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Five airlines rated worst for food

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Want to avoid a disappointing in-flight meal? We reveal the long-haul carriers rated lowest for food

Dining at 30,000ft used to be a glamorous indulgence with fine food and champagnes served from real china and crystal glasses.

These days the reality is more likely to be something stodgy and inedible sweating beneath its foil wrapping.

And, to make matters worse, you may have to pay for the privilege as airlines continue to strip back services to compete with their budget rivals.

Rarely do we choose a carrier based on the quality of its meals, but long-haul flyers are a captive audience. Either we force down the lacklustre food, or we go hungry.

So do you throw caution to the tailwind, or pack enough sandwiches to see you through?

To find out we asked more than 7,000 Which? members to rate the range and quality of in-flight food and drink based on their own recent experiences.

Here we reveal the airlines which were left languishing at the bottom of the table.

  Food & drink WRP Customer score

 American airlines table

American Airlines

**   52%
The quality of food and drink is just one reason why American Airlines - the Transatlantic sibling of British Airways - received the lowest customer score of any long-haul carrier. Customer complaints ranged from 'unexciting' to 'awful', with one describing a pasta dish as 'dripping with oil'. Only time will tell if its recent partnership with Mediterranean US chain Zoes Kitchen will make its in-flight dining more palatable.
  Food & drink WRP Customer score

 table United Airlines

United Airlines

**   55%
It’s a case of you get what you pay for with the US airline. While the cheap fares were enough to get bums on seats, many customers told us they were disappointed with the standard of food served on board. United promises a ‘culinary experience’ with its ‘thoughtfully crafted’ burgers and wraps. However, one flyer described his meal as ‘unpleasant and overcooked’, adding: ‘The food was uninspiring at best. I was very hungry after the long flight.’
  Food & drink WRP Customer score

  table Tui

Tui Airways

**   56%
The main complaint from Tui flyers was its lack of options. Some who were seated at the back of the plane told us staff had run out of many items by the time they served them. But even passengers who got their hands on their desired dish were often left underwhelmed. One reported that their cheese sandwich had ‘barely any cheese’. They added: ‘The pictures in the menu are a flight of fancy, rather than a realistic representation.’
  Food & drink WRP Customer score

 table Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook Airlines

**   57%
Thomas Cook Airlines may have roped celebrity chef James Martin into curating some of its dishes – such as Cornish ale braised beef - but that didn’t stop it making the bottom five for the quality of its food and drink. In an unfortunate double whammy for hungry flyers, its on-board refreshments also clinched a miserable one star for price. One disgruntled customer described the food as ‘expensive and not very appetising’.
  Food & drink WRP Customer score

 table British Airways

British Airways

**   58%
Many BA flyers are still reeling that the airline no longer offers complimentary refreshments on some routes. One customer went as far as to describe the food choice as ‘abysmally poor’ and  'akin to offerings at some British motorway stations, but more expensive’. Others blamed cost cutting for a drop in quality, describing the meals as ‘fatty and unhealthy’ - while several passengers with special dietary requirements told us they weren’t well catered for.  
Table notes: Food & drink the range and quality of food and drink on board Customer score Combination of overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending to friend or family. Which? members were surveyed in September and October 2018, based on 2,259 experiences. WRP Which? Recommended Provider

Three tips to improve your in-flight experience

1. Be choosy when it comes to picking the right airline. We award star ratings for categories including seat comfort, customer service and value for money based on customer experiences. See the full results of our best and worst airlines.

2. Not all airline seats are created equal. We've done our homework to see which carriers offer the most leg room and help you find the best spot on the aircraft. Stretch those limbs with our guide on which airline has the comfiest seats?

3. An upgrade often means better food and roomier seats. To jump a class on the cheap see how to save on premium economy fares.