The Worst Airplane Meal Ever

This is the worst meal I've ever been served on an airplane.


At first glance, the plastic and foil-cloaked fodder may seem innocuous, but beneath the lid lurks a culinary crime against the flying public. When I say worst airplane meal ever, I mean ever. Let's put this into perspective: in the past two years I've flown nearly 250,000 miles on more than a dozen international carriers. I've eaten air meals on a West African charter and on a Ukrainian regional carrier I can't even pronounce. I'd like to think that I know my way around a tray table or two.

Airline food has a somewhat deserved reputation for being sub-par. Barring rare circumstance, it will never live up to the standards of ground food, but I've eaten well on airplanes. I've even enjoyed excellent meals in economy class. At the very worst, I've ranked airline meals as barely edible, the key word still being "edible." And then there's this meal.

This inflight abomination comes courtesy of Iberia Airlines. The flight is from Madrid to New York City, a.k.a. a trans-Atlantic horror show. Where Iberia has succeeded with meals-for-purchase on their inter-European routes, they have failed miserably in long-haul food service.

The plastic cover over my "salad" is surreptitiously marked with an angry red slash. I open it to reveal a mayonnaise-soaked lump of carrot slaw accompanied by a withered cherry tomato. I'm not bothered by the minuscule portion; I physically can't handle more than one bite.


For the main course, I'm given a choice between a meat or pasta. Following my own in-flight meal advice, I choose pasta, normally the lesser of two evils. The nearly sauceless tortellini has a stiff consistency like cardboard. The pieces touching the bottom of the dish are charred black. I am unable to identify the filling; I don't even want to try.


Dessert is supposedly a chocolate cake. It's a sweaty, tasteless, dark brown brick. By some miracle of science, catering has managed to remove the chocolate flavor AND the cake flavor from the dish. By process of elimination (the dinner roll is too hard to bite or cut), this unsavory loaf is the only edible item on the tray.


Though Iberia is in the process of refurbishing their aircraft interiors, I scored a plane from the Dark Ages, complete with projection video screens, non-functioning earphone jacks and seats stacked so close together you have to be a contortionist to make it from a window seat to the aisle. The food is just the tip of the iceberg.

Would I take a long haul flight on Iberia again? I'll be honest: I would rather paddle across the Atlantic in a slowly sinking canoe filled with hissing geese.


Brad January 23, 2012 at 06:04 pm

I love this:

"Would I take a long haul flight on Iberia again? I'll be honest: I would rather paddle across the Atlantic in a slowly sinking canoe filled with hissing geese."

What is it with Spanish carriers? I've flown (short haul) on both Iberia and Spanair, and I don't plan to repeat that experience if I can help it.

Iberia short haul is fine by me. Give me a few bags of those sausages and olives (from my Tapas vs. Tapas post) and a case of Spanish beer and I'll be muy feliz a bordo.

D January 23, 2012 at 06:42 pm

Man, what a pathetic meal. I have flown them transatlantic only three times. Most recently in Business. The food needless to say was better, but on my MAD-JFK flight last fall the flight attendants incorrectly identified the entrees they were serving not once but twice, and in the end the purser came around and apologized, and admitted that she had no idea what they had been catered with that day.

John Torto January 24, 2012 at 07:56 am

I spent nearly twenty years as a prison warden in the US, and I can tell you that the inmates would have rioted had they been served something that awful.

MileCard Insider February 19, 2012 at 02:03 am

Yuck...this makes dealing with a 757 on Continental worth it. And FYI their new economy plus on those planes is really generous -- 37 inch pitch.

Spanish cuisine is notorious and ranks way down there in Europe when it comes to cooked food. Don't expect any magic on Iberia and stay with the tapas.

Thomas February 21, 2013 at 06:36 pm

I realize this is an old article, but after a recent experience, I feel that I should speak up to help defend (or restore?!) Spain's air-culinary honor!

I recently flew several legs through out Europe on Spain's LCC, Vueling. Not only were the planes clean and modern looking, but the F/A service was top notch. I haven't even reached the best part...the food! As is typical in LCC service, you pay for any food items you want. In doing so, I want something that is delicious, and I do not want to pay an arm and a leg for it! The menu has a plethora of choices and every item I tried was fantastic and reasonably priced! Sandwiches, pizza, salads, assorted snacks...all of it. Out of sheer surprise and delight, I actually found myself ordering more food just to experience all of it!

It is unfortunate that many LCC's in today's world offer better service and products than some Legacy/National carriers. It is also unfortunate that these same LCC's can't take me to all my International destinations!

I have learned to bring food with me on my 13 hour UA flights. Whatever it is that they serve is not food.