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Ten airlines rated worst for food

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Want to avoid a disappointing in-flight meal? We reveal the short and 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.

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

To find out, we asked more than 6,500 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 that were left languishing at the bottom of the table.

Short-haul airlines

While food on long-haul flights might not always be great at least it’s often still free. It’s even more galling to be served up a terrible plate, such as the ‘Irish breakfast’ above, that one customer received from Ryanair and be expected to pay more for it than you would in a decent café in Dublin. 

Very few short-haul airlines provided good food in our most recent survey, but the five below all had two stars out of five or less – and largely dismal overall customer scores. 

  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 Ryanair table

Ryanair

* **  44%
The only airline to get just one star for food, Ryanair’s in-flight offerings are as disappointing as the rest of its service. Words used to describe it included ‘poor’, ‘expensive’ and ‘limited selection’. This is despite the fact that Ryanair’s business model involves making money from 'extras' such as in-flight meals.
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 British airways table

British Airways

**  ** 55%
On short-haul trips, British Airways’ snacks and light meals are no more appetising than the food they serve on long-haul journeys. The introduction of M&S sandwiches in 2017 doesn't seem to have convinced its passengers. A recurring comment we've seen in recent years is that the ‘flight had run out of sandwiches and hot food options by the time they got to the back of the plane’.
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 Wizz Air table

Wizz

**  *** 56%
With its many routes to Eastern Europe, the Hungarian airline has been remarkably successful in recent years, but its food is no better than most other budget airlines and it gets a mediocre customer score. ‘Food choices are very limited’, you told us.
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 TUI

Tui

**   *** 59%
Tui’s long-haul operation gets three stars for food – not brilliant, but acceptable. However, passengers on short trips were less impressed, saying: ‘The price and quality of food was not great’ and ‘the cost is way too high for what you get.’
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 Flybe table

Flybe

**   *** 60%
The troubled regional airline does so many short hops that there may not be time for anything more than a quick sandwich. Even so, we had more than one complaint that there wasn’t enough food to go round. As with many short-haul airlines it was also described as ‘expensive’ and not very impressive.
Table notes: Food & drink the range and quality of food and drink on board. Value for money Overall value offered by the airline. Customer score Combination of overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending to friend or family. Which? members were surveyed in September 2019, based on 10,180 experiences.

 

Long-haul airlines

On long-haul the food served up by the best airlines – such as Emirates, Qatar and Singapore, all of whom got four stars in our most recent survey – is something you look forward to as the best part of the flight. 

On the worst airlines such as BA, though, who served one poor customer the sludge above, it’s a crushing disappointment. If some airlines can provide decent food, surely they all can?

  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 American airlines table

American Airlines

** **  48%
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 Value for money Customer score

 British airways table

British Airways

**  ** 55%
One BA customer described the food choice on long-haul flights 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.  
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 Etihad Airways table

Etihad Airways

**  ** 56%
Asian and Middle Eastern airlines dominate the top places of our annual survey, but Etihad, sadly, is the exception. Its mediocre customer score is probably influenced by the disappointing food that it serves. ‘Very poor compared with Emirates and Singapore,’ you told us. ‘The quality of food has deteriorated’ was another comment.
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

 Air canada table

Air Canada

**  ** 60%
Canadian food has a pretty good reputation these days, but not onboard the flag-carrier. More than one person told us they expected better from a national carrier. ‘Food has been deteriorating whenever I’ve used it for transatlantic flights’, you said.
  Food & drink Value for money Customer score

Air transat table

Air Transat

**  *** 68%
Air Transat receives a better customer score than its rival Air Canada, but for food it gets an equally disappointing star rating. ‘About an hour into the flight we were given a soggy roll and nothing else’, you said. Another comment was that the flight overall was OK, but the food was ‘awful’.
Table notes: Food & drink the range and quality of food and drink on board. Value for money Overall value offered by the airline. Customer score Combination of overall satisfaction and likelihood of recommending to friend or family. Which? members were surveyed in September 2019, based on 10,180 experiences.

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.

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