A Tale of Inflight Meals

United wins the lousy food stakes.

BadAirlineFoodI used frequent flier miles to travel from Denver to Frankfurt and back. Because United’s MileagePlus is not especially friendly, could I book the nonstop between Denver and Frankfurt and add on two intra-Europe flights (to Prague and back from Vienna)? No-o-o-o-o. Each required three flights on three different airlines. Eastbound I flew Denver-Toronto on United, Toronto-Frankfurt on Air Canada, Frankfurt-Prague on Lufthansa. Westbound I flew Vienna-Frankfurt on Tyrolean, Frankfurt-Chicago on a vintage United 747, Chicago-Denver again on United.

There were two long transatlantic flights with service involved. Eastbound, the food was unexciting but edible. Westbound it was largely inedible. First off, United is using some kind of compartmentalized tray that rocks on the tray table. That’s annoying, but the food was indescribably awful. With a choice in steerage (which airlines prefer to call Economy) between chicken and pasta, I usually select pasta, which is usually more reliable and less easily ruined.

Usually. The pasta was either lasagna or ravioli or something like it that was filled. However, it had deteriorated into one unrecognizable gummy mess, so it was impossible to tell what it was supposed to be. Accompanying it was a warm salad — that is, a green salad of iceberg or similar lettuce that was as warm is if it had been heated. The pre-landing snack featured a cellophane-wrapped turkey and gouda sandwich. The wrapper said that it could be oven-heated. It hadn’t been. It was ice-cold — just a few degrees above frozen. I asked the flight attendant if it was supposed to be like that. She replied that there was nothing to heat it with. I restrained myself from asking whether they used up all the heat on the lunch salad.

Oh, and unlike foreign carriers, United charges $7.99 for a wine, which might have taken the misery out of the meal.

2 thoughts on “A Tale of Inflight Meals”

  1. You don’t go to a restaurant in New York (or a lesser place such as Denver) and expect to walk out in Paris. So why would you expect to get anything to eat, much less a good meal, on an airplane? Unless of course, it were on the G-IV I sold you. Go to Fiore on the way out of town! If only you could.

    1. I never expect “a good meal” on an airplane, but when an airline does include meal service, it ought to be at least edible. Lufthansa’s was; United’s was not. I recently flew Icelandair, which does not include food — at least not in steerage. Iceland-bound, my husband and I ate at a yuppie-ish restaurant at the airport. Home-bound, I bought a delicious Icelandic yogurt.

      I’ve often quoted a red-sauce Italian restaurant at 55th or 56th and 9th in Manhattan, which had a window sign to the effect of: “You don’t judge an airline for its food or a restaurant for its flying ability.”

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