In-Flight Dining: Virgin America vs. Singapore Airlines
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.