scoop of chocolate mousse topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of shaved almonds.

4. Australia – Qantas Airways 
Airline meal of goat cheese pie, a bread roll and a side salad, served with a stuffed pastry for dessert.
(Photo credit: Instagram/bhogg_96)

Passengers don’t always want to be surprised by in-flight meal choices, so Qantas Airways offers a pre-order option with every booking. The Australian airline serves more than just your standard bread and butter. Try a goat cheese pie and tossed tomato salad with a wedge of lemon, plus a stuffed pastry for dessert. It’s the vegetarian option, but there’s no rule saying it can’t be enjoyed by everyone!

5. Germany – Lufthansa
Airline meal of braised beef with mixed greens and smoked salmon, served with a side of sliced fruit, multigrain bread and a wedge of cheese.
(Photo credit: Instagram/glutenfrialivet)

When jet setting to or around Europe, enjoy the cuisine from this German airline. Lufthansa serves colourful cuisine that photographs well — and tastes even better. With a focus on serving food that’s colourful, flavourful and healthy, a typical meal consists of a rich protein, like braised beef, served with mixed greens. Sides include sliced fruit and multigrain bread with a wedge of European cheese.

6. USA — Virgin America
Airline meal of scrambled eggs, two breakfast sausages, a scone and piece of toast, with a side of granola and a slice of banana bread.
(Photo credit: flickr/Airline Reporter)

Compared to their Asian and European counterparts, North American airlines get an especially bad rap when it comes to in-flight dining. But Virgin America challenges that  with fresh fare even foodies will appreciate. You can even upgrade to a first-class meal for a reasonable fee  — after all, who wouldn’t love garden vegetables served alongside scrambled eggs and breakfast sausages?

Honourable mention: Canada – Porter Airlines
Airline meal with a sandwich, Babybel cheese, packaged cookie, Melba toast and a can of Keith's beer.
(Photo credit: flickr/Ian Harnarine)

This Canadian airline may not serve full meals on its short flights, but it does offer free tasty treats while you’re in the air as well as in pre-flight lounges in Toronto, Ottawa and Newark airports. That’s not all — Porter was also the first Canadian airline to offer a free alcoholic beverage while flying, served in real glassware! No upgrade required. Now that’s something to toast to!