Nothing is Better Than Something: In-Flight Meals in the US and China

Is anything enjoyable about flying?  There are weather delays, carnivorous aircraft, 你知道我是谁?’s (the Chinese version of Do You Know Who I Am?), the TSA, and svelte seats for morally obese passengers. That’s all fine and good if you’re self-loathing, but let’s see how the economy class food scene is in both the US and China.

If you’re familiar with domestic flights in the US, you’re probably familiar with inflated airport prices too.  Which is to say, it’ll cost you the same to buy an on-board meal, except the airport one is less likely to be frozen/contain anything ranch-flavored, not to mention you can use cash.  But why should the airline companies provide us with food?  Their job/goal is to safely get us to the destination.  Put it another way- would you really want to see what Greyhound’s menu looked like, if that existed?  So what if airlines used to offer free meals.  Do you really want to eat that collateral lettuce salad on the side of your tin foil-flavored pasta?  Go buy some snacks or vegan sel de mer-encrusted haggis (or whatever is popular in Brooklyn right now) and enjoy the mostly not-juice cranberry juice the flight attendants are handing out.

ChinesePlaneGrubSeeing as I’ve already brought self-loathing and Greyhound into the equation, it’s time to briefly talk about in-flight meals on Chinese carriers.  If you can’t tell from the picture, Chinese caterers go above and beyond.  There’s one thing that I noticed to be constant, and that’s a vacuum-sealed packet of pickled use-your-imagination.  In my experience, that has been the only edible part of the meal.  Have an innate hatred of your digestive system?  Rice, a slice of cake and a piece of bread, or a muffin with your congee are your friends.  Your noodles more oily than an Italian dinner?  Stick with the cherry tomatoes then, as China reckons that, since they are literally fruit, they pair well with cantaloupe or a liberal coating of sugar for dessert.  Speaking of slices of cake, have you ever heard of China being known for its baking prowess?  That’s another reason to just get the fruit.

China has plenty of delicious foods.  Unfortunately, many of them don’t commute well, or if they do, the take-out case they were placed in is either extremely malleable or causes sicknesses on top of the sicknesses that you’ll get from taking food out in the first place.  Mainland convenience stores aren’t much gentler- they might as well have the same caterers as the airlines.  If you’re into that stuff, great.  If you’re not, prepare yourself in your home country first, or seek out the nearest Carrefour/Sainsbury’s/Vons.  In any case, Chinese carriers get credit for still offering food, even if…you don’t want to give them credit.

What’s your opinion on in-flight meals?  Do you stock up on eats before you travel, or do you subject yourself to Chex Mix, Hudson News granola and other things not found outside of airports?

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4 Responses to Nothing is Better Than Something: In-Flight Meals in the US and China

  1. nettski says:

    This is making me excited about making my first ever trip with China Eastern Airways now! Usually I hate plane food. Have you seen this complaint about food on Virgin Airways? It’s hilarious!

    • Thanks for liking my post about in-flight meals! Really, Virgin gets a bad rap for its catering? IME, the best meals have been on Gulf Air, Turkish (Do & Co. is the caterer; they might serve Austrian Airlines as well), Asiana, and the two big Japanese carriers. Of course, you could always request a gluten-free, lactose-laden Hindu child’s meal;)

  2. Pingback: Do Economy Class Passengers Eat? Some Airlines Think So. « buildingmybento

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