The Best Food and Drinks You Can Have in Economy, From Afternoon Tea to Ramen
Airplane food has gone through a series of changes since commercial aviation first took off, starting with only cold food selections in the 1920s and growing to include everything from regional delicacies to eclectic snacks and drinks today.
Passengers flying economy today will find goodies and drinks ranging from the Percy Pig and Tim Tam biscuits to ramen, udon, and Cadbury hot chocolate.
From sake selections to Singapore Sling cocktails on demand, here are some of the coolest economy dining and drink options travelers will find in the skies.
Irish Breakfast — Aer Lingus
As the flag carrier of Ireland, Aer Lingus offers travelers a range of goodies that come from the country, including a traditional Irish breakfast available on flights within Europe that consists of sausage, hash browns, tomato, and black and white pudding served alongside McCambrige’s brown bread, Irish butter, marmalade, and orange juice.
Afternoon Tea — Virgin Atlantic
Travelers can enjoy “Mile High Tea” when taking flights from the U.K. with Virgin Atlantic, with a range of goodies created by master pâtissier and celebrity chef Eric Lanlard. Offered in each cabin, the tea service features freshly made rolls and scones, with economy options including a scone stuffed with jam and cream, and a roll filled with slow roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, and green pesto.
Koloa Breeze Rum Punch — Hawaiian Airlines
In addition to meal selections with dishes ranging from yakisoba with mushroom sauce to traditional dishes like loco moco, Hawaiian Airlines also provides a range of complimentary drinks like the Koloa Rum Punch.
Offered on all North America flights (except red-eye flights), the drink features passion fruit, guava puree, and pure Hawaiian cane sugar that is blended with Kauai White Premium Hawaiian Rum.
Bibimbap, Ramen, and Korean Snacks— Korean Air
Korean Air has a range of popular delicacies to choose from, ranging from stir fired spicy octopus with rice to its signature dish, bibimbap. The airline’s ramen is a popular choice, while long-haul flights also feature dishes like samgak gimbap, pizza, and shrimp-flavored Korean snacks like Saewookkang. Passengers are also treated to a special rice cake served as a snack on some European routes.
Teriyaki Burger and Sky Bento Boxes — Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines has been offering its JAL AIR MOS series, a collaboration between JAL and local burger chain MOS Burger, since 2011. The menu features creative burger selections like a cream cheese teriyaki burger or a yakiniku rice burger. JAL also offers a sky bento box for economy passengers on Korea routes flying to or from Japan, while the complimentary mineral water offered to guests comes straight from Japan’s Niigata Prefecture. Keep an eye out for dessert cream puffs stuffed with everything from green tea to strawberry fillings.
Blueberry Juice — Finnair
Finnair has been serving a signature drink of fresh blueberry juice since 2014, starting with short-haul flights and expanding it to long-haul flights after passengers continued asking for the popular selection. Passengers now go through one million liters of the drink per year. The airline also offers snacks like chocolate-covered licorice for purchase and sandwich selections featuring Nordic rye bread.
Herbs and Grains Salad Shaker — JetBlue
The latest salad shaker is the Herbs and Grains Salad Shaker, which combines kale, spring mix lettuce, red quinoa, wild rice, diced cucumber, cherry tomatoes, fresh chopped herbs, and goat cheese with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing for a healthy choice in the skies. The meal is both gluten-free and vegan.
Udon noodles, specialty drinks and sake selections, and Japanese snacks— All Nippon Airways
Passengers traveling with ANA have a range of special menu items to look forward to, including udon noodles, Japanese green tea, sake selections, and the airline’s original Aromatic Kabosu beverage—a refreshing concoction made from sun-drench green citrus kabosu fruit grown in Oita and combined with honey for a sweet and sour sip.
The airline also offers its seasonal Koiwai additive-free blended vegetable and fruit juice, a natural drink made with a mix of 32 fruits and vegetables, while Japanese snacks offered range from candies to Arare rice crackers.
Singapore Sling — Singapore Airlines
In addition to serving a range of delectable dishes that change every quarter, Singapore Airlines also offers passengers complimentary Singapore Sling cocktails, standing as the world's first carrier to offer free drinks in the main cabin. The cocktail is made of a combination of Heering cherry liqueur, Cointreau, gin, Bénédictine D.O.M., grenadine, a dash of Angostura bitters, lime juice, pineapple juice, and ice.
Dishes from the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant — Swiss International Air Lines
Swiss International Air Lines has been offering passengers specialty dishes from the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, Hiltl, since 2009. Options through Hiltil have ranged from everything from spicy beetroot tabbouleh served with massaman curry and a vegan mango mousse to penne with a vegetarian bolognese.
Complimentary cookies, ice cream, and sandwiches — Qatar Airways
Besides menu selections like black currant cheesecake and vegetable masala, passengers flying on Qatar Airways can also enjoy sandwiches, cookies, and ice cream throughout the flight at no additional cost.
Cadbury hot chocolate and ice cream selections — Qantas
Economy passengers flying with Qantas can access a snack bar for refreshments and snacks like fresh fruit, chocolate bars, Tim Tam biscuits, and Carmen’s muesli bites, while hot and cold snacks served between meals include Weis ice cream, chocolate, carrot sticks, lychee butterburst biscuits, and cheese and biscuits. To top it all off, passengers can treat themselves to a Cadbury hot chocolate service with marshmallows and a mini chocolate after the main meal service.
Percy Pig candies and drinks bottled just for the skies — British Airways
British Airways is celebrating 100 years in 2019 by offering passengers an array of treats from the area for the occasion. Options range from mini marmite jars and an afternoon tea service with scones, jam, and clotted cream, to drink selections like English white wine from the Kent countryside bottled just for the airline and a 10-botanical gin from Pickering’s Gin created to be enjoyed at altitude.
Thanks to a partnership with Marks and Spencer, passengers can also enjoy the famed Percy Pig gummy candies on flights for a small additional cost.
Digestive liqueurs and meals and desserts from Fauchon's chef — Air France
Besides complimentary champagne, Air France passengers can also choose from digestive liqueurs like Armagnac and cognac. A recent partnership with Sébastien Monceaux, executive chef for Fauchon, includes a la carte selections ranging from pan-fried scallops in a citrus fruit sauce to pastry selections from the famed French stop like caramel eclairs or a trio of pistachio, raspberry, and lemon macaroons.
Cake and champagne, curries, and more — Emirates
Emirates dishes out over 20,000 meals a day that draw inspiration from the routes the airline flies to, with options like cod with creamy dill sauce served with tomato rice and a paneer makhana with cumin rice and raisins. Dishes come with complimentary wine, beer, spirit, and soft drink selections, while passengers can celebrate a special occasion with either vanilla or chocolate cake paired with a bottle of Moët et Chandon Brut Impérial for $43 or a bottle of Moët et Chandon Rosé for $45.
Premium wines from New Zealand — Air New Zealand
Passengers looking to get a taste of New Zealand’s wine offerings can start before they land with Air New Zealand, as cabin crew will free-pour wine for economy passengers during meal service as opposed to handing out mini wine bottles. The airline is considered the single largest server of wines in New Zealand.
Bellinis, free sparkling wine, and Delta One inspired meals — Delta
Starting in November of 2019, passengers flying internationally with Delta can sip on complimentary Bellinis made with sparkling white wine and peach puree, all before enjoying dishes inspired by Delta One menus like grilled shrimp marinated in Harissa and served over a fresh slaw of arugula and apples.
Meanwhile, upgraded main cabin snacks include Biscoff cookies, Cheez-It crackers, and free sparkling wine on international flights.
Dulce de leche stuffed desserts — LATAM Airlines
All of the items on LATAM Airlines' menu are made with local ingredients, with passengers having the option to choose from a vegetarian dish, a cold dish, or a slow-cooked meat option served alongside sweet local bites that range from chocoteja from Peru (traditional chocolate truffles filled with dulce de leche or dried fruits), to alfajor from Chile (soft cookies stuffed with dulce de leche), and pao de mel (honey bread) from Brazil.
Sushi bento boxes and schnitzel — Austrian Airlines
Thanks to a partnership with DO & CO (the company catering Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal and Lounges), passengers flying with Austrian Airlines can purchase menu items that include a bento box filled with edamame, sushi selections, salmon avocado tartar with yuzu dressing, duck breast masao, and a sakura salad for 15 euros (about $17). Another popular choice is the wiener schnitzel, which comes fried with a side of potato and cucumber salad and hot Austrian rolls.
Instant cup noodles and Häagen-Dazs ice cream — Cathay Pacific
Passengers traveling with Cathay Pacific can often request sweets like Häagen-Dazs ice cream selections and instant cup noodles on-demand during their flights.