Back in the early days of air travel, the in-flight meal used to be something to look forward to. No matter how you traveled, everybody got excited about eating at over 30,000ft. Then again, there was often only a single movie to watch, so the meal was a central part of the experience.
Fast forward and what’s changed? We’ve got hundreds of ways to kill time and many of us don’t look forward to in-flight meals anymore. Why? Maybe it’s because we’re too busy watching the latest flicks on our personal screens. Maybe it’s because airline food is infamously tasteless, especially for those who fly economy.
When food is being reheated at such a high altitude, in small spaces, and for so many people with different tastes, it’s unsurprising that there would be compromises on quality. Limp vegetables, gloopy pasta dishes and pre-cubed pieces of meat sound all too familiar. Not to be trusted with real cutlery, economy passengers are left to tackle their meals with blunt knives, forks, and spoons reminiscent of a child’s dinner play-set. I suppose we should say thanks for airlines making our food soft enough for our cutlery to be useful.
The plane itself does have a part to play in the taste (or lack of) in our in-flight meals. A lot of our sense of taste comes from our ability to smell. In the dry, pressurized air of the plane cabin, our sense of smell isn’t functioning at 100% efficiency. You may not even be able to taste the difference between your peanuts or your pasta. I’m sure this works in our favor at times. Studies show that keeping well hydrated can improve your sense of taste when on an aircraft. Do so at your own risk.
When you’ve finished your meal, handed your empty cartons back over to the cabin crew and you start tucking into that little bag of peanuts you saved for an alternative to the desert, remember that no more than 100 feet away there’s somebody choosing between sushi and grilled Alaskan salmon.
Beyond that class-dividing curtain lies a world so far removed from foil-covered cups of orange ‘drink’ (I don’t think we can call it juice) and plain, plastic-wrapped bread rolls. It’s a world where you can be trusted to use real cutlery and drink from real glasses while you enjoy restaurant-grade dishes in a calm, spacious environment. That world is business class.
Take advantage of your deprived sense of taste when traveling economy. Embrace it. When you’re slurping away, eating that salty stew, just close your eyes and imagine the Argentinean prime steak that’s sitting on the table only a stone’s throw away.
Luckily, the quality gap between economy and business class food is quickly becoming smaller. Many airlines have been seriously improving their economy food game over the last couple of years, offering up dishes that will tickle your taste buds – for the right reasons. Maybe in a few more years, we won’t need to pay four times the price to be trusted with real cutlery, who knows?