The 5 best first-class meals in the sky today

Mar 7, 2021

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Warning: Make sure you’re not hungry when you’re reading this.

Flying first class is an experience everyone should do at least once. And if that one time is with any of these airlines, then the memory will last forever.

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Not only will you be treated like the king or queen that you are, but the dining experience will likely be better than anything you’ve tasted with your feet firmly on the ground.

I’ve already done enough talking. Strap yourself in — you’re going to enjoy this ride!

These are the best first-class meals in the sky, starting from best to worst.

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Air France

Score: 25/25

As the winner of Best International First-Class product at the 2019 TPG Awards, it’s no surprise that Air France takes the No. 1 spot in our round-up of the best first-class meals in the sky.

Usually, welcome drinks are limited to a selection of bubbles, juice or water. Not when flying La Première. TPG’s Global News Editor Emily McNutt was able to request whatever drink she liked. Naturally, she went for a glass of the Comtes Grand Cru.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Being served an appetiser at 30,000 feet is one thing, but an appetiser of langoustines, Ossetra caviar and gentian (a herb) drops, complete with a mother of pearl spoon, is quite spectacular.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Next up was a delicious cream of chestnut and celeriac soup.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

There was a second starter of foie gras that Emily skipped as she’s not a fan.

The fourth course, her main, was a beautifully presented dish of traditional French quenelles stuffed with pike-and-scallop in a lemon-parsley sauce with risotto-style root vegetables. Wow.

Despite the consistency being strange at first, the dish was flavourful and fit together perfectly.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

In true French style, next up was a cheese plat of Camembert, Fourme d’Ambery and Comté. Oui, s’il vous plaît.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

To accompany her cheese, Emily opted for a glass of the lovely, balanced 2014 Château Phélan-Ségur Saint-Estèpe.

Emily had requested to be woken up for breakfast before arrival in Beijing. She went for the apple pastille with crème anglaise which came with fresh fruit, bread, yoghurt and freshly-squeezed orange juice.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Alongside it was a “delightful” espresso — a word rarely used to describe in-flight coffee.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

Felicitations, Air France. It was delicious “from the first bite to the last sip of my espresso,” Emily said.

Japan Airlines

Score: 24/25

In joint second place with a score of 24/25, was an experience onboard Japan Airlines from New York’s JFK Airport to Tokyo Narita (NRT).

Before we tuck in, JAL considers its first-class culinary experience as a “restaurant in the sky” and serves both a Japanese and Western-style menu. What a treat TPG’s Sam Rosen had in store.

She kicked off with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne — one of three types of Champagne. available.

Rather than topping up, she excitedly moved onto a glass of Cristal.

(Photo by Sam Rosen/The Points Guy)

After an incredible start, the selection of kozara starters “blew it out of the water.” Sam drooled over the selection of grilled flounder roll, grilled lobster with egg yolk vinegar and a Japanese omelette topped with caviar. Then, sea bream with braised soy pulp and a fried soft-shell crab marinated in vinegar sauce. Wow.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

The “bowl dish’, owanwas a clear broth with grilled sea bass and winter melon.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Up next was azukebachi — a broiled aubergine dish with noodles and “incredibly fresh” sashimi.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

For the main course, Sam’s sukiyaki-style beefsteak was actually quite bland and not as hot as she would have liked. The accompanying rice, especially the ginger one, was a hit.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

And for dessert, a rather strange-looking concoction of black sesame pudding and black tea with jam. While Sam doesn’t care for jam, “if you like jam, you’d probably enjoy this quite a bit,” Sam said.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Despite having more than enough to eat for her evening meal, Sam couldn’t resist ordering a portion of soba noodles from JAL’s extensive à la carte menu.

(Photo by Samantha Rosen/The Points Guy)

Credit where credit is due, Sam summarised her experience by saying “they weren’t kidding about being a restaurant in the sky.”

Emirates

Score: 24/25

Also in second place is Emirates. An airline that, according to former TPG writer JT Genter, “makes sure that no first-class passenger goes hungry or thirsty.” I’m sold.

Waiting for him on board was a generous selection of snacks. While welcome drinks are customary, I can’t recall having seen boarding snacks before? At least not such a wide array.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

If that wasn’t enough, each first-class suite boasts a fully-stocked signature minibar. You’ll have to wait for your alcoholic beverages, however.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

It wasn’t long before JT was sipping on a glass of 2008 Dom Pérignon.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Following his fresh pour was the quintessentially Middle Eastern selection of dates.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

If you’re after a drink that’s a little harder, the walk-up self-service “drinks cabinet” is available to first-class passengers throughout the flight. As well as being able to order via the call button, of course.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Not forgetting the exclusive, fully-stocked bar, which features only on Emirates A380 aircraft.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

On to the starter. The caviar was the only option on JT’s mind. Beautifully presented and washed down with both a glass of Grey Goose and the “incredible” Dom Perignon Vintage 2002 Plénitude 2, this was a starter fit for a king.

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

What came next was an equally fabulous beef Wellington that was “cooked to a perfect medium-rare.”

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Before arrival in Los Angeles (LAX), JT decided to go for a paneer tikka masala — a second dish from the dinner menu. It was a “tasty way to conclude a long day of eating and drinking.”

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

There were some other elements like ice creams and desserts that JT also indulged in, but to stop you from drooling too much, I’ve kept it to the show-stoppers

Korean Air

Score: 23/25

In third place, scoring just one point less, is Korean Air and a 15-hour flight on one of the airline’s classic 747-8i aircraft from Atlanta to Seoul. It’s one of the few airlines still operating this version of the Queen of the Skies.

Only soft drinks were served on the ground. That’s okay though, as TPG contributor Ethan Steinberg was soon served a glass of the “delicious” Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque rosé Champagne.

In unequivocal first-class style, Ethan was asked which drink he would like to pair with each of his courses. I don’t think I’ve ever even been asked that in a restaurant let alone in the sky…

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Shortly after Ethan had devoured the salmon-wrapped asparagus amuse-bouche, he was presented with a starter of deliciously flavoursome and perfectly-cooked tuna tartare and avocado with seared scallops.

His only complaint was the lack of caviar sauce with this dish.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

The soup dish was inevitably perfect. It was a thick and creamy tomato soup with a spongy side of garlic bread, perfect for dipping.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

Before the main course was a “nothing fancy but hit the spot” salad.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

No less than five courses later came the bimibap — “an absolute must when flying Korean,” according to Ethan.

This course was paired with a bottle of Chateau Branaire-Ducru, which the FA opened to breathe before serving. It doesn’t get much more first-class fine dining than that.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

The meal ended with a bit of an anticlimax. Ethan skipped the cheese board, instead opting to tuck straight into a chocolate crunch cake served with ice cream. As both were frozen and “hard as a rock,” this was the “low point of an otherwise perfect meal service,” Ethan said.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

It didn’t stop there. A full, three-course pre-arrival meal was served before landing.

Delicious focaccia and a fresh colourful salad started things off.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

For main, the “absolutely perfectly” cooked panfried sea bass with mashed sweet potatoes had Ethan “stuffed and beyond satisfied with the catering.” Nice work, Korean.

(Photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy)

British Airways

Score: 23/25

In all honesty, I was surprised that British Airways featured in the top five.

However, the meal TPG Director of Content Nicky Kelvin enjoyed on this flight from London to Chicago was truly something to write home about.

After turning down the Champagne welcome drink, it wasn’t long before Nicky caved and had himself not double, but triple parked. His excuse was to “test out the new glassware.”

The Champagne in the beautiful flute was Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle and the red a Chateau Prieure-Lichine.

The stunning glassware aboard BA’s A380 in First (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Canapés of Shropshire blue cheese, smoked salmon with cream cheese and caviar, and salami with olive and sun-dried tomatoes came next. And what a delightfully colourful trio it was.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

The soup course which followed was goat cheese, asparagus and Vichyssoise soup poured over a poached duck egg and potato salad. Nicky confirmed that it was as exceptional as it sounded.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Unfortunately, Nicky was disappointed with the beef main dish. The sides it came with were decent, especially the tasty mushrooms, but the meat itself didn’t live up to his high standards.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

To finish things off nicely was a “truly excellent” chocolate-and-orange delice. Sounds right up my street.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

One last important note is regarding his post-dinner coffee. Coffee on planes is often naff at the best of times but this tasty and frothy delight was “about as good as you would ever get on a plane,” Nicky said.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Before landing came the quintessentially British afternoon tea on a beautifully elegant tiered stand.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

The sandwiches and cakes were accompanied by a scone and quail eggs and salmon. The fruitcake was particularly delicious.

(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

If Michelin did stars for inflight dining, I’m sure these five first-class meals would win one. Flying first class is about as good as it gets unless you’re in a private jet, that is.

When you’re splashing the cash (or redeeming hundreds of thousands of miles), we expect nothing less than perfection, especially when it comes to drinking and dining on board. Thanks to the airlines featured in this round-up, it’s safe to say that you really can find restaurant-level cuisine at 35,000 feet.

So, which one will you be trying out first?

Featured image by JT Genter/The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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