At best, they're a tasty in-flight picnic – a welcome reprieve from the monotony of air travel. At worst, they're unidentified gloop, or slabs of greying meat. But for frequent flier and plane food expert Nikos Loukas, airline meals are utter magic: "I just find it amazing that we eat at 35,000ft while travelling at over 800km an hour", he says. Well, when you put it like that…
But then, that's the kind of enthusiasm you'd expect from someone who's made a career out of rating and reviewing in-flight meals. Loukas travels over 180,000km each year for his website inflightfeed.com, which he uses to showcase the best – and worst – airline dishes.
It started in 2012, "as a bit of fun. I'd just moved over to Europe and was not working, so I thought I would create this airline food information website." Now, in addition to writing reviews, Loukas helps to train airline staff to serve and sell in-flight food.
During flights, Loukas tries as many different meals as possible – from economy class snacks to premium multi-course feasts. So which was his favourite ever in-flight meal? "Either the lobster thermidor or the Kyo-Kaiseki Japanese meal on Singapore Airlines in first class." No kidding – we'd like a bit of that too. "In economy class, Turkish Airlines does the best food."
One look at Loukas's website reveals the horrors of in-flight meals: from sad-looking macaroni cheese to cardboard-esque pizza. But the worst? "Some sort of airline chicken mystery meat on Ukraine International Airlines. It cost €9 but was not pleasant."
His most memorable, however, was a Hello Kitty kids meal on a flight from Paris to Taipei with Eva Air. "I specifically ordered the meal knowing that I would get this special boxed kids' version. When the crew came out to deliver it, they kept looking for the child sitting in my seat row. I had to own up to the meal sooner or later. My seat neighbours were quite amused."
The Hello Kitty inflight meal on board Eva Air. Photo: INFLIGHTFEED.COM
So what makes a good in-flight dish? "I like airlines that tell a story through their food. A bit like how Swiss or say Aegean Airlines try to give a taste of their respective home countries in their onboard offerings."
Loukas's passion for plane food knows no bounds – he's now crowdfunding a documentary about this much-maligned industry, which aims to "show people what some of the best airlines in the world are doing in order to get you something edible."
The 'airline chicken mystery meat', courtesy of Ukraine International Airlines. Photo: INFLIGHTFEED.COM
"Generally, airline meals get a beating, [but] not all airline meals are created equal."
The Telegraph, London
See also: How airline food gets to your tray table