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Inflight Food Tips: what will you eat on your next flight (and how to eat better)

Inflight Food Tips: what will you eat on your next flight (and how to eat better)

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Just a few weeks ago I was telling you about the best alternatives to book a flight online. Today, I’m telling you about food “inflight”. Because not all they serve is good and you can’t take everything on board.

So, here we go:

Which food can you take in your hand luggage?

No, you can’t take everything on board, just as you can’t take all your drinks on board. It’s a shame, because airport and airline food is not always tasty, but you still have some great options.

The rules about liquids on your had luggage, for example, won’t let you bring cream cheese with you unless it’s ben spread on a sandwich. Same with nutella or butter or ketchup, they all follow the liquids rules for security reason. But you can bring sandwiches with all the ingredients on. I’ve even seen people bring Tupperware with chicken (fried or boiled, stews follow the same liquids rule) to an american flight…

These doesn’t apply to baby food, babies can bring all the food they will be needing for the whole travel journey. Many airports even offer dedicated rooms for feeding babies and heating up milk. But don’t expect much from major airlines.

Also, you cannot take fruit or vegetables or raw meat to most countries (doesn’t apply when traveling inside the European Union, but when you cross borders with other countries it does), but you can take it to your flight and eat it there. Just be careful when you arrive, they can fine you if you forget to declare that apple you thought you’d be eating on board.

And, some weird facts you would take into account:

  • Ryanair won’t let you bring a hot drink on board (forget that morning espresso you bought while waiting to get on board)
  • Many countries won’t let cheese in either, specially if they haven’t been pasteurized
  • Ham, Jamón, prosciutto (as well as sausages, chorizo, dried meat, etc) is forbidden in many countries, not only in muslim countries, but some small quantities in.
  • Instant Soup or stock powder are also forbidden at many borders.

What type of food do airlines give you when you fly?

When you fly, you could end up eating all sorts of things: from traditional local recipes, sandwiches, cookies, peanuts… or nothing at all. That’s why choosing a flight is more than just checking the best deal online, specially if you are going to be on board over 3 hours. These are certain tips that will help you eat well during your next flight:

  • Are food and drinks included?

While most medium to long-distance flights do include some sort of food, this is not a rule any more. Iberia, for example, won’t give you anything in national flights, even if the flight is a 3 hour flight to the Canary Islands. Low cost airlines won’t give you anything in short-haul flights, but neither at any other flights. And charter companies don’t give you food either at long-distance flights when traveling in tourist seats.

But then, you fly with Swiss and they always give you (at least) a chocolate snack. And Binter Canarias (only operates between the Canary Islands) gives you a local snack: a Tirma cookie.

  • What can I eat if I am on a diet?

If you need to follow some food restrictions which prevent you from eating most of the things that you will find on board (celiac, for example) you can bring your own food for the journey, without the same liquid restrictions others have. But you will be needing a doctors’ note in English (and preferably in the local language) that justifies your need to bring those goods that you won’t find at the airport,  with you, for the journey.

If the airline offers inflight food, many of them also offer special menus for those who need to follow a strict diet: vegetarian, kosher, halal, diabetic, etc. You can also ask for this when you are not following a diet if you think you’d like any of these options better.

You need to request these days in advance, but it will pay to leave the airline’s cheese cake aside and eat something that’s better for your stomach. On Iberia, for example, diabetic food is usually good, but Alitalia vegetarian option is the worst I’ve had. Qatar Airways has some great vegetarian, but when flying to Japan it does have a nice regular menu.

Take into account that special menus (including kid’s menus) are always the first to be served.

  • How good is inflight food? Can I choose? 

Ask your friends and family and they will all tell you inflight food is bad. It’s true, there are so many regulations about security that it is served in plastic, eaten with plastic cutlery and precooked and heated on the plane (which doesn’t add much good taste to it). If you also take into account what altitude makes to your senses, it keeps getting worse (that’s why so many people drinks tomato juice on board and never drink it at home).

Having said that: beware of regional foods if the airline is not on your food radar, you might not like curry or it might hurt your stomach if you are not used to it. You can always play safe with a diet menu.

Also, location is key to be able to choose the food (usually chicken vs fish or chicken vs meat). The most interesting options are always gone when they get to the last seats. Also, some airlines (such as British) let you order a first class menu in advance, even when you are traveling tourist.

  • What happens if I’m still hungry after eating?

You can always buy some duty free food, but ask first, since many long flights also have snacks that you can eat in between meals.

Also, you can ask to have more of your meal, if they have extra dishes, they can give them to you, but you will have to have finished your first meal (all of it.)

  • What happens if I am sleeping when they serve the food?

Most people has a hard time sleeping on planes, so they try not to wake you up when they serve food. But if you have requested a special meal, they will most likely wake you up to eat. Sometimes the have some stickers to let them know whether they can wake you up or not, but if you don’t see any, you can ask them what the policy is (and whether they can wake you up).

  • Is there inflight food for kids and babies?

Some airlines offer special menus for children. There used to be an american airline where you could order Happy Meals, for example (don’t know if they still do this.) As any special menu, you need to request it in advance.

They should be able to heat up baby food, but it depends on the airplane equipment, so you should ask the airline in advance. Anyway, they should always be able to bring you hot water (they use it for coffee and tea) and still water (Ryanair charges you for this).

  • Is it allowed to drink alcohol on planes?

Most airlines offer alcoholic drinks on their menus (sometimes you need to pay an extra.) Even for those flights where food and drinks are not included, there is wine or beer available for sale. Bottles are minimal and plastic, of course.

Some airlines like Royal Brunei or Iran Air don’t offer alcohol (at all).

Of course, you can take in your Duty Free alcoholic beverages, but since you shouldn’t drink those until you arrive to your destination, that’s not an inflight option. Some people drinks it anyways, but they can ban you from the airline if you get the flight attendants mad at you, so I wouldn’t play with this.

What will you eat on your next flight?

If you want to know exactly what you will be eating on your next flight, you can check two different sites (below). They are like inflight food wiki where users upload their pictures of their most recent meals, including the airline, airplane and journey, so you can get a nice idea of what it is to eat on a KLM flight and whether it is worth to order a special menu for your next flight with Thai or bringing your own sandwiches.

1. Airline Meals

2. Inflight Feed



FInd out more

In 2015 I was interviewed by ICON Magazine Spain about how to make flight food better. It’s in Spanish, but what’s Google translate for? You can read it here.


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