Cool It: The Best Ice Creams Airlines Serve in the Sky

Jul 15, 2018

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In deference to National Ice Cream Day (which naturally falls on a Sundae), here’s a little confession: while sky champagne is grand, ice cream on a plane is something of which I’m particularly enamored. I can remember long ago on my first and rarely repeated experience in first class on a United flight from LAX to Honolulu being served customizable ice cream sundaes (the gooey hot fudge! that whipped cream!) which both kids and adults attacked with singular fervor. Today that chill-fueled glee can come in many, if unpredictable, forms and flavors.

Unlike luxury treats such as Champagne and caviar, when ice cream is served on planes it’s done a little differently. Elaborate ice cream sundae presentations, when they still happen, are largely the domain of first class, while packaged ice creams are sometimes more democratically served in business class and even in coach on some international long-hauls. On some airlines such as JetBlue, only craft creams will do: in Mint class, they serve the kind of local artisanal ice creams which JetBlue’s vice president of marketing Jamie Perry has said “you wait in line for on a hot summer night, not the industrial dairy dessert products that you’d find in other premium cabins.”

Now, you don’t need it to be National Ice Cream Day to value the health benefits of eating ice cream in the skies: at 30,000 feet, ice cream is a perfect candidate to not only titillate your taste buds but to give you a leg up on extra hydration too. So in the name of ice cold vanilla kisses and frozen chocolate thrills, here’s the skinny on some of the places where you can get your frosty on in the skies. Just remember: as always with on-board food and beverage, brands and selections are subject to change.

JetBlue: If you have a passion for artisanal American ice creams, then JetBlue’s Mint is absolutely for you. Brooklyn’s Blue Marble, purveyor of flavors such as blueberry ice cream and blood orange sorbet, is served on Mint flights departing from JFK. From LAX, Mint flyers can dip their spoons into Coolhaus flavors like dirty mint and strawberry mojito sorbet. Out of SFO, Double Rainbow is served in Mint and other brands are available from Fort Lauderdale and Boston. The airline’s latest ice cream partner is Molly Moon’s of Seattle, served in Mint on the BOS-SEA and JFK-SEA routes.

Incidentally, in celebration of National Ice Cream month, from July 26-31, JetBlue card holders can get a free scoop when passing through FLL on Thursday, July 26th and T5 terminal at JFK on Friday, July 27th.

American Airlines:  Mainstream and proud of it, American is probably too big to go artisanal, but the same folks who used to buy Madonna records probably also appreciate the Häagen-Dazs that’s served in AA business class. Premium dining also includes a traditional ice cream sundae with Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream and a choice of hot fudge, butterscotch or seasonal berry toppings, as well as whipped cream and chopped nuts.

Aeroflot: Russians are really good at at least two things: espionage and vanilla ice cream — and having spent a long hot summer in Moscow, I can definitely vouch for the latter. On flights out of Moscow over six hours, passengers (in economy!) could be served yummy Korovka vanilla ice cream (Korovka loosely translated means Milky the Cow, as pictured on the package).

Singapore Airlines: We’ve spotted the aptly named Chocolate Ecstasy, made by the highly regarded New Zealand Natural ice cream, aboard its Singapore-Sydney flights. Other brands may vary by route.

Emirates: Look for Solley’s Kentish Ice Cream to be served on Emirates. Luscious farm-fresh flavors could include mint chocolate chip, rhubarb and ginger crumble and the unreasonably delicious sounding, you-have-to-have-some-right-now Raspberry Eton Mess. These ice creams are also suitable for Halal passengers.

Qantas: Australia’s flag carrier keeps it cool and interesting with Pine Lime Slice bars (kind of like Popsicles but with a creamy vanilla center) and Weis Bars, which also pair a frozen fruit exterior with a creamy interior strip. As a partner airline of Emirates, Qantas also serves Solley’s Kentish Ice Cream on some routes.

Swiss: Fancy a “symphony of cherries and chocolate with white chocolate”? High-flying ice cream medleys like that will make your taste buds sing in First.

Air France: Ice cream is served as part of Air France’s newfangled à la carte menu options in economy (they are quite proud of their trays, designed by a student of Philippe Starck), but who knows what brand? They’re French after all: un peu de mystère people.

ANA: Serves assorted ice creams in First.

British Airways:  BA’s new four-course menu for World Traveller passengers includes Magnum ice cream bars (Madonna eats them at night) as a perfectly acceptable if somewhat mundane snacking option.

SAS: Ice cream is sometimes served in business class.

Delta: Here comes this article’s second confession: not only do I dream that one day Delta will properly credit my Virgin Atlantic codeshare flight points, but I also dream of flying Delta One because that’s one place where they serve Georgia-based High Road ice cream. And I would be torn between the High Road Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae and a serving of High Road Cherry Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream (I also just identified two perfectly valid reasons to move to Georgia).

Etihad: “A selection of ice creams” is a regular offering in First.

United: The airline’s signature made-to-order ice cream sundaes are available in Polaris business class.

Lufthansa: In Lufthansa’s First Class, ice cream is more often served as an accompaniment to a fancy dessert than as a standalone snack: think pistachio ice cream with Pêche Haeberlin (Champagne zabaglione and sweet pickled peaches are involved).

Air New Zealand: In Business Premier, look for innovative frozen offerings such as a gourmet dessert of blackberry and blackcurrant ice cream or perhaps vanilla Swiss almond and Rocky Road with caramel sauce and brown sugar meringue… YAAAS to that.

Note: no ice cream was consumed in the writing of this article, but this was principally due to lack of a first class ticket. And a freezer. 

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