Chef Ramsey… It’s U.S. Airline Kitchen Hell

One of my Philippines high school classmates flew back to the US a few days ago after a trip to Manila. He flew Philippine Air Lines (PAL).

When I lived there, it was a common joke that PAL stood for “Plane Always Late” and I never flew it internationally. To the typical “get away” destination of Hong Kong, the airline of choice was Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, which for years was one of the top rated international airlines.

But if I visit the Philippines for only the second time since leaving in 1970, I’d certainly consider PAL for two reasons. First, it has a one-stop service from Las Vegas. Vegas is always a nice way to begin and end a long vacation! But second, I was salivating over the photo my friend posted to Face Book of what PAL served for breakfast.

Now if you’re flying PAL, there’s a good chance you’re at least part Filipino. (When I flew Korean Airlines to the Philippines via Seoul in 1995, about 95% of the 400 passengers were Korean.) And so if we assume that most passengers on an airline heading to or from that airline’s home base are that airline’s nationality, then it’s a no brainer that they want to eat “local.”

So here’s the Filipino breakfast my friend had, which included a Filipino roll called pan de sal (which, when I lived in Manila, was delivered fresh to the house each weekday). Now this is a real breakfast!

lower left to right: lychee, (garlic?) fried rice; milk fish; egss and bacon; pastry; peanut sauce; mango cup; pan de sal (roll)

lower left to right: lychee, (garlic?) fried rice; milk fish; egss and bacon; pastry; peanut sauce; mango cup; and pan de sal (roll)

Unfortunately, the good news of lower airline prices has it’s bad news. Part of that bad news is the disappearance of decent airline food. That’s if you even get any food. Most U.S. airlines have done away with food on domestic flights; all you get on a five hour coast-to-coast flight is snack food. Some airlines will sell you an overpriced sandwich bag.

My last international flight was to Spain in 2006. It was on USAirways because I was flying free using frequent flyer miles; otherwise, I’d have flown a European airline. The meal was quite forgetful and I have in fact forgotten it. The “meat” truly was…a mystery.

Now, I do remember enjoying the meal on Korean in 1995. Although I don’t recall what I had, I’m sure there was a “Korean” option and I’m sure I selected that since I like spicy food.

In 1988, I flew British Airlines (BA) to London. That trip was also on frequent flyer miles but BA was a “partner” airline of Piedmont (later acquired by USAirways) and so that is why I was able to select it. Those meals were so good I saved the menu. Both ways!

Flights from the US to Europe normally leave in the late afternoon or evening so that you arrive in the early morning. So the meal is dinner, which was:
a) free alcoholic beverages including sherry and vermouth as well as liqueurs (Cognac, Port, Bailey’s Irish Cream, etc.);
b) Greek salad; barbequed chicken breast with smoked ham; and
c) Pastry barquette with fresh fruit and custard

After a stop in Bermuda, there were these “refreshments”:
a) tomato with shrimp salad and tuna fish creole; and
b) cheese

Breakfast before arrival in London was:
a) fresh fruit;
b) Spanish-style omelet with grilled Canadian bacon; and smoked sausage and hash browns or
c) mixed grill with beef medallion, pork sausages, kasseler with mushrooms and hash browns.

The return flight from London included an equally delicious lunch of:
a) prawn cocktail;
b) beef short rib braised in paprika and cream sauce, with stir-fried vegetables; or
c) stuffed chicken ballotine with veal sausage, grilled potatoes and fondant potatoes;
d) dessert of fresh fruit with double cream.

And since we were on British Airlines, there was of course, afternoon tea. Of course… That was served with assorted “reception” sized sandwiches and tuna fish tartlet, and fruit scone with a properly English Devonshire clotted cream.

And this was in economy class! Who knows what the first class passengers were savoring behind that closed curtain… (During the 1995 trip to Manila, I was on the other side of that curtain for the three hour flight from Seoul to Manila thanks to a free upgrade to first class by an observant check-in agent in Seoul who noticed that it was almost my birthday and my passport showed I was born in Manila.)

My advice is: if you’re flying internationally, do not fly an American airline. Your food will likely be better but I doubt it will be anywhere near the “good old days” when no one wore jeans or flip flops on a flight.


5 responses to “Chef Ramsey… It’s U.S. Airline Kitchen Hell

  1. PAL = Plane Always Late. You are hilarious! Cathay Pacific is still the preferable airline going to Hong Kong. I love the food in Swiss Air, except they don’t include chocolates. But food in PAL? NO COMMENT hahaha

    • So PAL food is not as good as it looks? Since I’d be leaving from Vegas, I can stop by a Pinoy place and pick up some lechon to go and eat that on the flight!

      • perhaps I am not a fan of PAL food, but I love their peanuts. but since you are missing Pinoy food that much, you probably will like it. Are you coming to Manila soon?

        • No current plans but I do want to return and visit all the places I was unaware of in ’95, such as Palawan, 100 islands (which is near Dagupan, where my mother’s family is from). 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of the founding of AS / IS Manila, so they will probably have some sort of celebration and reunion. Maybe then… A few days in Manila, then visiting outside Manila.

  2. Boss, I hate to say it but I will NEVER fly PAL again after my encounter with them 2 years ago concerning a refund that THEY said was coming to me – which never happened. To long of a story here to post but I saved all documentation from them to show ‘whoever’.
    But I do agree…. food on the Kano airlines basically sucks. AND the booze on at least UAL from SFO to HKG was NOT free. Only after I got to HKG then flew on Cathay to MNL then if you wanted…it was free.

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