The food on US airlines is decent if slightly unexciting. United serves the most inspiring and tasty food overall, followed by American and then Delta. So if you are flying transatlantic or any long-haul trip, and your sole basis for choosing your flight is for the food, it is United you should choose.
That said, they are all decent offerings, and although you are unlikely to be excited by the menus, you won’t go hungry either on any of these three airlines. This means I would choose the cheapest American airline for Business Class or the one with the best seats rather than differentiate between these three airlines by the food.
Yes, United is best, but the other options aren’t half bad either (and the Delta burger is delicious!).
Why is The Food & Drink On United The Best?
United Polaris customers get to enjoy a newly designed multi-course in-flight dining experience designed by chefs from The Trotter Project, which mentors youth with an interest in the culinary arts. It’s a nice touch. The menus rotate every month, so you’ll get different and new dishes each time you fly (assuming you fly infrequently!).
On my most recent United Airlines flight (transatlantic in Business Class), I got United’s new signature pre-meal beverage service, where you could choose a sweet and bubbly Mimosa, or create your own savory and spicy Tito’s Vodka Bloody Mary. I chose to sparkling water and some hot nuts for apéritif.
I ordered the following from the menu:
- Smoked salmon, capers, onion, and hard-boiled egg, served with mixed greens, blueberry, papaya, strawberry, dressing, and assorted bread
- Grilled tenderloin steak, scrambled eggs, potatoes, asparagus, tomato (pictured above)
- Vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce (which was one of the items offered on a trolley rolled by the crew through the cabin)
During the flight, a small walk-up bar was set up in the galley near the exit door, which offered some fresh fruits, salty and sweet snacks. One could also order a mid-flight hot bite (e.g. beef stew with rice, which tasted excellent).
Ninety minutes prior to arrival, a warm lunch was served. I choose the grilled chicken, served with tomato-basil sauce, vegetable couscous, green beans, and a side salad.
The meal service on this flight was excellent and far exceeded all the other meal services that I have had onboard other USA carriers so far.
During the flight, fresh fruit and snacks were also set out in the galley- it’s not really a bar as such, but you can fill up here if you are still hungry. They also offer a delicious grilled cheese sandwich as a snack.
The selection, the range, the delivery, and United’s new signature pre-meal beverage service makes United the best airline to choose to fly long haul, including transatlantic if your main deciding factor is the food.
Why is The Food & Drink On American The Second Best?
American collaborates with several celebrity chefs from the USA, New Zealand, and Japan to create their in-flight menus. Master sommelier Bobby Stuckey selects Their wine.
On my most recent flight, New York to London, I flew in First rather than Business Class, but my issues with the meal service remain when you fly in First or Business Class. My dinner service started soon after takeoff, and the courses were served in quick succession. First, I was served an apéritif with an assortment of mixed nuts.
For the starter, I ordered the beet and goat cheese ravioli, with mixed greens, balsamic glaze, and crushed pistachios. I then had the creamy carrot soup, with Hilo ginger and fresh parsley, which I found to be the highlight of the dinner. Next, I was served a salad of mixed greens with artichokes, roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, and creamy Italian dressing.
For the main course, I had the seared halibut with gremolata, sautéed tomato fennel, lemon risotto, and broccolini. Dessert was a warm pecan tart, topped with vanilla ice cream.
The food was good but not great and the menu – except for the soup – was 100% identical to the one during my AA Business Class trip the previous year. This lack of variety is a significant issue with the food when flying AA. Having the same meal repeatedly is rather dull if you fly frequently. This is why this meal service comes in as second best.
After the main meal service, a walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments was set up in the galley for First Class passengers. It was a lovely spread of a large assortment of snacks that was replenished continuously during the flight. It’s a similar bar to the Business Class bar and is decent.
Sixty minutes prior to landing, breakfast was served. One could order broccoli and red pepper strata, with smoked chicken sausage and roasted potatoes, but I just had a fresh fruit bowl with granola and yogurt.
Why Is The Food & Drink On Delta The Worst?
Delta also offers decent food, with seasonal and regional entrees featuring fresh ingredients and flavors. Delta’s master sommelier – Andrea Robinson – selects wines from around the globe, including regional selections paired with onboard meals.
On my most recent international flight on Delta, transatlantic into New York, shortly after takeoff, a lunch was served. This is what I chose for lunch:
- Black Forest tuna with dill cream and pickled carrots
- Summer tomato and fresh mozzarella salad with mixed greens
- Flemish cod with lemon beurre blanc, parsley potatoes, and sautéed spinach
- Vanilla ice cream sundae with your choice of sauces, nuts and whipped cream
Have you ever heard of somewhat nonsensical Flemish cod and Tuna from the Black Forest? That said, the food was very tasty, although not exceptional. The meals were served on stylish tableware by the globally renowned design company Alessi.
A snack was offered midflight, a warm chocolate chip cookie service.
Then, about 90 minutes prior to landing came the second, light meal service. I choose a hamburger, which was served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It was the first time I had a hamburger on a plane, but it tasted good!
So the hamburger was good, the food was good, the service was good. Just none of it was that great!
How About Domestic Flights?
On Domestic flights, the competition between these airlines means that when Delta started offering Biscoff cookies and United countered with Stroopwafels. Yes, when one offers something the other airline follows suit, meaning that there is little to choose between the airlines on domestic food.
Which Airline Has The Most Food & Drink?
The volume of food delivered by these airlines varies. On long-haul flights, all three carriers offer two meal services (a full meal after takeoff, and a light meal or breakfast 90 minutes prior to landing), so there’s no difference here.
We have taken several flights with all three airlines and have reviewed our experiences below.
I have flown with American Airlines a number of times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class and First Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
I have flown with United Airlines a number of times and have reviewed their long haul Business Class and First Class flights. My trip reports can be found below. Read More.
I have reviewed Delta One which is Delta’s new long haul Business Class product along with Delta Airlines Premium Select which is their new Premium Economy offering. Read More.
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This article was inspired by flights taken by The Luxury Travel Expert.
Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor.
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