Best International Airlines for Food 2023

Global Tastemakers is our first-ever reader’s choice awards, celebrating the best culinary destinations in the U.S. and abroad. F&W readers voted based on travel completed within the past three years, on categories including restaurants and bars, cities, hotels, airports, airlines, and cruises. Due to the limitations of pandemic travel, this year’s Global Tastemakers winners reflect a smaller portion of the globe. In many categories, we’re including an editor’s pick to shout out some more culinary destinations in places you can’t miss. See all the winners at foodandwine.com/globaltastemakers.

When we asked readers about the international airlines serving the best in-flight meals, they had opinions. There’s a big gap between “airplane food” and “great meal to kick-off/end a trip,” and 10 airlines flew above the rest to rise to the latter category.

Chef-curated menus have become the expectation, even trickling into economy-class offerings. But it’s the service, thoughtful details like artisanal chocolates and award-winning Champagne welcome drinks, and giving the flyer decision power (like the ability to plan when your meal is delivered) that makes the readers surveyed excited to fly again. Who knew, the best meal of your year may not even be at a restaurant, but settled into a window seat with your eye mask in tow.

Ahead, you’ll find the 10 best-rated international airlines, according to those surveyed, when it comes to fine dining 35,000+ feet in the sky.


Qatar Airways

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Freshly baked bread is just the beginning of Qatar Airways’ in-flight dining options. While some airlines make obtaining a plant-based meal or snack harder than falling asleep in a middle seat, Qatar Airways offers vegan dishes á la carte for all Business Class passengers. Led by the airline’s first-ever female Culinary Development Manager Mary-Jane Bonnaud, the menus feature dishes not often offered in the air: lobster, oxtail, curry, and za’atar lamb. Treats like chocolates and an afternoon tea spread make traveling a little bit sweeter. Meals are served on-demand, meaning flyers can order their food at any point during the flight. You can read more about the onboard dining options here.



Emirates

Courtesy of Emirates



Emirates consistently tops the charts for best airline, and the food follows. No matter which class you’re flying, fresh ingredients take center stage. In economy class short-haul flights, barbecue chicken, pepper frittata, and seasonal fruit dot the menu. Economy flyers on long-haul flights can enjoy vegetable crepes, paella, and apple caramel mousse. But the real jaw-droppers come with a First Class ticket: pan-fried beef tenderloin, chocolate mango tart, and spiced bean curd and peppers, to name a few. Read more about the airline’s onboard dining options here.



Virgin Atlantic Airways

Courtesy of Virgin Atlantic



Travelers applaud Virgin Atlantic for many things — service, cleanliness, comfort — and food hits the top of the list. Even economy flyers are ensured pre-dinner drinks, a main meal, and a pre-landing second serving. Welcome drinks await upper-class flyers, followed by an apéritif, a four-course meal, additional snacks (from burgers to salads), and a breakfast (think muesli and pastries). All travelers have access to self-service snacks, and kids’ meals are available for younger flyers. You can read more about all of the onboard meal offerings here.



Turkish Airlines

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With three meals on transatlantic flights and snack service on shorter haul journeys, Turkish ingredients are put in front of a spotlight for all meals offered in-air — meatballs, karnıyarık (eggplant with minced meat), mantı (Turkish ravioli), and stuffed grape leaves to name a few. Business Class flyers are able to choose the delivery time of their meal so they can make the most of sleep time. You can read more about the meal offerings here.



Air France

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Flyers traveling on flights from Paris are in for a real treat: Air France works with French chefs to curate its menus with a focus on 100 percent French meat, egg, and dairy products. What that means: Everything —especially the desserts — is, well, travel-worthy. Flyers can choose from chef-created recipes that rotate every four months, including dishes from the likes of Arnaud Lallement, Mauro Colagreco, Régis Marcon, and Emmanuel Renaut. The wine menu hits all of the best French vineyards and was curated by Paolo Basso, named the best sommelier in the world in 2013. You can check out some of the sample menus here.



Aer Lingus

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All economy passengers can purchase meals on Aer Lingus flights, from Irish breakfasts to sausage rolls. Business class flyers will be served a starter, entrée, and dessert on all transatlantic flights, as well as a pre-landing breakfast. Menu items span smoked duck breast, seared seabream, apple tarts, and cheese boards. There’s also an option to order an express tray, a pre-chosen three-course meal served at once at the beginning of the flight so passengers can get to sleep sooner. Read more about the in-flight dining options here.



Lufthansa

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First, Business, and Premium Economy passengers are all served meals on fine china alongside award-winning wines on Lufthansa. A caviar service is available for First Class flyers, in addition to the option of three types of water and an extensive entrée selection (like almond-crusted halibut and seared chicken breast with porcini truffle cream sauce). All dishes, including kids’ meals, focus on regional ingredients determined by flight route. Read more about the Lufthansa meal service here.



KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

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Passengers won’t go hungry on KLM flights, no matter which class they’re sitting in. Business class travelers are served a sandwich or salad alongside an appetizer or dessert for flights under two hours. Longer flights have a three-course dinner on the itinerary, drinks, and coffee or tea. Top Dutch chefs work to curate menus. Here’s a peek at the line-up from chef Jonnie Boer: smoked bavette with radish, pickled tulips, and piccalilli cream; tomato tour; Thai chicken with sweet basil, cod, mixed vegetables, and jasmine rice; vegetarian stroganoff; and baked salmon with broccolini. Read more about onboard dining here.



British Airways

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British Airways has a name for each of its meal programs: Speedbird Café (short-haul economy), Club Europe (short-haul business), World Traveler (long-haul economy), World Traveler Plus (long-haul premium economy), Club World (long-haul business), and — simply — First. The offerings are thoughtful, right down to the Speedbird Café menu, which was curated by Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge. First-class passengers are treated to a “Dine Anytime” menu featuring fresh British ingredients and first-rate spirits and wines. Dig into the various in-flight dining options here.



AeroMexico

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Chef Enrique Olvera is the mind behind the Premier Class meals on AeroMexico, while Chef Edo Kobayashi handles in-flight dining for the Mexico-Tokyo route. The first-class meals include cold and hot meal services, a preselected menu when available, and plenty of snacks. On short flights, all classes are served snacks and receive multiple beverage services. What’s especially notable is the airline’s attention to special dietary needs: vegan, vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian, soft food, diabetic, low-calorie, sodium-free, low cholesterol, gluten-free, and kosher diets are all accommodated. You can read more about the airline’s meal program here.



Editor’s Pick: Singapore Airlines

Courtesy of Singapore Air



In addition to operating the world’s longest flight, Singapore Airlines is known for its above-and-beyond food and beverage program. The company is consistently raising the bar on its culinary offerings, most recently partnering with California’s beloved Golden Door Spa to craft a new in-flight wellness and dining program. While Singapore Airlines’ hotel room-like suites are the dream, of course, the food in all cabin classes is quite excellent — even in economy, passengers can eat multi-course meals with real cutlery and glassware. – F&W Editors