It’s almost a given that dining up in the air may not produce the best out of our taste buds. Cramped economy seats, air cabin conditions and maybe flying half-awake, half-asleep might contribute to that less than pleasant experience.

Such experience have made airline food been branded, others unfairly, as bland, barely edible and “plastic“.

But of course we give the airlines the benefit of the doubt. They must have spent thousands of man-hours developing these meals, packaging and handling them in most ideal ways possible. It’s just that airlines are meant for flying more than for eating.

Nevertheless, the age of half-day flights demand biological needs, and whether that translates to voluminous amount of liquid or carbo/protein loading to withstand jet lag and uneasiness feeling, food must be served.

That is why we think it’s always right and proper to recognize the best in the business.

1. Etihad
The national airline of the United Arab Emirates takes its food service seriously that it employs “First Class Chefs” who are trained to meet even the most discriminating tastes. Note that even though their services are only available to premium class passengers, that still says something about an airline going a bit further in cabin catering.

“..our First class guests [will receive] the opportunity of having their personal chef tailor-make dishes based on their individual tastes and preferences,” according to Etihad Airways chief executive officer James Hogan.

turkish-airlines-food2. Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines topped a Skyscanner survey as provider of best in-flight food. While it didn’t mention of special dishes that were outstanding, we think that it’s everybody’s consensus that overall the food just tastes great — from standard to special meals.

Here’s how meals are prepared at an airline.

singapore_airlines_food3. Singapore Airlines
As a perennial winner of airline awards, it is not surprising to see Singapore Airlines be part of this list. And it’s not just coincidence; behind the scenes documentation of how Singapore Airlines prepares its in-flight meals show how they are meticulously prepared. No wonder the airline gets all the praises it deserves.

4. Aer Lingus
A former member of Oneworld club of airlines, Aer Lingus, the national carrier of Ireland, takes a rightful distinction as among top provider of best-quality in-flight food. Its traditional Irish breakfast has received rave reviews, and while not every food served is free, one who pre-orders is assured of a hearty meal.

emirates-airlines-onboard5. Emirates
Emirates is consistently on top of the leaderboard when it comes to airline food. Part of it is because of its generosity. It serves smoked tuna appetizers and lamb entrees, along with complimentary beverages and wine on its economy class while first-class passengers are accorded with seven-course lunches and dinners, including delicacies such as caviar and champagne.

cx_food6. Cathay Pacific
Hong Kong’s flag carrier takes pride as among the first airlines to have rice cookers, toasters and skillets on board which enables its cabin crew to prepare freshly cooked food on board. Wine selection includes Château Branaire-Ducru 2004, Château Pontet-Canet 2007 and white Burgundy Buissonnier Bourgogne Côte Chalonnaise 2010. Ice cream is served after lunch, dinner or supper.

7. Lufthansa
Lufthansa recently partnered with Mandarin Oriental Group to step up its in-flight meals. As a result premium class passengers from its US gateways enjoy select dishes prepared by Star Chefs from Mandarin Oriental’s San Francisco, New York and Miami properties.

thai_airways_food8. Thai Airways
Thailand’s pride has been a consistent winner of best economy class food, and its dishes complement the authentic Thai hospitality. It caters to every dietary needs and it makes use of traditional Thai ingredients on its servings to add pleasant flavor. A wide variety of meals is on offer so when booking flights on Thai Airways, make sure to specify your meals as well.

We leave the ninth and tenth position to your own preferred airline, if in case it’s not mentioned above. While airline food may generally be classified as plain and bland, there are those who stand out of the crowd and make flights more meaningful and memorable.