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Airline Food Makeover: Best New Gourmet Menus and How To Get Them

Ice cream sundae lovers, vegetarians, and more food-focused travelers will have happier stomachs on flights.

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Before this year, my airport routine always involved buying an overpriced sandwich from the terminal before boarding. But times are changing. Airlines are upgrading their in-flight menus, and it shows. 

I’ve been on five international flights this year: Portugal, Italy, Spain, Brazil, and Mexico. Instead of lackluster pasta and dry chicken, I’ve been served chicken tikka masala, fresh salads, and impressive desserts. Not bad for economy seats booked with credit card points

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It turns out that this is part of the strategy for many airlines post-COVID. To bounce back, companies like Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines are offering better in-flight food options, especially for upgraded customers. Here’s how you can get in on the best airline meals. 

New Menu Upgrades to In-Flight Menus 

Delta One meal upgrades
Delta

A few airlines are putting considerable effort into making their gastronomic experience better for customers. For example, Singapore Airlines hired Executive Chef Greg Frey Jr. of the exclusive (and expensive) Golden Door Spa and Resoort to create an expanded vegetarian menu.

Meanwhile, in other airline food news: Delta is serving ice cream sundaes on long-haul international flights, and American Airlines has brought back warm full meals to premium cabins. 

My personal in-flight foodie favorites include:

  1. Alaska Airlines’ partnership with the coveted ice cream brand Salt & Straw for long-haul flights.
  2. American Airlines’ chicken tikka masala, which isn’t new but has made a comeback after a few years of sandwich-only flights. 

Airlines have to be mindful of the food they serve and its quality because passengers are eager to share good and bad experiences.

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Which Airlines Serve the Best Meals?

Delta One meal service
Delta

Forums like FlyerTalk™ have whole threads dedicated to the best onboard meals. It’s hard to pin down a single airline for food because what is served depends on so many factors. Among them are the distance flown (longer flights tend to have better free meals), the country you’re flying into/out of, and which seat class you’re in. 

Among the forum favorites are meals from Delta’s luxury class, Delta One®. These luxury Delta One private cabins are only available for long-haul international flights and select domestic routes. You get a lay-down seat, complimentary alcohol, and, of course, great meals. 

How To Get Good In-Flight Food at a Discount

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card
Alaska Airlines

If you’re not trying to spend thousands on a Delta One trip, there are still plenty of opportunities to grab a good meal in the air. Southwest omelettes and egg tortillas are great for red eye flights and will only cost you around $6. 

Keep in mind that some airline credit cards offer free upgrades to cardholders. If you’re looking to add ease to your travel, applying for a Delta, United, or Southwest card might be a good move (not to mention the sign-on bonuses). 

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If you don’t need an upgraded seat but still want to save on in-flight purchases, the Delta SkyMiles® Gold card gives you a 20% discount, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card offers 20% off, and American Airlines AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® offers 25%. 

In-flight purchases include food and drink, as well as WiFi and other amenities with certain airlines. So instead of rushing to grab a sandwich before your flight, you can sit back and enjoy a warm meal for less. 


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Featured photo courtesy of Delta

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Jules Costa
Jules Costa
Jules Costa is a freelance writer, digital nomad and personal finance educator. Follow @julesontap on Instagram for advice on raising your freelance rate, increasing your travel budget, and making money while creating a fulfilling life.

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