May 2nd, 2012
03:15 PM ET
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What’s the deal with airline food?

It’s a question travelers and stand-up comedians have been asking for decades. Bags of peanuts, barely-edible dinner rolls and the dreaded “meat-like substance” have been a staple of in-flight dining for decades. There are even websites devoted to all things airline food, such as AirlineMeals.net.

But did you know that airline food is celebrating a milestone birthday? Eighty-five years ago this month, the first meal was served on a commercial airliner.

Back on May 1, 1927, Imperial Airways (now known as British Airways) unveiled its “Silver Wing” lunch service on a flight from London to Paris. For one shilling, three pence, passengers were offered what British Airways Heritage Centre Curator Paul Jarvis called “luxury sandwiches.” At least the passengers could enjoy an alcoholic beverage to wash the sandwiches down.

The service went away when Britain entered World War II, but was restored in 1952.

CNN’s Jim Boulden pays tribute to the first airline meal in the video above.

Previously - The fare up there: Air Force One and The TSA won't swipe your pie – but will they take the cake? and Plane fare

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Filed under: Airlines • Airports • Travel


soundoff (58 Responses)
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    April 25, 2013 at 1:18 am |
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    January 31, 2013 at 5:13 am |
  3. Aubrie

    I knew the food was going to go downhill years ago when they stopped giving your REAL silverware.... Now, not only do you not get any silverware (plastic or otherwise), on most flights your don't even get peanuts. You pack food in your bag, TSA takes it away....then you get stuck on a tarmac for 8 hours and miss two meals..... It is all total BS and misery... I used to enjoy flying. Now I dread every second of it.

    May 15, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  4. Loopman

    One of the longest yet most memorable flights I ever took was when I got shipped out for Viet Nam in 1970. We were on an older 727(I think) and the only food we had during the 13 hour flight was sandwiches and sodas but the most memorable part of the flight was the stewardesses. These were more senior ladies that wore an array of patriotic pins, banners and hats and they attended to our every need. While out over the middle of the Pacific ocean, one pulled out an old beat up 6 string acoustic guitar and started a sing-along to help pass the time and to help put our minds at ease and forget about how much our butts hurt from the gumaglobin (sp?) shot we got before we left March AFB. Those shots made the buttcheek it was injected into swell up and hurt pretty bad when you had your hiney plopped in a plane seat for 13 hours. Anyway, I just wanted to share that flying experience with everyone so that you will realize how good we have it today, stinky feet, bad breath and foul body odor included.

    May 4, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  5. Loved Braniff

    Yes,the 70's were the best years for airline travel.I worked for Braniff for
    20 years before the bankruptcy.Back to the subject,the first class food was
    fantastic and coach was very good.In the 60's they had in first class small
    (4 cigarette)packs of Winstons,lots of booze,and beautiful stewardesses.
    I even married one.
    I have flown on PI,BN,CO,LH,NE,WA,TT,AL,OZ,SO,DL,BA,AA,PS,PA,TW,UA,and SW.
    Braniff was still on top.
    Now a days,(retired from AA) airline travel is a real pain.

    May 4, 2012 at 9:15 am |
  6. wizard2399

    The year, below, was "70-71

    May 3, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
  7. wizard2399

    New Years eve/day I flew a charter Northwest Airlines from Seattle, Wash. to Korea with 220 other G.I's and kept flying into midnight 3 times. So we celebrated New Years 3 times. All got drunk and they served 3 hot breakfasts during the many hours flying time. Crossed the International Date Line and got to Korea on Jan. 2nd. Picked up the day coming back, I guess. Never forget that flight.

    May 3, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  8. mike

    ahhhhh quit whininnnn... i flew on one trip where you had to bring your own lawn chair. well on a more serious note, when in a pressurized tube at forty thou feet you loose some of your sense of taste. also remember the airlines dont make the food.. it's vendored out

    May 3, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  9. syed ahmed

    i always travel (PAKISTAN INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES) when i go back home pakistan food always great even domestic in USA FLIGHT always peanuts and coke cola or any kind juice they always cried about oil price ,oil priced nothing to do with your service ,air hosts are rude specialy in A A do not want to travel again ,best service in the world airline i travel once is LUFTHANSA AIRLINE

    May 3, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • Borat

      Ay!! Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan put Pakistan to shame like donkey with my cousin!

      May 3, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  10. Snacklefish

    In my family we used to refer to Delta as "Chicken Airlines", as that was the only meal we ever seemed to see in coach.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Now you get an old soggy "turkey" sandwich on any flight longer than 13 hours long.

      May 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  11. cdpflanzer

    I remember flying nonstop from SYR to MCO on Piedmont Airlines (now US Airways) when I upgraded to First Class they served breakfast which was Western omelets with bacon and home fries (that put Cracker Barrel to shame). That was a hoot.

    May 3, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  12. oldfart

    i have flown on airliners since the early 1950s. the food and service used to be excellent...now the people that used to have to ride the bus now infest the airways dressed in flip flops,shorts,and backpacks and in need of a bath..this is one time the "good old days" were really good.

    May 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • enfilmigult

      On the other hand, you could smoke inside the plane back then. Maybe the food wasn't actually better or people's body odor worse, but it was just that nobody could tell. :)

      May 3, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  13. palintwit

    One time Saran Palin happened to be on the same flight I was and much to everyone's surprise she brought onboard with her a huge platter of mooseburgers. There was also an equally huge tray of s'mores !

    May 3, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      Moose burger is actually pretty good.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  14. Skippy319

    Back in 1979 the meal we were served on Northwest Airlines was GREAT! We were on a 747, that was exciting enough for me, but we were served a Beef Filet with the BEST AuGratin potato side dish. A salad and rolls! Plus had a complimentary cocktail! We were not in first class either. I can just imagine what they had! The stewardesses were so friendly and accomodating as well. I have flow only about 10 times since, and have never even been offered a meal. Just the peanuts, and the stewards/esses acted like they were doing us a favor to bring them. Gone are the days when flying was a real treat.

    May 3, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • oldfart

      back in 1979!!!! lololololmfao

      May 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Glen Towler

      I remember flying BA in 1978 and I only 12 at the time but the service was awful Air NZ the service couldn't have been better so friendly even got a trip to the cockpit so things don't change that much on some airlines

      May 3, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  15. daifa

    The airline with WORST " food " was Canadian Air ( I forgot the exact name ) ; I remember during a long flight from Hong Kong to Toronto, one of the " meal " , a cup of 50 cents' instant noodle ! No wonder this airline exist no more !
    All Asian based airlines; Cathy, Singapore Air or Japan Air etc serve excellent food. Plus, their stewardess are young , smart, if not pretty, and, VERY polite. You won't find those crusty old bags of then Delta or NorthWest !

    May 3, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  16. Robble

    No wonder the food is terrible–it was started by the Brits! The worst food in the world is British food!

    May 3, 2012 at 12:43 am |
    • elainer32

      British food is not the worst food in the world. What an overgeneralization. There is good and bad food in all cultures. My family is British, and my grandma and my mum made/make delicious British food! Making overgeneralizations like that just destroys any credibility you could hope to have.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants ♫♫

      NO BANGERS AND MASH FOR YOU!

      May 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
    • Aubrie

      I can't seem to get past the names of the British foodie favorites..... Bubble and Squeek???? Spotted Dick??? Not very appetizing to be sure...

      May 15, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  17. Ron

    The "old" Frontier Airlines used to have the best meals. Steak and lobster with a crab salad, dinner roll and a comp bottle of wine on most dinner flights. All in standard class. Those were the days back in the 70's.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
  18. Dean

    Drive and eat anything you want.

    May 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm |
  19. plantcarazy

    I just have one question:
    Will it be chicken or pasta today?!
    I know quite a few of you have had the same question given to you one too many times as well! I am begging these airline food people to mix it up a little!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • DAVE

      GIVE THE AIRLINE FOOD TO THE POOR, THEY WILL EAT ANYTHING

      May 2, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  20. kennykodak

    i took a charter once to the Bahamas. the flight attendant (whose name tag read "Hey Miss") made the customary safety announcements... "the bottom of your seat can be used as a floatation device as well as your inflight lunch".

    May 2, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Dave

      LOL

      May 2, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  21. Delta

    I think the last meal I had on Delta was 85 years old. As a matter of fact, I think the stewardess was, too!

    May 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  22. Tom

    The Schilling is Austrian currency. The Shilling is British currency.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • Michael

      Thank you. Editorial standards on cnn.com could be better.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Mike Hunt

      Sie haben recht, danke.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm |
    • Rob

      The Austrian Schilling is now obsolete, replaced by the Euro in 1999.
      Schillings were also the currency of Ireland, New Zealand and Somalia,
      as well as Malta, British Ceylon and some others.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
      • mike

        hmmm.. try spending some euro's in the uk.. they most of the time will refuse them. theu are staying with the good old pound and pence

        May 3, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  23. cantinadiva

    I flew Delta and Korean Air overseas recently and they both had pretty good food.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  24. coco2121

    People used to get dressed in their Sunday best when they flew.
    Now they wear pajama's or gym clothes. They try to find the absolute
    cheapest ticket they can. Then bitch about the food and
    how tight the seats are.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Lauren

      Coco2121. I paid a premium to fly on what is considered a "premium" airline and on a direct flight. I paid DOUBLE what I paid 5 years ago (at the same time of year). Yes, the seats were squeezed quite a bit more tightly. But I really don't feel that I am out of line for complaining about the food being so subpar that it made me physically ill.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
      • Lauren

        Oh, double what I paid 5 years ago. Same time of year (both trips were in April) and same exact airline.

        May 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • Rob

      Very similar to the movie theatre patrons' attire through the years!

      May 2, 2012 at 6:32 pm |
  25. Lauren

    Just flew Air France last week. The food on the flight home on Friday made me EXTREMELY ill. Airlines have really made flying a miserable experience by cutting costs.

    May 2, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Hasher Iva

      I've always found Air France to be better than most. Given a choice I'll go with Air France. Their service has always been above average and I've never had complaints about the food.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • oldfart

      they did that to you because they probably knew you were american...

      May 3, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
  26. jj

    They serve food on airlines?

    May 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • Aubrie

      LOL!!! How old are you?

      May 15, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  27. Braniff Airlines

    Our planes are pretty spectacular, and so is our Texas food. Enjoy!!

    May 2, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Don Diego

      I remember many years ago flying on Braniff and having something they called a "Branwich" and it was delicious!!!!

      May 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
      • Braniff Airlines@Don Diego

        Ha!! Great Memory Don...Makes me wonder if Sonny Bryan's became famous because of Braniff? Another Great Braniff haunt...Dunston's Steak House on Harry Hines Blvd.

        May 2, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • oldfart

      i came back from vn in 1969 on an orange DC8 with BI in large black letters on the vertical stab...i still have a blanket from that fllight...a gift of one of the f/a's. braniff will always be #1 with me...i know tom would have hated to see if go.

      May 3, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
  28. pkfops

    Want good service?

    Fly on an Asia based airline.

    May 2, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  29. Jerry

    85 years for Airline meals to become sub-par

    May 2, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
  30. Truth™

    Asiana Airlines, based out of Seoul-Incheon totally rocks. Always a choice of two or three entrees, and they are usually pretty tasty.

    May 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  31. AleeD®

    85 years?! Doesn't this stuff have an expiration date?

    May 2, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  32. RichardHead

    Thanks for the memories,Jim. As a Special friend of mine is streaking through the skies to Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix,AZ it makes me wonder...Do the peanuts taste better at 30,000 feet?

    May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  33. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    THE BEST airplane food I have ever eaten was DEFINITELY on Cathay Pacific!! Although, Turkish Air wasn't all that bad... Cathay Pacific did blow it out of the water though. Lots of seafood and I am obsessed with seafood. I loved the trolley car that would come up and down the aisle, it was like a moving buffet! I didn't have to go anywhere lol!

    May 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
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