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Can I Eat It?
January 26, 2009 2:35 PM   Subscribe

What's the most exciting thing about flying? Right: inflight meals. There are whole websites and Flickr groups dedicated to their tinfoil-wrapped glory. But sometimes you just have a bad food-day, like the poor passenger who sent this hilarious complaint letter about the food on his flight from Mumbai to Heathrow to Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic Airways.
posted by starzero (104 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
That meal does look pretty bad. I had more visually-appealing meals when I was in the hospital.

The only food I've eaten on an airplane that would have passed muster in a restaurant was on a Singapore Airlines flight. Wasn't bad at all.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2009


That letter is truly hilarious.

When is food not really food?

Branson's answer that "this is really popular on our India routes" or whatever he said (I'm too lazy to go back right now) is the icing on the cake ?
posted by emhutchinson at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is yet another example of the odd web phenomenon whereby anything that is described as "hilarious" by someone else is invariably, well, not all that funny. It's slightly alarming, actually, because this occurs even with friends of mine whom I believe to be objectively more attuned to humor than the general populace.

I also work in the Internet industry, which, due to the high proportion of people who believe being able to quote Monty Python at tedious length and still laugh at it, is somewhat impaired. They show me what funny is not. So I know. But then there's something like this. This is MetaFilter, home of quality! Surely, if a MeFite describes something as "hilarious", it will at least raise a smile!

But it doesn't. And I am almost convinced that if starzero hadn't used the word "hilarious", which appears to retroactively suck the humor out of all referents to or from it, I would at this moment be, as the kids say, roffling. On the fliboor. This concerns me. I sense humor, lurking in the bushes of this link. Sir Richard Branson, the man who came up with swollen aircraft with VIRGIN gaudily decorating the tail, thought that this letter was funny.

The solution is clear. The word "hilarious" must be banned. It should be replaced with the word "cortex" wherever possible, for the good of all of us. And then, I can happily click on starzero's totally cortex complaint letter, and revel in its awesomeness.

No reflexion whatsoever upon starzero, who made an interesting and in fact very pleasing FPP
posted by scrump at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2009 [19 favorites]


Back before deregulation, when everyone had to charge the same price, the airlines used to compete on the basis of service. I remember that the food served by Braniff was particularly good.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Put a fuse in it, leave it in the bathroom.
posted by buzzman at 2:50 PM on January 26, 2009


Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff??
posted by drjimmy11 at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


The solution is clear. The word "hilarious" must be banned.

Agreed. Hilarious it was not. I actually thought some of that looked reasonably pleasant to eat. Perhaps I am just possessing a more flexible palette than some.

No, wait: a hilariously flexible palette.
posted by davejay at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2009


I-landsproblem, någon?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:54 PM on January 26, 2009


That wasn't particularly funny, though I suppose it was good enough to get Richard Branson to reply or whatever.

Airplane food has really declined since the beginning of the decade. JAL flights from Vancouver to Tokyo used to be really, really good, but now they're all kinds of meh.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2009


and there I was, poor MeFi FPP virgin, thinking "dude, this is metafilter, 'funny' just won't cut it. Use a fancy word you learned back in highschool, like comical. No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe amusing? Na, sounds too boring. What, that's all the synonyms for funny you can remember from your English lessons? Dude, you suck. Go, use the fancy one". True story!
posted by starzero at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2009


starzero, I completely LOL'd so don't feel bad!
posted by supermedusa at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2009


I don't think that letter was "tongue-in-cheek". I think it was carefully supressed British rage.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:02 PM on January 26, 2009 [9 favorites]


I admit to kinda liking the repetition of Richard's name. Over and over, like a parent scolding a small child.
posted by sandraregina at 3:02 PM on January 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


The most recent time that I flew, there was no food offered at all. This was on a non-stop coast-to-coast on US Air and all they had were soft drinks which they charged you two bucks for. It was bad enough when they started charging for food but now they don't even bother to offer it. There was no movie or music either, I felt lucky to have a seat and access to a working toilet.
posted by octothorpe at 3:03 PM on January 26, 2009


There is not a single element -- not a single, piddly element -- of the airline experience today that is at all geared toward "customer service." They charge you for checking a bag -- which only causes people to jam up the cabin with overstuffed luggage that rightly belongs in the belly of the plane, for free, and which makes the process of boarding/deplaning even more irritating than it already was. They charge you for coffee, water, soda. Leg room has decreased. Even a shorty like me finds herself extraordinarily uncomfortable on 90 minute flights.

Flying is a must-do for a lot of passengers. It's a service that people enter into out of necessity, not always out of frivolity. And nothing about it, on the airline's end, is meant to make the transaction just the tiniest bit more pleasant for the passenger. Nothing.

The only thing they strive to do at this point, other than take your money (and more of your money, and more of your money) is to get you there alive. Not on time, necessarily, but alive.

And even THAT isn't about offering an enjoyable service. That's about them not getting sued or fined.

The airlines are holding us captive in some sense, much like the funeral industry does. (But not you, ColdChef.) And it pisses me the fuck off.

[/rant]

And the letter -- meh. That's right, Richard, meh.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:04 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I got stuck on the desert / dessert spelling error. Tiny, but significant. Poor chap, 5 deserts, and not a single dessert.

MetaFilter: Desert with tomato and peas.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2009


There are websites dedicated to logging airline meals??? God bless the internet.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2009


This latest incident takes the biscuit.
posted by hermitosis at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2009


Along with banning the use of the word hilarious that doesn't involve a picture of a cat and a caption referring to eating a burger, I propose we ban all first hand accounts of how flying used to be better. The food was better, the service was better, the inflight hookers better, blah blah blah.

It wasn't. It was however three times the price to take the flight. Flying has always been terrible. Except now it's cheaper, quicker, we have far better inflight pharmaceuticals, Ipods, laptop computers and multi channel personal entertainment systems. Sound blocking headphones, and seats with "wings" that bolster your head.

Unless you spent the seventies riding on the top deck of a 747 sitting around a piano bar sucking Marlboros and martinis while hitting of the sexy stew and arranging a key party once in Aruba, it wasn't better.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:08 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's your hamster COMMA Richard. Everybody likes a bit of mustard COMMA Richard. Answer me this FRAKKING COMMA Richard.

Ok, I feel better now.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I was travelling once from Bangkok to Cairo with a group of 20 or so elderly hajjis from Southern Thailand who had never been on an airplane before. The unbelievably impatient/frustrated crew left it up to me to help these people out. Soon after takeoff, I looked over and all my neighbours had placed their Egypt Air sleep masks over their mouths and the complimentary socks on their hands because, well, they thought this was the thing to do. Because they spoke Malay rather than Thai, I was unsure if setting them straight was the best idea, but damn... the khimar/sleep mask/headphones combo is a scary look. Meal time... actually, their's commenced before mine with a selection of fishy eggs they brought on board, who's shells they simply tossed in the aisle. If it stank, they ate it AND also emitted it freely. Once meals were served, they had no idea what to do with anything - vinaigrette on the buns. Saran wrap? What the hell is that for? Tray collection? There was nothing left because they had placed all the dishes in their carry-ons for later consumption.
posted by gman at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


and there I was, poor MeFi FPP virgin, thinking "dude, this is metafilter, 'funny' just won't cut it. Use a fancy word you learned back in highschool, like comical. No, that doesn't sound right. Maybe amusing? Na, sounds too boring. What, that's all the synonyms for funny you can remember from your English lessons? Dude, you suck. Go, use the fancy one". True story!

Hey!!!! Get this everybody!!!! starzero actually thought there was some way that he could have phrased this to make it so no one would snark and mock! Now that's hilarious!!! We got us another sucker here! n00b!!!!!
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 3:10 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


The fact that airlinemeals.net exists at all somehow pleases me.

I did not realize until now that I LOVE looking at pictures of airline food!
posted by mazola at 3:11 PM on January 26, 2009


I can't even remember the last time I was offered an in-flight meal, but then again I'm not in the first-class income bracket.
posted by brookeb at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2009


What's worse is that I have a number of pictures I've snapped over the years that I could add to the collection.

Eep!
posted by mazola at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2009


There are also sites for barf bags as well.

sicksack.com
bagophily.com
airsicknessbags.com
posted by gman at 3:16 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


For mudpuppie and others who despise airline treatment behold: the airline fee chart. Mind you, it's only additional fees that might be added to domestic tickets (US routes) for some of the most popular airlines, but they do tell you when the information was last updated.

Add nickle and diming you for travel to the security theater that is flight in the United States, and I really hate being at the airport. Food in the terminals is overpriced, but it's a steal compared to airplane food. The best I did was a few years back, before per-bag fees were in place. Back when you grumbled about food, but it was available. I was traveling with my brother, and when purchasing the tickets on line I was faced with meal options. I went with the Hindu meal, and my brother the Kosher meal, and I was impressed. It might have been because it was interesting and different, or maybe it was actually better. Oh, the early 2000s.

The god of Airplane pr0n also documented his meals (though he documented his complete trip).
posted by filthy light thief at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2009


This, Richard, was in The Telegraph. No friends of The Bearded One, (that'd be Richard) are the journos, Richard, in "The Hello!graph".

Thanks for the post, it was amusing to see what shite The Hellograph still prints. If it was accompanied by a picture of scantily-clad-yet-lovely Elizabeth Hurley it would be all the better (and typical) for it.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 3:17 PM on January 26, 2009


I thought it was funny. Not pass-it-around email funny, but funny.
posted by JHarris at 3:21 PM on January 26, 2009


When I fly, I set my expectations low. I fully expect to be borderline physically miserable for the duration of the flight. I bring my own entertainment, my own food. The flight experience is something I forget about as soon as it's over, unless something truly horrific happens, like being stuck next to someone with halitosis for 9 hours.

I don't really understand why people expect to be entertained, or eat well, in a form of transportation whose entire advantage is that you're on it for such a brief amount of time. I just crossed the world in half a day, but I didn't get a nice meal, waah!

Except chronic business travelers. I feel sorry for those poor sods, having been one myself for a while.
posted by gurple at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless you eat paint, it's "palate", not "palette"
posted by bluefrog at 3:35 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


too funny, gman. my favourite passengers are those who take the opportunity to use their flight as some kind of import-export business, and show up at the airport with ten to twenty of those enormous checkered heavy-duty plastic bags with the zippers - you must know the ones i mean.

waiting impatiently behind one of these guys as he held up the checkin queue of a morocco-mali flight for seemingly forever, trying to negotiate with the airline staff to accept his 40 kilo overweight treasure trove, the guy in all seriousness turned to me and said "you only have one backpack, right? how about you check in some of my bags under your name? otherwise i have to pay a surplus..."
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:37 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is yet another example of the odd web phenomenon whereby anything that is described as "hilarious" by someone else is invariably, well, not all that funny

I tend to believe that this effect is a direct result of my assumption that everyone is fucking with me. If someone tells me something is going to taste good, I figure it's exceptionally, throat constrictingly spicy, or sour... or poisoned. If someone tells me I can trust a stranger, I figure that everyone involved are con-artists, and that after they steal all my money, and my dog, they will likely try to have me killed.

If I see a red light, I naturally assume that it's a plot to hold me still long enough to have the orbital rays vaporize my car.

People tell me that some skepticism is good and healthy, but taking to an extreme is a sign of mental illness.

I suspect that these people are agents of a secret cult determined to remove all the color from the world, and impregnate my canned foods with tiny, angry robots.

But then, I think I may have said too much.
posted by quin at 3:38 PM on January 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


So what's the deal with airline food, anyway?
posted by zardoz at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I needed a sugar hit. Luckily there was a small cookie provided. It had caught my eye earlier due to it’s baffling presentation: [see image 4, above].

It appears to be in an evidence bag from the scene of a crime. A CRIME AGAINST BLOODY COOKING. Either that or some sort of back-street underground cookie, purchased off a gun-toting maniac high on his own supply of yeast. You certainly wouldn’t want to be caught carrying one of these through customs. Imagine biting into a piece of brass Richard. That would be softer on the teeth than the specimen above.


This is funny to the minimal degree that Erma "When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home" Bombeck is funny, but when it is prefaced by:

Here we reproduce a complaint letter sent to Sir Richard Branson, which is currently being emailed globally and is considered by many to be the world's funniest passenger complaint letter.

... it descends into bathos. "Considered by many?" Bring them to me. I want to follow them and see how they spend their days.

---

For myself, I have often considered William S. Gilbert's letter of complaint to a railway to be a superior example of how to do this:

“Sir, Sunday morning, although recurring at regular and well foreseen intervals, always seems to take this railway by surprise.”
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:45 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


UbuRoivas - I have ten to twenty of those enormous checkered heavy-duty plastic bags with the zippers here. How else would I have brought back whatever tawdry wares I purchased at my final stop?
posted by gman at 3:46 PM on January 26, 2009


So what's the deal with airline food, anyway?

They try really hard to serve a nutritious in-flight meal on a short timeline to a varied clientele with ridiculous demands.
posted by porn in the woods at 3:47 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


For hilarious (really, no, I mean it) descriptions of truly bad food, nobody beats "Steve Don't Eat It!"

POTTED MEAT FOOD PRODUCT: Made By, For, And With Assholes.

posted by cogneuro at 3:47 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Airline food. For dolls.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:48 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


How about Military Airlift Command? A couple of years ago there used to be a blog where a flight engineer meticulously ranked the box lunches that they were served from each base. For the life of me I can't Google it.
posted by crapmatic at 3:52 PM on January 26, 2009


A little comic relief: Brian Regan on airplanes, including a bit about airline food.
posted by inconsequentialist at 3:55 PM on January 26, 2009


I thought your link was hilarious, starzero. But then, I haven't flown on a plane in nearly thirty years. Those who have suffered through similar captive feeding experiences and still vividly remember them might not see the humour in it as easily.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:01 PM on January 26, 2009


Huh? They still feed you on airflights? Whoda thunk...
posted by scarello at 4:08 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


How else would I have brought back whatever tawdry wares I purchased at my final stop?

Apparently, there's a great international markup on synthetic chinese fluffy rugs featuring tigers in all manner of kaleidoscopic colours.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:14 PM on January 26, 2009


And I am almost convinced that if starzero hadn't used the word "hilarious", which appears to retroactively suck the humor out of all referents to or from it, I would at this moment be, as the kids say, roffling.

Actually, this is completely correct. Humor is at least partly about expectations. If you just watch something, you have low or neutral expectations. It can be funnier than expected. If you watching something described as "hilarious" you have high expectations and it will probably be less funny than expected.

Of course then you learn to associate the word "hilarious" with unfunny things and you have low expectations again. So then things seem funny and you re-associate the word. This is the cycle of hilarity.
posted by DU at 4:17 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


When I fly, I set my expectations low. I fully expect to be borderline physically miserable for the duration of the flight.

I read once that the two greatest annoyances on flights are people who recline their seats all the way, as soon as takeoff is over; and people who rock the fuck out of the seats in front, violently using them as leverage to get into & out of one's own seat.

Having found myself behind the former kind of passenger on a recent overnight flight, I can attest that there's a correlation between the two behaviours.

No, the word I'm looking for is causation.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:22 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile, in Taiwan, you can dine at the A 380 restaurant, complete with servers dressed as flight attendants, a separate first class section, and food served on airplane food trays brought to your table via the same trolleys flight attendants use on planes.
posted by gyc at 4:25 PM on January 26, 2009


It would appear Metafilter ate some airplane food as it heads to the shitter every 20 minutes or so.

What I failed to mention in my story above was something a flight attendant on that plane told me as I was deplaning. What I witnessed was not even close to the worst they'd seen. Similar airplane virgins had actually dropped trow and taken a dump right there in the aisle because they didn't realize they had to open the bathroom door after being pointed in the right direction. Can you fuckin' imagine?
posted by gman at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2009


It would appear Metafilter ate some airplane food as it heads to the shitter every 20 minutes or so.

I always thought airline food was deliberately designed to be constipating. Even the coffee blocks you up.

taken a dump right there in the aisle because they didn't realize they had to open the bathroom door after being pointed in the right direction.

No, that would've been because nobody wants to face themselves under those special pore-expanding torture-lights they use in aeroplane bathrooms...the horror! the HORROR!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:34 PM on January 26, 2009


Not long ago I overheard a passenger politely inform the attendant that her family had been served halal meals instead of the kosher food they requested; they could not eat halal, and presumably the halal family would not be able to eat what they had been served, either. It was an interesting multicultural moment, resolved peacefully.
posted by woodway at 4:34 PM on January 26, 2009


i thought it was funny.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:37 PM on January 26, 2009


What is it about long flights which gives one THE worst gas (sheer volume) EVER? It's not just me, right?
posted by gman at 4:38 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was bad enough when they started charging for food but now they don't even bother to offer it. There was no movie or music either, I felt lucky to have a seat and access to a working toilet.

I envision a future where commercial flights resemble trains in India, with people just latching on and sitting on the wings halfway through takeoff.
posted by mannequito at 4:39 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not long ago I overheard a passenger politely inform the attendant that her family had been served halal meals instead of the kosher food they requested; they could not eat halal, and presumably the halal family would not be able to eat what they had been served, either.

We Jews can't eat Halal, but the Muslims can eat Kosher as long as it wasn't cooked in any form of alcohol, I believe.
posted by gman at 4:41 PM on January 26, 2009


No, this is the best passenger complaint letter ever.
posted by mrbill at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


What is it about long flights which gives one THE worst gas (sheer volume) EVER? It's not just me, right?

I heard it said that the stench when they open the doors of a longhaul flight is legendary amongst airport workers - all that recirculated air filled with BO & gas & stinky feet & halitosis...

People might know that Australian authorities are paranoid to near OCD / germophobic levels regarding the risk of introduced species & germs. One cane toad invasion is more than enough, and an island continent can take those kinds of luxuries.

So, it used to be that the aircrew, upon entering Australian airspace, would walk up & down the cabin, liberally spraying around some supposed disinfectant aerosol. I'm convinced that it has little to do with killing them forrun germs; and is more of a favour to the ground staff.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:50 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fuck. I remember when they used to spray that shit before landing. Actually come to think of it, it was the flights I took when Bird Flu was all the rage.
posted by gman at 4:56 PM on January 26, 2009


What is it about long flights which gives one THE worst gas (sheer volume) EVER? It's not just me, right?

Nope. Your gut is filled with gases at ground-level pressure. The longer you spend at altitude, where the cabin is probably only pressurized to 8,000 or 9,000 feet above sea level (or your gut level pressure, how ever you want to look at it), the longer your internal gases have to expand, and find their way to an exit.

Boyle's Law rules.
posted by pjern at 4:57 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]



Heh. I love to board with a "Jersy Mikes" submarine sandwich in tow. The big one. When I open it up in flight the aroma/odor (depending on your perspective) permeates all around me. Some of my fellow passengers literally drool. Others. Not exactly.
posted by notreally at 5:01 PM on January 26, 2009


the longer your internal gases have to expand, and find their way to an exit.

so maybe that explains the airline bathroom horrific pore effect?
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 PM on January 26, 2009


The new Boeing Dreamliner will be pressurized at 6000 ft. Less gas, of both sorts. Better for the environment!
posted by woodway at 5:18 PM on January 26, 2009


This is precisely why I bring my own food when flying.
posted by bwg at 5:53 PM on January 26, 2009


I fly reasonable often with a domestic airline that still serves food, and a few years ago they started serving icecreams on stick for dessert. Last year we got stuck on the runway for two hours and in order to keep us happy, decided to bring the ice creams out while we waited. The pilot came over the loud speaker and warned us that they were very cold, having been stored in dry ice, and we should let them heat up before we ate them. The result: 400 people with ice creams stuck to their tongues.
posted by kjs4 at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2009 [7 favorites]


So, what is the deal with airplane food? I mean, c'mon! Are you with me?

*crickets*

What is this, a comment thread or an oil painting?
posted by brundlefly at 6:03 PM on January 26, 2009


brr, that image of the pale mustard coiled up like a hagfish in congealed oil made my gorge rise. Hilarious? Perhaps only in that he remained reasonably self-possessed after having being served something that closely resembled Nyarlathotep's loogie.
posted by Ritchie at 6:10 PM on January 26, 2009


Oddly enough, I've actually made food discoveries through airline meals. I really wasn't ever served anything terrible, and a few things (including vegetable terrine and samosas) I tried for the first time on planes and liked enough to make/seek out afterward.

Of course, I always requested the vegetarian meal, which usually get better feedback. The one time I was served sausage with my eggs despite requesting vegetarian food was the only real error or time I didn't finish. Oh, well that and the time one of my airlines gave out snack bags with sandwiches. Turkey sandwiches. No vegetarian option.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2009


I flew Thai Air a decade ago, and ate pretty well, I thought.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:37 PM on January 26, 2009


Delta Air: the only time in my life I've ever been confronted with cream of bacon soup.*

*It should be good, right? Hurray Bacon!

It wasn't.

It looked like my clogged arteries and undoubtedly tasted like them, too.

posted by jamaro at 6:49 PM on January 26, 2009


"This is yet another example of the odd web phenomenon whereby anything that is described as "hilarious" by someone else is invariably, well, not all that funny. It's slightly alarming, actually..."

Thank you for your constructive, if surprising, criticism. The post in question was prepared by Starzero, a MeFi user from Germany who is well-known for his fine Central-European sense of Humor. Indeed, if there were any awards given in Germany for being funny, we're sure that he would've won several by now...
posted by markkraft at 6:50 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've always rather liked the inflight meals on Delta. Even the meals in domestic coach (the snack cart, essentially) are at least tolerable. On international flights with hot meals, the food is actually pretty good. On flights from Europe to the States they serve a French bread pizza an hour or two before landing which is actually very good, considering.

I got burned one time, though, a few years back. I was on a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo, and was seated near the rear of the plane. They had two meal options, a chicken dish, and something with shrimp. I have a moderate-to-severe allergy to shellfish, which left me as my only option the chicken... which they ran out of a row or two before they got to me.

Needless to say, that was a pretty damn long 14 hours in the air for me that day. I ordered the vegetarian meal for the trip home.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:54 PM on January 26, 2009


Oddly enough, I've actually made food discoveries through airline meals.

I was 21 and on my first real trip out of the country. One of the meal options on my Lufthansa flight was goose. And we got free wine, an after-dinner drink, and Toblerone. In coach! I was in total amazement.

Too bad it's just been downhill from there.
posted by smackfu at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2009


Everyone knows, planes aren't about the food. It's all about the sex. Really.
posted by markkraft at 7:13 PM on January 26, 2009


In 2002 I took a flight from DFW to Frankfurt. I flew coach and was in the back of the plane. Nevertheless, the crew was a joy and the food was awesome. That and the fact that the booze cart was always roaming offering everything you could want to drink...FOR FREE! Every couple of hours they would pass out cookies and ice cream. This was a Delta flight and the best ever...and I fly quite often.
posted by shockingbluamp at 7:19 PM on January 26, 2009


God you guys are a pack of moaners. You complain about fat people being fat and taking up more than one seat, but then you complain about the poor quality or complete lack of food on long-haul flights. Don't you see? THE FAT PEOPLE PREPARED THEMSELVES IN ADVANCE.
posted by turgid dahlia at 7:21 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


The best airline meal I ever had was business class British Airways in '99. Two meals, in fact, but the first was so stunningly eclipsed by the second it went straight out of mind. The second included Devonshire cream, which should preclude any need to describe the other elements (and must, because that's all I'm remembering right now).

Most flights I've taken didn't have food service (yay, Southwest!), but my flight home yesterday did. You know those vending machine sandwiches you get and pop into the microwave? And the plastic wrapper goes from soft to mylar-like in the process? And orange grease runs around the edges, foiled only by the scorched bits of cheese and detritus that were there first? It was precisely that - "formed beef" patty with "swiss" cheese. The whole thing was heated for maximum scalding and served on top of a plastic tub of nearly-white iceberg lettuce. It was almost like they hoped a stand-up comedian was on board, so the airline food joke pool could be replenished for years to come.

I didn't see even one person around me who rejected their sandwich, but most sent the "salad" back unexplored. Intriguing.

I do think air travel is considerably degraded from 10 years ago and is absolutely vile compared to 50 years ago, and agree with mudpuppie on all but the opinion of the letter in question, as it wasn't "meh" for me.
posted by batmonkey at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2009


Everyone knows, planes aren't about the food. It's all about the sex. Really.

It's not as easy as people make it out to be. Stewardesses are not keen on two people in the washroom at once. Unless of course, you're helping your significant other with her motion sickness.
posted by gman at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2009


considered by many to be the world's funniest passenger complaint letter.

This (Previously), is better, in my opinion.

those enormous checkered heavy-duty plastic bags with the zippers

Seriously, can someone explain these things to me? Where do those things come from?

I had really decent food on Asiana Airlines. They are pretty solid, as far as airlines go.
posted by naoko at 7:40 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never understood why anyone really complained about airplane food. It's food, served in a giant fucking tube that flies. Isn't that amazing? Who the fuck cares about food?

1) If you're flying for less than 6 hours, the food probably sucks. Bring your own. Once I brought a delicious double-bagged banh mi sandwich from Chinatown, NYC just before I hopped on the A train to JFK. More than a few heads turned and started drooling, I swear.

Also, I've seen some people (on a flight to Korea) bring bowls of instant ramen (the relatively high-quality ones) and ask for hot water. The entire cabin smelt of holy-shit Nongshim yuggaejang/udon/ramen and we all watched as the family split open chopsticks and dug in. Requires a "who gives a shit?" attitude but worth it, I suppose.

2) Pick something that sounds like it will withstand freezing/reheating/whatever. Fish vs. filet mignon? Pick the fuckin fish! Bland 'western' food vs. local cusine? Pick the local dish! Beef steak vs. vegetarian mix? Pick the veggie mix!

That said, a few weeks ago I got a random free upgrade to business class for a transpacific flight on an already-pretty-good-airline I got a fucking three course meal (with a cheese & tapenade appetizer that was actually pretty tasty) with a glass of white wine and a Campari and soda to wash it down. Plus, dessert. Glass cups. A seat that reclined flat. Whoa!

And so I realized: Flying economy is just that: flying economy. If you want to have good food and a nice experience, then pay up double. Otherwise just do as I do and pack your own food, bring a long book, and go to sleep.

Oh also -- nowadays most economy flights have view-on-demand movies on the screen. Ever since they started doing that a few years back I've been quantifying flights in terms of movies -- five movies and a nap got me across the world! I wonder if there's been a noticeable difference in passenger quality -- that is, if steward(esse)s feel like their jobs got easier since everyone is euthanized in their seat watching Hellboy 2.
posted by suedehead at 7:51 PM on January 26, 2009


OOHH. I've had some kind of crazy mustard sauce before on an airplane. It wasn't Virgin Atlantic, though. It was on a Malaysian Airlines flight (codeshare with Dragon Air) and they served some crazy mustard sauce that was (I could swear) like half-an-inch thick. It wasn't strong mustardy, but more like a really weird curry (my neighbor ordered it and I asked to try it). Maybe the author in question wasn't used to spicy food?

Either way, he should've realized that all international flights serve at least one "ethnic" food depending on where they're flying, and at least one "western" food for all meals. All you need to do is tell them that you got it wrong and want the other meal. Protip: Get the one with potatoes if you want the western dish. You could always ask the stewardess to take a look at both and choose the more appetizing looking one.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:10 PM on January 26, 2009


I actually don't mind getting the cheap tickets and then paying for food on the plane. Flying Virgin and paying $6.95 on the flight for a sandwich beats flying Qantas, paying $150 more for your ticket, and getting a sandwich for "free".

I used to love the Qantas hot breakfasts when they still had them. Little sausages, scrambled eggs. Now it's a bowl of muesli and pre-sliced apple in a plastic bag. Lame.

I lucked out when I flew long-haul as well. Sydney to Los Angeles, I was looking forward to the free booze. Unfortunately, I was seated exactly in the middle of 150 teenage exchange students returning to Connecticut, and the cabin crew spent 14 hours avoiding the whole section.
posted by Jimbob at 8:20 PM on January 26, 2009


(Also, Virgin cabin crew are, in my experience, extremely fun, friendly and helpful, even if their "Cabin crew, arm doors and cross dress" jokes get old. Qantas crew are bitter old hags.)
posted by Jimbob at 8:23 PM on January 26, 2009


The Virgin cabin crews are in it for the fun and experience; they move on after 2-3 years. The Qantas cabin crews are all lifers - the pay and job benefits are such that they hang onto those jobs like grim death (which they come to resemble).
posted by Ritchie at 8:33 PM on January 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


"...enormous checkered heavy-duty plastic bags with the zippers - you must know the ones i mean."

Why yes, yes, I do - having been hit in the back of the legs with them, been forced to maneuver around massive luggage forts consisting solely of these bags, watched in dismay as the passenger checking in just ahead of me had a bag explosion, resulting in a fountain of cheap gifts and crumpled clothing blocking the entire roped off lane. Sometimes I dream of them, and it is not pleasant.

"...ubiquitous plastic plaid tote bags made in China called "hong lan dan" (blue and red bag). They are also known by other various names including the Guyanese Samsonite in Trinidad, Tuekenkoffer or Turkish suitcase in Germany, Bangladeshi bags in England, "Ghana must go bag" in Nigeria, "Efiewura Sua Me" or "help me carry my bag" in Ghana, refugee bag, and Chinatown tote, in U.S. urban areas." (here)
posted by HopperFan at 9:23 PM on January 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


God I hate those bags.

You know when you have to go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of those bags?

That means you're moving house.

God I hate moving house.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:27 PM on January 26, 2009


Those bags scream: "Hey Customs Agents, PLEASE check these bags".
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:47 PM on January 26, 2009


While I'll never hate a person for not liking a cuisine (there are some food-items in a Japanese restaurant that I absolutely refuse to eat), much of the guy's complaint is because of a lack of a familiarity with Indian, and specifically, Mumbaiyya cuisine. The guy sees inedible tragi-comic pathos; I see delectable Mumbaiyya eatables that I would love to munch on in a 10 hour flight. There's spicy dhokla, gajar halwa, and nan-khatai biscuits from an Irani cafe (I'm not sure what picture #3 is; I suspect it's something continental, judging by the broccoli there). That's quintessentially Mumbaiyya fare for you; the nan-khatai biscuits in particular, are a nice touch.
posted by the cydonian at 10:31 PM on January 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


fyi: Although the posted letter is far from the funniest complaint I've ever seen, parts of it are much closer to hilarious when read in the voice of Hyacinth Bucket. Oh, Richard!
posted by obloquy at 11:08 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Qantas crew are bitter old hags

quoted for truth. stupid anti-discrimination laws; allowing people to continue to work when they're bitter, and old, and haggish. none of that sort of freethinking rubbish on thai, malaysian or singapore airways.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:18 PM on January 26, 2009


What I failed to mention in my story above was something a flight attendant on that plane told me as I was deplaning. What I witnessed was not even close to the worst they'd seen. Similar airplane virgins had actually dropped trow and taken a dump right there in the aisle because they didn't realize they had to open the bathroom door after being pointed in the right direction. Can you fuckin' imagine?

It seems to me that people of such modest means and this unaware of modern conveniences wouldn't be on a plane in the first place - or else they'd be screaming in sheer terror because "This bus is leaving the ground!"
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:32 AM on January 27, 2009


Qantas crew are bitter old hags

My wife worked for Qantas for seven years and they did their best to make her into one.
posted by Wolof at 1:46 AM on January 27, 2009


Unless of course, you're helping your significant other with her motion sickness.
posted by gman


Wink, wink! Am I right?
posted by orme at 4:12 AM on January 27, 2009


"...ubiquitous plastic plaid tote bags made in China called "hong lan dan" (blue and red bag). They are also known by other various names including the Guyanese Samsonite in Trinidad, Tuekenkoffer or Turkish suitcase in Germany, Bangladeshi bags in England, "Ghana must go bag" in Nigeria, "Efiewura Sua Me" or "help me carry my bag" in Ghana, refugee bag, and Chinatown tote, in U.S. urban areas."

Also known as "refugee bags".
posted by gman at 4:22 AM on January 27, 2009


... as was pointed out in the very comment you quoted.
posted by Doofus Magoo at 4:39 AM on January 27, 2009


Ha. I only caught the ones in quotes and thought I'd toss the generic term out there.
posted by gman at 4:54 AM on January 27, 2009


I recently flew back to Detroit from Seoul, via Tokyo enroute. Flew Northwest Airlines the whole way.

The best food was the Asian-style meal served Incheon->Narita. Above-average california-style rolls, a few pieces of tuna sashimi and loads of ginger, with wasabi on the side. Loved it. (For airline food)


The American-style dinner I was served Narita->Detroit? Well, it had some sort of vague-tomato-like substance over what I believe was a pasta dish. Taste was alright, but I couldn't identify what exactly the concoction was if I tried.
posted by SeanMac at 7:03 AM on January 27, 2009


I wanted to buy one of those bags a few years ago, when I lived in the Suitcase District in Queens. I didn't know what to call them when I had to describe them in a store: they're plaid? They have zippers? They're cheap? Finally the guy got it: "Oh! You mean the bags for merchandise!"

Yes, exactly.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:29 AM on January 27, 2009


Strangest airplane food memory: one flight attendant walking down the aisle handing each passenger two pieces of bread. A second flight attendant handing each passenger a slice of bologna.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:32 AM on January 27, 2009


Hey did you guys know those striped bags are sometimes also called "refugee bags"?
posted by turgid dahlia at 2:45 PM on January 27, 2009


I've had Indian food on Virgin Airlines, it's really pretty damn tasty!
posted by DenOfSizer at 6:01 PM on January 27, 2009


and presumably the halal family would not be able to eat what they had been served, either

True fact: Muslims are the biggest consumers of kosher food in the US! The koshering process is exactly the same as zabihah except kosher has the added step of salting the meat.

Thus, Kosher for Muslims = ok, but too dang salty; while,

Halal for Jews = one step shy, still trafe.

Presumably, stalwarts on both sides dislike G-d being pronounced in a different language during the cut, but there's no pleasing some people.

On that note, the worst airline food experience I've had was when my wife and I were flying back to Malaysia from Detroit, my wife being 8 months pregnant. When the halal meal arrived, my wife, truly ravenous, opened it to find two pieces of steamed broccoli and four quarters of steamed potato, and that's it. She nearly wept. I glanced across the aisle and there was an obviously hindu women opening up her special meal: it was the same meal. She didn't look to happy either, actually.

Advice to any muslims reading: order Kosher outbound from the States. You will at least get meat.
posted by BinGregory at 9:31 PM on January 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, I thought it was funny enough to accidentally dupe it.
posted by Artw at 9:47 PM on January 27, 2009


I've done a lot of business flying (enough that I knew what day of the week it was by what city I was in) and I echo suedehead above: if you fly the cheap seats, don't expect an armchair with a footrest, a French four-course meal followed by a glass of Moët et Chandon, and your own personal valet. Economy is A to B travel with the barest minimum of dignity. I've done a lot of it, and I hate it.

Biz class travel varies. I've flown what American Airlines calls "First Class" and it amounts to Air Canada Economy with wider seats. Air Canada's Executive Class is really hit or miss. If you're on one of their older planes, it's kind of meh. Their new aircraft with the herringbone layout with individual mini-suites are great, and they seemed to have staffed those flights with young, hot cabin crew. Probably to keep the politicians who take the YVR-YYZ or other major routes distracted.

Best airline ever in my experience: Cathay Pacific. Their First Class was awesome, although I hear Singapore Air's First Class gives them a sound beating. Worst airline ever: American Airlines. To be fair though, I haven't flown any of the domestic African or Asian or South American airlines. I've heard some horror stories involving suspicious old women passengers with chickens and what might've been voodoo dolls.
posted by illiad at 10:27 PM on January 27, 2009


Am I the only one who really liked airline food, (because it's different from my usual fare) and who still enjoys it during the rare times it is served?

...yeah, thought so.

Seconding naoko that the Seat 29E letter is the best airline complaint letter, IMHO.
posted by anthy at 1:24 PM on January 28, 2009


Author of Virgin letter offered chance as airline's food tester
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on January 28, 2009


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