Does anyone actually enjoy an airline meal? Unless you’re flying with hyper-elite status or in one of the world’s premiere first class cabins, the answer is probably not.
One thing people do appear to enjoy, however, is critiquing, ranking, and shaming the trays of airline food placed in front of them at 40,000 feet. Brian Kelly, founder of The Points Guy, indulged in this pastime recently, posting a photo of a less-than-appealing plate of pasta (we think?) served to him on an American Airlines first-class ticket. Inviting his followers to caption the photo produced some zingers that the airline’s PR team would probably prefer did not exist.
Kelly isn’t alone in his proclivity to name and shame an airline for its soggy pasta. Well-followed Instagram accounts such as @inflightfeed and @airplanefoodselfie feature frequent fliers’ meals (the good, the bad, the ugly) as a form of bizarre culinary entertainment. The latter crowdsources photos and then invites followers to rank each offering on a scale of one to 10. It includes the flight number and route to make clear where the dining experience—be it great or terrible—happened.
Some are relatively appealing first-class or business-class offerings, such as Godiva chocolates accompanied by ice cream and fresh berries on Qatar Airways. Others are more modest meals, ranging from a plastic-wrapped curry in Air India’s economy class to a snack pack on a JetBlue flight.
Part of the appeal of airline food—if there is any—is that you’ve got no other options. There are, after all, few situations where you would eat something wholly unappetizing other than midway through a long-haul flight when your stomach is rumbling. But perhaps—as the existence of this United Airlines cookbook shows—critiquing airline food isn’t really about the food at all. It’s more about participating in the club-like cabal of frequent fliers who are familiar enough with airline food to critique it for sport.