Airline food – the better part

Initially I was not sure if I should write about this topic. It needed some convincing from others and some additional first hand experience of my own, to finally tackle it. And I am aware of the many different opinions people have on this, especially those of my dear fellow flyertalkers. Still, I would like to embarrass myself by going into this… sensible topic… from a more common and very individual point of view.

Normally most people I now think about airline food as the disgusting stuff you get served to shut up and hopefully sleep during the flight. And also, as most people, the humble FoodieOnTour sees the world of airplanes mostly from the cheap seats in economy – no matter if the flight is working related or private.
Honestly, normally I hardly find kind words about the food served there. Even when (rarely) traveling in business class, I encountered not that big of a difference. But on the other hand my experiences are mostly influenced by the definitely “not famous for service” European Airlines.
So what to expect from Asia? Is is really that different, like I heard and read?

I know that on longer flights in first class and business class, most of the better Asian airlines serve multicourse gourmet meals and offer even such delicacies as caviar, champagne and sorbet. But it is sure to say, that because of the costs, the airline meals (and service in general) have changed considerably in recent years. Cutting costs is today a priority in the oil price and general rising cost shaken industry.

So to get this into a story worth telling, in the end the bad influence around me in Bangkok `manipulated´ me into booking my recent flight to from Bangkok to Hong Kong in business class and I choose a ThaiAir as my carrier. With more experience in SE-Asia flight tactics, I would have gotten the flight for nearly the same price even in first class. Well, this another time.

So much upfront: Under the whole circumstances of a cost cutting environment I was pleasantly surprised about the level of service the chosen Airline still maintains, even knowing that a certain (first class spoiled) friend of mine would not agree with me on that.

And I might add, the airline tries to let you “feel” the extra you pay for pretty much the same transportation. To convince you, it is not a bad idea spending double the money on a different seat in the same plane, you will be wooed from the second you enter the airport (and as far as I know in fist class even before that, when they get you from home in a fancy limousine).

Not only do you have a separate check-in area. There are hostesses who accompany you parts of your way, they carry your luggage, try to handle everything they can for you, so in one word, you should feel special. It continues with a dedicated line (“fast track”) for immigration and a lounge where you can wait until boarding the plane.

In the lounge you get the first culinary treats, free WiFi, a whole lot of amenities and even a free spa and massage package. But let´s skip the foreplay and come to the main topic, the food in the air… or maybe a little of that foreplay, specifically, how pleasantly you get to the food in the air.

Beside the better seats and more space, a significant difference to the area “back in the plane” is the service from the minute you enter the plane – or even before that, because you are allowed to board first, while the others still have to wait outside. This little gesture has a big effect for the well being, as you will see.

Hardly arrived at my seat and tucked away my bag, a glass of champagne marvelously appeared in front of me. And while I fall into the over-sized and comfortable seats (when could you say that the last time you did fly?), get a hot towel to refresh myself and am sipping on the bubbly, the economy is just now allowed to board the plane.
I felt relaxed, my stress level was already descending, while theirs is probably full on with getting to the seat and find enough room for the bags etc.

And this very different treatment continues. They offer you some decent magazines from around the world, a hot towel to pretty much every occasion, drinks more and faster than I can empty my glass and finally the food…

Normally on a 2-3h flight like this, you get a three course menu with four(+) choices for the main course. I could choose between lamb chops, pork loins, marinated chicken, grilled salmon and something vegetarian. The entree is coming fast and while the “cheap seats” are just getting some water against the dehydration in the pressurized air, upfront the plane the main course is served. A very unfair world.

To conclude food-wise, the served meals were good, the service even better and the whole experience a nice one. Still there is the question to answer if it is worth to spend so much more for the premium treatment for around 1,5 hours on the airport plus 2,5 hours in the plane. I am not (yet) decided on this. But sure I did enjoy it.

And there are more things to wonder about. A walk to the lavatory brings a surprise. The sheer space in this place is astounding, it even has a window to marvel at the clouds from above, which to be fair is not standard and depends on the plane.
Regarding this, a thought on the side: In the past I had my doubts about how to proceed in the quest of becoming a member of the “mile-high-club”. The lavatories I am used to are so small, you need to be an artist or at least very flexible to achieve this. But in here it would be easy, a piece of cake.  So who would like to participate in the challenge to become a member? 😀  But serious… sometimes the little things are the ones that put you off the most. Maybe this did it for me.

Now back to the part everyone is waiting for, the pictures of the food. I collected some different meals served on this passage plus additional ones from other trips and travelers. Enjoy and marvel about the (not so) little differences.

And maybe this whole experience is a testimony to something a friend told me ones. He is always good for surprising sentences and regarding this particular topic he stated, that sometimes he flies, “just because I want to have airline food again“… Ok…???
I was amused by his words but frankly never really understood them. Flying in Europe is so different, the food and service not comparable at all.
With this new inside of an existing `alternate service-universe´ in the skies, I got the sense of coming closer to understand what he meant.

The good food in 10.000 feet altitude, the service in abundance, the nice surrounding and accommodation. In fact, if you are lucky, you might even leave the plane more rested then boarding it… and that is quite something.

This entry was posted in Bangkok, Food, Hong Kong, Steak, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Airline food – the better part

  1. vincentinparis says:

    Love this.

    So you’re on flyertalk, too?

    • ixo says:

      absolutely yes – and I am notoriously know for my comments around SPG properties in general and Asia / Thailand 🙂

      • vincentinparis says:

        Funny, I will look for your posts. I have just discovered the joys and odd disappointments of Starwood. I stayed at the Méridien in Chiang Mai a couple of weeks ago, and had dinner at the Plaza Athénée in Whittayu last night.

        • vincentinparis says:

          Oh, and if price is no object, the Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit has got to be the brunch to beat in town… Or do you know of something better?

          • ixo says:

            SGS brunch is ok but arguable not the best… if you compare SPG properties, the Le Meridian (PatPong) beats it by far.
            On the other hand, who needs a western brunch in Bangkok? The local cuisine is way to good and if I craved something different, there are two nice french places…

  2. vincentinparis says:

    Variety is the spice of life. Thai food from all over the country is wonderful, from a humble bowl of soup from the street on up, but it’s nice to have a choice of other cuisines as well.

    I wish I hadn’t just had breakfast, or I’d head out to the Méridien for brunch right now!

    What are you French restaurants in town? Having been a Parisian for most of my life, I am skeptical, but curious.

    • ixo says:

      try these two:
      http://www.cafetartine.net/ (authentic – as soon as you enter you feel like in Paris – run by french couple)
      http://www.crepesnco.com/ (Sukhumvit 12 – a mixture between worlds – OK food, must see venue for sitting outside)

      there are some fancy french restaurants too (eg a very expensive one in Soi Ruamrudee), but we were talking about breakfast right?

      • vincentinparis says:

        Thanks. I’ve been to Tartine. And I was standing in front of the branch of the crêpe place in ThongLo 8 just yesterday. If they have a prettier branch nearer to home, I’ll have to check it out!

        • ixo says:

          Regarding Tartine:
          I heard about a significant drop in service and quality there.
          Will go myself today to check up on it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *