Meals for economy class get upgrades

An undated handout photo of an a la carte meal designed by chef Jean Imbert for Air France.
An undated handout photo of an a la carte meal designed by chef Jean Imbert for Air France.PHOTO: NYTIMES

NEW YORK • Is it really possible for economy passengers on long- haul flights to look forward to the in-flight food?

Now, on some airlines, that answer may be a "yes".

While back-of-the-plane cuisine does not have a reputation for being appetising, and amenities for economy fliers are increasingly few and far between, several carriers are taking the opposite approach by elevating their main cabin food on long-haul flights and, in some instances, the alcohol too.

Many airlines promote their lavish meals and premium alcohols for first- and business-class passengers, said Mr Paul Tumpowsky, co-founder and chief executive of New York travel agency Skylark.

But, until recently, economy passengers have been largely neglected. Now, he noted, tasty economy-class food is no longer an oxymoron.

"Competition among airlines is growing and having good food is a memorable gesture that goes a long way in building a repeat customer base," he said.

Here, six airlines aim to make eating in economy a not-so-average experience. Singapore Airlines: Serving generous portions of sumptuous, flavourful food in economy is a priority for this carrier.

Besides two entree choices, there is an additional "deliciously wholesome" menu of healthful dishes such as quinoa with ratatouille and chickpeas and Oriental-style steamed fish.

Those who want to imbibe have their pick of top-shelf spirits. EVA Air: Will it be wok-fried pork along with Smirnoff vodka on the rocks for dinner? Or is cuttlefish in five-spice sauce and Bombay Sapphire gin more your fancy?

For economy passengers on this Taiwanese airline, these are just two of many food and beverage options. Selections always include one Western entree and emphasise seasonal ingredients. Air France: Meals for economy passengers begin with an aperitif of a glass of champagne along with salted biscuits.

The main course, such as chicken in spicy sauce with baby vegetables, is usually accompanied by a wedge of Camembert cheese. Between meals, snack carts full of pastries and French chocolates are set up in the galleys and, on some routes, ice cream is served. Swiss: As a Switzerland-based airline, this carrier prides itself on serving economy passengers Swiss food and beverage items including chocolate bars, beers and wines.

On flights originating in Switzerland, the carrier collaborates with Hiltl, the renowned Zurich vegetarian restaurant, to offer meatless meals such as Thai massaman vegetable curry. Turkish Airlines: Authentic Turkish cuisine prepared daily from scratch is offered to economy fliers of this Istanbul-based airline. Turkish olive oil and butter, along with a different Turkish spice each month, accompany all breads.

Main course selections might be shish kebabs or eggplant stuffed with ground meat. Sweets such as sultac (Turkish rice pudding) cap off meals. Delta Air Lines: Economy passengers do not have to fly internationally to taste Delta's improved in-flight food. The carrier now offers free meals on a dozen of its longest domestic flights. Fliers receive menus with three choices each for breakfast and lunch, such as a fruit and cheese plate and a wholegrain veggie wrap.

Next up for the airline: a more attractive culinary programme on international routes, including partnerships with renowned chefs.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Meals for economy class get upgrades'. Print Edition | Subscribe