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The Traveller's Magazine
  •   3 min read

A classic case of the good, the bad and the ugly? Maybe so! Lets see a show of hands, how many people have eaten their entire meal served on a flight? How many people enjoyed that meal? Right… that’s what we thought…

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Airline food, somewhere along the line, got itself a bad reputation. It’s a hard one to shake off. We’re always a little wary when it’s that time in the flight when the stewardess grabs her cart of steamy trays and makes her way down the aisle. “Chicken or fish?” she asks the passengers. You lean up out of your seat to see if you can get a glance at what the two choices look like. It’s hopeless. Do you flip a coin? It’s a gamble.

But, why?

Some experts say that the background noise passengers are subject do during a flight can dramatically have an effect on how the food tastes. Loud noise reduces both the sweetness and saltiness of the food… hence the blandness we all so often complain about. Yes this white-noise increases the crunch factor.

The solution: Studies also show that passengers listening to pleasant or relaxing music enjoyed their meals more. So, plug in your headphones and browse the music selection of your in-flight entertainment system while you’re enjoying your dinner.

Not that bad?

In Europe airline food is, for the most part, catered from two major companies, Dobbs in Switzerland and Sky Chefs in Germany. It’s not surprising that in order to satisfy 260+ airlines and millions of passenger meals a day, that the food production line moves fast. It is estimated that most meats are cooked somewhere between 14 and 16 hours before a flight. After it’s been cooked it goes into a blast chiller and then packed into a tray. These are then loaded onto racks in catering trucks with then head to the airport for delivery. About 1 hour before take-off the food is loaded onto the aircraft. When it’s time to serve, the main dishes are heated in cooking trays and ready to be passed out to the famished passengers.

“Why do I feel bloated after eating an airline meal?”

Here’s where the science lesson starts. Low pressure inside an airplane cabin makes your body swell, most noticeably your feet. Inside your organs are also swelling, ever so slightly. As you can imagine, swollen intestines make digesting food hard work. Ideally, you should eat foods that take the least amount of oxygen to digest, ie carbohydrates. Airline meals that offer meat as the main part of the meal are hard to digest because they’re protein-based.

The solution: Eat carbohydrate-rich foods gradually throughout the flight.

Expert tip: choose a special meal

Have you ever wanted to be Hindu for a day? How about vegan? Now is your chance! Most airlines these days cater to special dietary needs, made for either personal or religious beliefs. On-board British Airways for example you can choose from several meal choices:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian
  • Vegan vegetarian
  • Vegetarian Hindu
  • Hindu
  • Muslim
  • Jain meal
  • Kosher
  • Seafood
  • Child/baby meals

If you often have a hard time stomaching airline food, then this might be good solution. These meals are prepared in smaller batches than the legendary “chicken or fish” meals, a definite plus! The catch? These meals need to be reserved at the time of booking, or at least 48 hours before take-off.

Should we just accept that airline food is part of the ceremony of flying? After all, if you are being served airline food it means you’re on your way to or coming home from a trip away, isn’t that enough?

We want to hear your airline food stories! Share them in the comment section below.

Img: d’n’c, vincelaconte / Flickr cc.

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