In-Flight Dining: Virgin America vs. Singapore Airlines
Meet this year’s winners of the World’s Best Airlines for Food*: Virgin America and Singapore Airlines. They’ve changed the experience of dining on high—Virgin by reinventing the way meals are served in the back of the plane, and Singapore by raising the bar for first-class dining.
Virgin America Coach, World’s Best Airline for Food, domestic: The two-year-old San Francisco–based domestic upstart appeals to budget-minded weekenders(many heading to Vegas) and cross-country fliers looking for an alternative in-flightexperience.
Singapore Airlines First Class, World’s Best Airline for Food, international: With a presence in 65 airports around the world and a reputation for polished, discreet service,Singapore’s main clients are international businesspeople and discerning leisuretravelers.
SA: $500 million on food; $15 million on beverages; $16.5 million on wines.
Estimated Cost of Meal to Airline
VA: All main cabin snacks sell for $3 to $6 and cost the airline roughly half their selling price.Cost of meals undisclosed.
SA: From $60 (base cost, excluding beverages and special ingredients.) All meals and drinks arecomplimentary.
VA: A selection of sandwiches, salads, and snacks with an emphasis on fresh and healthy; includes afruit-and-cheese plate with pecans and dried cranberries, a spinach salad with strawberries andfeta, and a “Napa Valley” chicken salad wrap with apples and currants.
SA: A rotating library of over 15,000 dishes created in consultation with its “internationalculinary panel,” a team of eight high-profile chefs from around the world. Options range fromlaksa to nigiri sushi to pan-seared pheasant and an all-American 8 oz. rib eyewith a peppercorn sauce.
Most Popular Dish
VA: Seared flatiron steak sandwich on a ciabatta roll with roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, andpesto.
SA: Lobster thermidor with asparagus, slow-roasted tomato, and saffron rice.
VA: California’s Wente Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and a cocktail-heavy list thatincludes mojitos, Cosmos, and even Le Tourment Vert Absinthe.
SA: Krug Grande Cuvée, Dom Pérignon 2000, and an extensive list of Old and New Worldwines, including a 2004 Château Patache d’Aux Médoc and a 2005 Sonoma-CutrerChardonnay. Singapore Slings also available.
VA: Main-cabin meals can be ordered at any time via a touch-screen monitor in the seat back and thenhand-delivered by a flight attendant. No aisle-blocking trolleys necessary.
SA: The full china-and-crystal treatment for six courses spread over two hours; begins with warmnuts and bread service (choose from nine varieties) and ends with a cheese cart, a digestif, andchocolates.
VA: Pioneered on-demand dining: you eat what you want, when you want it.
SA: Holds food and wine tastings in a pressurized room in Singapore to simulate the in-flightexperience, and vets dishes thoroughly for not only taste, but color, height, and overallappearance.
Biggest Contribution to Airline Food
VA: Recognizing that economy-class airline food can be both a source of revenue and a major draw forpassengers.
SA: Returning a sense of glamour—and excitement—to first-class dining.
*As voted by T+L readers in the 2009 World’s Best Awards survey.