While airplane meals are less common than at one time, a meal is a necessity on an international flight. Cooking resources in the air might be limited, but meals still can be very good and nutritionally balanced. In fact, some airlines make a point of offering particularly tasty meals, especially for first- and business-class customers.
An international flight meal must be easy to prepare, unaffected by altitude changes, and efficient in its use of ingredients and energy. Commonly, the meal will contain a meat or seafood portion, a vegetable and starch. There also will be a dessert or fruit. Some airlines offer a complimentary alcoholic beverage, but there always are free non-alcoholic options.
Food quality varies from class to class. Economy class meals are usually less gourmet in taste and presentation than first- or business-class offerings. Scott Mayerowitz of ABC News writes, "For those lucky enough to sit in the front of the plane, meals are served on fine china and come in multiple courses. They not only excite the taste buds but bring back a sense of service and class to flying." There also might be specific regional offerings, such as Cathay Pacific's authentic Chinese dishes. In first and business classes, the menu contains specialties including "congee, hot pot rice, noodle soups and Chinese desserts," according to AirlineMeals.net.
International flight entrees suit a range of tastes and diets, including vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic and halal. Like domestic flights, passengers are free to choose a specialized dish for an additional fee. Different types aside, all foods undergo the same method of being kept fresh: "To help keep the food fresh, each item -- the meat, the potatoes, the vegetables -- are all kept in separate foil compartments for business and first class meals. Each item, including the sauce, is then re-heated separately by the flight attendant onboard," writes Mayerowitz.
Airlines might feature regional fare on their international menus, but they typically opt for favorites that have worldwide recognition. Tiramisu, steamed shrimp and roasted chicken dishes show up on international flights, as do gourmet standbys like lobster thermidor. Many airlines seek to create food that appeals to as wide a palate as possible. Speaking to airline food supplier Amazing Food Creations, Crankyflier.com says, "Every airline has different requirements. Northwest wanted traditional, American meals with a bland flavor palette to appeal to its customers. Other airlines want something a little spicier and more exotic."
An international flier might be pleasantly surprised with the food quality.. Food companies take many steps to ensure quality during the whole process, but it's no surprise that the higher the class, the better the meal. For those who are really curious about the airline food for a particular carrier or route, websites like AirlinesMeals.com list descriptions of the different entrees, complete with a picture. When flying far, there's now little need to fear an unidentifiable dinner.