Nikos Loukas approaches flights like a restaurant critic — or maybe a gastro-daredevil. Since 2012, the former cabin crew member from Australia has eaten about 250 airplane meals en route to more than 40 countries. In addition to consulting for airline catering companies in Europe, he covers high-altitude dining on his blog, Inflight Feed. We asked Nik for his top picks for airline meal service. Here are his mini-reviews.
– Turkish Airlines: “A real focus on tasty quality meals. I like to fly them on long-haul flights because you know the food will great. I’ve toured their facilities in Istanbul and New York, and I think that most passengers will enjoy the flavors. My favorite dish is the Turkish spinach pastry. Who would have thought that a pastry could be so crisp and delicious at 35,000 feet? The airline’s in-flight catering arm uses fresh ingredients and everything — I mean everything — is made from scratch. Unheard of in the industry.”
– Swiss International Airlines: “Nothing but Swiss quality here. In December 2014, they held the first pop-up restaurant-in-the-sky with top chef Andreas Caminada. On flights from Hong Kong, Bangkok and Shanghai, they offer first- and business-class passengers dishes from the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong. They also prepare a Taste of Switzerland on all flights departing from Switzerland. Swiss chefs create menus from various regions in the country. The service is more prevalent in first- and business-class, but economy-class customers are treated to some tastes of Switzerland, too.”
– Fly Niki: “Not many people may have heard of the Vienna-based airline, which was started by Formula One driver Niki Lauda and is now part of the Air Berlin group. You can upgrade your in-flight meal and choose from a range of quality meal trays. My favorite: the antipasto platter. And, yes, my seat neighbors were very jealous.”
– Air Dolomiti: “Another small airline, based in Italy and a subsidiary of Lufthansa. The prosciutto and melon, a typical Italian breakfast, really hit the spot. The simple Italian dish was tasty, fresh and local. I’m a big fan of airlines that showcase their heritage through food.”
– Japan Airlines: “Typically, most Japanese airlines offer the most delicate and delicious in-flight creations, even in economy. But the in-flight Kentucky Fried Chicken dish will stay with me forever. Why? Because it’s probably the craziest in-flight meal I have ever eaten! At Christmastime, KFC is very popular in Japan and has become quite a fad. To tempt passengers to fly with the airline, they offered KFC on select flights last year. (It was a second meal-service offering, not the main meal.)”
– Singapore Airlines: “In first, business and premium-economy class, you can order from the Book the Cook meal service. I’ve used the system to order a steak, and I’m really looking forward to the meals I preordered for upcoming flights to Melbourne, including lobster thermidor and a grilled angus beef burger. The meals are fantastic, even in economy, and the service is generally outstanding.”