I’ve recently spent 27 hours in the air, something I do on a relatively regular basis, so I think I’m well qualified to weigh in on airline food for the long-distance traveler. It’s horrible — no surprises there. But what’s to be done about it?
In the days of People Express (remember the low-cost, no-frills, no-food airline of the go-go ’80s?) I used to brown bag my own sandwich, fruit, and nuts for a cross-country trip. I gather that in these cost-cutting days, with “free” in-flight meals a thing of the past on most domestic carriers, edible offerings can be had — for a price — some developed by celebrity chefs no less.
But on a recent trip from San Francisco to Sydney, which leaves around 11 p.m., I just didn’t eat. I don’t get hungry in the air these days. In part that’s because I’ve developed a debilitating flying anxiety disorder over the past decade or so after years of winging my way across the Pacific Ocean without a care in the world.
Folks who similarly suffer in the skies know just how crippling flight anxiety can be. Yesterday I had a full-blown panic attack, complete with whole body shaking, as I white knuckled my way through 90 minutes of turbulence thanks to a tropical storm off the coast of Australia. When the attendant told me to expect more of the same — and worse — in our approach to San Francisco (the day after the biggest deluge in the city’s past 50 years or so) I cried. Flight anxiety is irrational, embarrassing, and exhausting, especially on a long-haul journey. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean.
It’s also a total appetite suppressant. Probably just as well, given what was on offer in the cabin. Was that weird yellow goo resembling glue really eggs? And what was that mush underneath? Surely not potatoes. I usually stick to the yogurt and fruit plate but on the leg into Sydney the fruit was warm, ditto the orange juice. One sip and i almost threw up — and not from nervousness. I stopped bothering to request a vegetarian meal ages ago, since the veg trays were comprised of dishes as dry as cardboard and who needs to get even more dehydrated at 35,000 feet?
So help me out here fellow travelers: How do you handle the food factor when you’re flying internationally? Are some carriers known for better nibbles than others? (I’m a slave to my frequent flyer account — aren’t we all? — so when I’m talking about bad airline eats I’m really talking about what passes for sustenance from the folks in the friendly skies aka United Airlines.)
This very funny letter sent to Virgin’s Richard Branson earlier this year about a hideous dinner served in-flight from Mumbai to Heathrow makes me think that this is a global phenomenon for those of us who fly cattle class.
Is the only answer to bring your own chow for overseas trips so when you hit that cruising altitude you’ll have something edible to eat while you watch movies you’ve already seen and can barely hear, wincing in your seat at every bit of bumpy air?
Ah, the glamor of international travel.