Travel For Work: Why Airline Food Sucks…And How to Get the Good Stuff

I fly a lot.  So much that in a typical week I get onto a plane twice!…once at the beginning of the week and again at the end of it.  And yes, it gets old.  With all this flying it’s inevitable that I learn a thing or two about how the system works.  These days I could tell you the fastest route to the airport, the best bathroom in Terminal C and the fastest way to hail a taxi.  But here, the topic is food…airline food.

Typically I’ll opt-out of airline food.  If anything, I’ll shoot for the restaurants in the airport rather than what they serve in the sky but sometimes it’s unavoidable.  It tends to be a little better if it’s an item that you have to pay for, but as for the stuff that comes free with the flight…well, it tastes a little “old”.  So why is that?  And what can we do to avoid it?  Yes, I know it’s not a huge deal.  Hell, I’m one of those people who will eat anything but since I happen to come across this information, I thought that I would share it.

Why it Sucks:

As confided to me by a Delta employee, the food served to the vast majority of airline passengers (including 1st class) is purchased from 3rd party food suppliers or “Food Factories” as she called them.  These “Food Factories” supply food to numerous clients that include the airline industry (not only Delta).  Airlines usually place these food orders well in advance.  As a result of the large number of meals produced and the advance order placement, some of these food products can sit frozen for up to two years.  And at some point during the processing, the food will end up being cooked, chilled, packaged, and reheated before it gets to the passenger.  So what it really comes down to, is that you may just being eating a chicken that had been killed two years ago and has since been sitting on ice just waiting for you come along.

How to Avoid it:

It’s pretty simple actually.  You should try to order a custom meal.  Meaning that (if given the option) when booking your flight, place an order for a vegetarian, vegan or kosher meal….or some other type of specialty meal.  Since this is a one-off custom order, these meals are prepared “as needed” and tend not to sit frozen or in storage for long periods of time.  The quality will be noticeably better and the ingredients certainly healthier.

Now combine this with recent evidence that shows our taste buds and sense of smell are dumbed down at 35,000 feet and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.  🙂

July 13, 2013