Mile-high starvation: thoughts on airline food

Caveat: this is treading the ground of every observational comedian since Michael McIntyre was making revolving-door jokes in utero and so part of an air-travel whinge that everyone identified with this letter – BUT STILL. LOOK AT THIS.

Sure, the packaging is nice enough. But the sausages have seen about as much pork as Katz’s Deli and the mashed potato had a disconcerting layer of..moisture… sitting underneath it. It was palm-sized (and I have hands so freakishly small that holding a pint of beer looks ludicrous), it was tepid and the salad was dressingless. But wait, here’s the punchline:

"A pause to digest...your three mouthfuls" NB: note the surprisingly orange 'green beans'

The tragic thing was that this wasn’t on China Airlines, Aeroflot or Cyprus Airways –  it was Virgin Atlantic. And British Airways didn’t fare much better when I flew with them to Philadelphia last year.  These airlines market themselves as premium and charge corresponding prices – but they don’t even always match the dishes on the seat-back tray to the ones on the menu (the chocolate pudding we were expecting magicked itself into a banana jelly that tasted mostly of Amoxycilin).

And no. I refuse to hold up my hands and say that plasticky food at a few thousand feet is an inevitability. It can be done better, I’ve seen it done better and by gum, it should be done better. *gets flag out, sings Marseillaise*

Misty-eyed, I remember when Virgin would serve economy a pretty decent bento box on the Japanese routes, for example. And that was only a couple of years ago. When I flew Emirates to Delhi via Dubai last year, the food was excellent – decent, non-luminous and piled high with chapatis. Space food is meant for the astronauts, not for economy class from London to Newark…

I know that with fuel prices the way they are that airlines are probably pumping more of our fare into taxes – but when you’ve already paid a few hundred pounds for a ticket, you’d probably part with another £5 in order to have a half-decent meal in front of you. This doesn’t really seem like the kind of place to cut corners (although don’t go limiting that entertainment system or I’ll kick off like a three year-old whose ears won’t pop).

Maybe this could be an opportunity for a nifty side business – buy up 20 sandwiches from Pret before you hop on, stuff them in a cooler and whip them out at that gastro-whimper that attacks about 7 hours into a flight. Double the price and reap the rewards when you hit the tarmac. Crayfish and rocket, Mr Branson?

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