The Best and Worst Airline Food

Coach passengers might no longer have free meals, but they still have choices.

ByABC News
March 30, 2010, 8:07 AM

Oct. 6, 2010 — -- Remember when flight attendants used to chant those magic words, "chicken or beef"?

I suppose you could say that the "magical" part was how it really didn't matter which you chose, since both generally carried all the savory zest of lukewarm spackle.

As one anonymous passenger wrote on an airline meal review site recently, "The salad was stale, the meat tasted funny, and the potatoes were set in a big lump; it was all lousy."

Of course, the real magic was that this fellow got a meal at all, but then he was on an international flight where such things are still the norm. Not domestically; in fact, by the end of this week, Continental, the last "free-meal-in-coach" holdout, will stop serving food in flight without a fee.

And oddly enough, some folks are outraged.

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This reminded me of a funny riff by comedian Louie C.K. (Louis Szekely) that I saw on TV last spring; he was berating airline passengers for sweating the small stuff while missing the big miracle: "You're flying -- it's amazing. Everybody on every plane should just constantly be going, 'Oh my god, wow!' You're sitting in a chair in the sky."

He's got a point, absolutely. But…we still like our little comforts, especially in the air.

In his essay on airline meals in the book "Food for Thought," Dr. Guillaume de Syon wrote that, "For all their misgivings about what will appear in their tray, passengers actually look forward to the dining event." It gives us a feeling of normalcy, he suggests -- plus, it helps pass the time.

And it's been helping us pass the time for some 91 years; the first airline meal service was reportedly aboard Britain's Handley Page Transport back in October of 1919. These were "boxed lunches" but no one seems to remember what they were. No doubt some early form of "mystery meat."