Airline and Airport Food Survival
Fellow travelers, we don’t go through the rigmarole of airport security in order to partake of fine dining. The first way to avoid the occasional fright of airline food is not to partake. When you’re traveling, it’s far more important to stay hydrated than it is to eat. Apart from culinary complaints about airline food, you don’t want to stuff your stomach before or onboard your flight. Did you ever look in the pouches in the back of the seat right under your eyes? You know, the one that’s squeezing your knees (at least if you’re as tall as I am, and the guy in front decides to recline. Airline and Airport Food Survival While I’m on this subject, can I just post a small complaint about the guy (or woman) who can’t take a nap sitting up? Why do they prefer my lap? I think all “recline” buttons should be removed from airline seats. In fact, I’d thank you to prioritize your letter writing to the FAA about this over those to the FDA about airline food.) Now, in those pouches are “barf bags,” so named for the alliterative effect of pronunciation. There’s nothing whatsoever alliterative about the act. Hence, my first recommendation: Don’t eat or eat light.
Next, explore the shops and restaurants in the airport. If you have a long layover, you’re usually better off taking your chances in one of these places than you are on the plane. Plus, odds are this option will be cheaper than dining onboard. Cheaper, not cheap, but you have the luxury of possibly spreading out over a table as opposed to hunching over a little tray with rightful claim to the elbow rest in doubt. When you do go to the airport restaurant or store, make the healthiest choices you can. They usually offer fresh fruit or yogurt. Many offer salad. If you need protein (which will stave off your hunger longer), think unsalted nuts. Why unsalted? Remember, you want to stay hydrated. I hope you are drinking water because alcohol is not really a hydrator although many travelers, like my friend, Suzy, drink to summon up the courage to board. Occasionally, the piña coladas get her in trouble, but so long as she drinks moderately she doesn’t get threatened with jail anymore.) Drinking water, as any dieter can tell you, helps you to feel full. Also, look in some of those book/newspaper stores for protein bars. They work well.
The other day, as I was readying to leave my son’s apartment to fly home, he offered me a sandwich for the flight. “What?!” I said. “Security will never let me get that through!” In fact, on the flight to his place, I had to change planes and go through security a second time because I was flying from a foreign country to the U.S. The screener found a half-used bottle of water that I had purchased beyond the first security checkpoint at another airport. I could drink it or abandon it, but it wasn’t going through. Now that I have researched the matter, I’ve decided (oh, how I hate to admit it!), he’s right! Food is essentially subject to the “liquid, gel or aerosol” rule, 3.4 ounces or less. So, my friends, you can pack a lunch. Or, if you have a son as nice as mine, you can let him do it for you.
I’ve done all I can to persuade you to avoid buying on board. If you insist, you can research which planes have the best food. Note that none of the awards, except the U.S. award, go to U.S. airlines. On the other hand, how likely are you to select an airline based on the quality of its food? I, a regular user of search engines like CheapOair or Kayak, do not. If you look at the search engines on those websites, you can specify any number of options like flexible dates, surrounding airports, but you can’t search for “best airline food.” You can specify, however, which airline you want. Therefore, we’ll see how others have rated individual airlines.
In general, the international airlines get the best ratings. Forbes, which quoted Seneca, “It is not goodness to be better than the worst,” cited Delta Airlines and British Airways for their renowned chefs. It also commended Air France for its cuisine. AirlineMeals rates meals by economy, business and first class. They also provide a photo for each meal. Unfortunately, they only have the “Best of 2011” available right now. If you want updated information, you can wait to see whether they report on 2012, or you can browse the meals by class or airline. Last year’s “best economy” was Thai Airways International. You can view the photo for yourself. I’m sticking with a packed lunch. “Best business” last year was Lufthansa. The shrimp looks fresh. Finally, if you travel first class and want to know last year’s winner, Thai Airways International again came through with….caviar?
Here’s what I eat on flights within the U.S.: pretzels and Coke with ice. Sometimes, I vary that routine and go for ginger ale or coffee. I find Coke and ginger ale are pretty equivalent at settling my stomach. I don’t know why. On an overnight flight to Ireland, one time I ate pot roast on Aer Lingus. You can see it for yourself because Aer Lingus publishes its own food photos. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a bit like grandparents who think all their grandchildren are beautiful. Maybe airline food isn’t that bad. In a poll by Budget Travel, 10 percent of respondents labeled airline food “very tasty.” 51 percent said airline food is “edible and keeps me from starving.” 22 percent voted for “barely edible.” Five percent reported, “I wouldn’t know, won’t touch the stuff,” which, as you may recall, is what I first recommended.
Feeling hungry? Take a gander at this. How are you feeling now? Well, then, I have done the research for you. It takes, according to most experts, up to a month or more to starve. You can only last three days without water, so buy yourself some purified water, kick back with your Bose and pass on the food cart.
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