Food & Beverage: Tips for an Enjoyable Flight Experience

Updated: 2017-03-11.

Here are some carefully-curated tips and advice for eating and drinking aboard a flight to ensure an enjoyable flight experience.

Food Tips: Dietary Restrictions

Many flying passengers have specific dietary requirements (halal, kosher, etc.) or dietary restrictions (vegan, gluten-free, etc.), and so the airlines often try to accommodate the most common cases by offering options other than the standard fare. Flights that have a meal service will often allow you to call or log in to the website and request a specific dietary option; if you do this online, you can find this option near the options where you can select a seat, usually.

Beverage Tips: Enjoy Cheap, Coach Class Wine

According to a recent article I read on QZ, there’s a simple, fast trick to making that oft-disgusting economy class wine taste better: shake it. That’s right, all you need to do is shake it, says David Yanofsky.

Wine naturally can taste more alcoholic and bitter in flight because of the altitude and the dryness of the cabin air. But none of the usual decanting methods is advisable on an airplane—traditional decanting takes too long, pouring back and forth between two cups is a drippy proposition, and blenders are not allowed in carry-on baggage in the US.

Shaking your wine in its bottle is the viable alternative.

The benefits of letting red wine aerate are long established by sommeliers. Decanting wine for a few hours before drinking allows volatile substances in the wine to evaporate and oxygen to enter the liquid, causing the wine to seem ‘more expressive, more aromatic and better integrated’ according to Wine Spectator.

The best way to do this is to twist open the single-serve bottle’s cap, poor a tad into a glass, giving enough room in the bottle to properly aerate the rest of it. Shake this portion gently, and hopefully much of the acerbic flavors of the cheap wine are no longer present. If you were poured wine into a glass from a larger box container, you’re just gonna have to be careful as you shake your open glass while aerating it.

Beverage Tips: Bring Your Own

Perhaps you’re about to fly on a budget carrier that doesn’t offer food and beverage options on board, or maybe you’ve had a bad experience with a particular carrier’s culinary options. In either case, consider picking up food from the airport to take aboard with you; anything that is purchased after passing through security should be allowed on board, but you can’t prepare a sandwich at home and bring it.

Though food and drinks at airports are often exorbitantly-priced, sometimes they can be cheaper than what is available to purchase aboard the plane – especially alcoholic beverages. Oh, and bringing your own sustenance will negate having to wait for the serving time, which almost never starts sooner than 20 minutes after wheels-up time, and that could be more than an hour after boarding.

Food Tips: Need Your Food Served First?

If you know that you’re on a flight that will be serving a meal, you can log in to the airline’s website, view the ticket you purchased, and see your meal options; this should be accessible in the same area where seat options and frequent flier information is stored and updated.

Choosing a special meal precludes you from the general meal, but it is often served first; flight attendants seek out those passengers that have selected the special meals and deliver them, followed by the general meal service right after. This could get your meal to you up to a half-hour faster, depending on your seat and the direction the flight attendants are serving in.

Beverage Tips: Free Booze

Though domestic and short-haul flights, especially those in the United States, often charge for premium beverages, such as cocktails and liquor, these items are usually free on long-haul flights and international flights. Cheers!

Food Tips: Keep Your Stomach Happy

An upset stomach is one of the quickest ways to ruin your flight experience, and the travels beyond that. Just because you are on vacation, it doesn’t mean that you can throw caution to the wind. Avoid spicy and acidic foods, so that you won’t have a sour stomach during your flight.

Food Tips: Wash Your Hands

It should go without saying, but I know sometimes I don’t wash my hands before every meal. However, on a plane, you absolutely must. Everything aboard a plane is filthy, from your armrest, to the in-flight entertainment device, to the tray table, to the bathroom sink faucet.

Food Tips: Avoid Sugar & Caffeine

Especially if you’re prone to anxiety from flying or otherwise, it is a good idea to avoid drinking sugary or caffeinated beverages during or immediately prior to a flight. Drinks with a high amount of either substance can spike nervousness, even for the traveler who is normally not so susceptible to its anxiety-increasing effects.

Food Tips: Reclining the Seat

We all hate it when the passenger in the seat in front of us reclines while we’re eating, especially when it’s done in an abrupt manner. The tray table is affixed to that seat, and food and drink thrown into the air is not exactly the flight you paid for.

Be kind and don’t recline the seat during mealtime; likewise, you can put up your seat from the reclined position, but do so in a controlled and gentle manner, so that the fellow passenger’s food behind you doesn’t get all over them.

Food Tips: Avoid Salt

Because the altitude and the dry air during a flight dulls the sense of taste, food aboard a plane – especially the hot meals – are loaded with more salt than usual. And that’s saying a lot because these days we already pile on the sodium with every processed food we eat.

Consider requesting a low-sodium meal option (if available) by placing your request during ticket purchase or some other time before the flight. For snacks, sometimes it is better to bring your own if you are trying to watch your sodium intake.

Food Tips: Always Accept the Food

You may not feel hungry, or you may have brought something from the airport, causing you to deem the meal and snack service unnecessary. However, you should always take it anyway. You may get hungry later, and then that food will be appreciated. Or, perhaps a hungrier soul next to you would be grateful for a second portion. Either way, the food is often discarded after a flight lands, so you might as well just take it.

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