32

My recent flight from Warsaw to Tallinn by LOT didn't serve a meal.

They only served a slice of chocolate and coffee, and I got pretty upset with it. The flight time is less than 100 minutes but my past experience on Seoul-Tokyo flight by Korean Air served a meal, so I expected it.

On the other hand, on my recent flight from Minsk to Kiev, which was scheduled to take 60 minutes (but was actually only 45 minutes), they served a pack of sandwiches. I asked an attendant for three more packs of sandwiches and it was enough to fill my appetite at the night.

I also assumed that if it is an international flight, a meal is served. But I found this not to be correct.

Also, as far as I know when I book a ticket, the meal information is not always displayed. I just checked but my flight reservation email didn't display it either.

So is there any rule on whether a meal is served or not? How can I find out in advance? I would like to decide if I should eat something before the flight...

The question is restricted to non-LCC airlines.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Oct 5 '17 at 12:06
  • Each airline has its own rules, and they just use a formula. One I'm aware of had an algorithm that was bascially: >60 minutes flight time and crossed 'meal times' (eg. 12:00-14:00) in either the departure or arrival city. There was also another list: 'meal must be served' for particular routes regardless of flight time (the ones that had many politicians on the flight)! There was also another algorithm for 'free booze must be served' too. Exceptions on this were made for particular flights e.g. no alcohol on flights with a lot of FLIFO workers, because of bad behaviour! – Pete855217 Oct 6 '17 at 4:45
  • To find out meal availabiity, the SSIM schedule format includes meal codes against each flight, so you can see it in the schedule beforehand. If you can't see it online, ask any travel agent: it comes up in the availability and schedule displays as a code eg. 'M' for meal, 'S' for snack', 'R' refreshments etc. There's no specific code for 'alcohol served' as far as I know though! – Pete855217 Oct 6 '17 at 4:51
67

There are no universal rules requiring food to be served on any flight. The decision to serve or not is pretty much up to the airline. And as you have discovered there is a huge difference in what airlines do.

I have been on plenty of short flights with meal service and plenty with nothing but a pack of peanuts. I have been on long hauls where food was served too many times and long hauls were a bit more would have been desirable.

Many airlines do show some sort of indication of the services provided, but not all do. If you don't see it noted, you can always give them a call if you feel your flight is long enough for a need to eat.

But to be honest getting angry because they didn't feed you on a short flight is a bit childish. You, as a traveler, have the bulk of responsibility to take care of yourself, it is not the airline's responsibility to feed you anytime you feel hungry.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – JoErNanO Oct 5 '17 at 12:06
23

As with most things nowadays, there is a webpage for it ;-)

Actually, there are (at least) two:

InflightFeed Airline Meals

You can search or browse by airline which should provide you with a good starting point to figure out the food choices for your connection. Feel free to share your own experiences and help these sites grow!

  • 1
    They do not look terribly helpful --- they don't tell on which flights an airline serves a real meal rather than a pack of peanuts (which is OP's question). – Federico Poloni Oct 4 '17 at 6:45
  • Airline Meals looks to have a contact page, so OP could always ask them if they can start to record this in the future. It takes very little time to tweet most airline providers to check prior to a flight, too! – ajfstuart Oct 4 '17 at 9:44
6

For any flight over 3-4 hours, international or not, I would expect a meal to be served. Flights over 8-10 hours will often serve two meals, depending on the timing. If you get more food than that, be happy :-) but I wouldn't expect it. As you said, usually you'll see on your ticket if a meal will be served. It depends where you book, but if a meal is not shown on the ticket it is probably not being served. Some airlines will have meal info on their websites. The only surefire way to know is to call the airline (and even then... airline call center employees will often give different answers...). I always bring my own food just in case- tastes better anyway! Happy travels!

  • 14
    Plenty of 5-6 hour flights, coast-to-coast in the US/Canada, don't serve meals - though they likely have things available for purchase. – Cascabel Oct 3 '17 at 15:46
  • 1
    I think you mean meal to be served for free. Meals are available to be served on all flights (varying definition of "meal") I think the question is more is it complementary, included in the fare, or a secondary purchase. – Burhan Khalid Oct 4 '17 at 5:20
  • @BurhanKhalid Well, not all flights. Some flights are so short that there's no time. For example, I was on a flight this morning that was airborne for a total of about 25 minutes. Obviously, no meal was served, paid or otherwise. That said, for flights roughly > 1 hour, you're right for most airlines. – reirab Oct 4 '17 at 21:37
  • @Jefromi There are less of those now than there used to be. Delta serves complimentary meals on their transcon flights, for example. The most extreme example of what you're talking about in the past, though, were probably flights to Hawaii. Atlanta to Honolulu is a 10 hour flight. It's actually a longer flight than Honolulu to Tokyo. Yet, since it's domestic and used to be treated like other domestic flights, no complimentary meal was served in economy until recently. – reirab Oct 4 '17 at 21:39
2

I think there are a few things here that need to be accounted for:

  1. Does the flight itself have catering services.
  2. How many meal services there are (this depends on the length of the flight)
  3. Is the meal service free, complimentary or charged
  4. What constitutes a "meal".

The answer to all the above is - it depends entirely on the airline; and there are websites (as pointed to by martin in his answer) that attempt to tabulate this information but the bottom line is, unless you specifically check with the airline for that specific flight - you will not get a definitive answer.

Even if meal service is available on a flight, it may be suspended due to turbulence (this happened to me once on a flight to Amsterdam where the weather got really bumpy).

The shortest flight I have been one that served something was the flight from the old Dammam airport to Manama. This flight took off, climbed to 6,000 feet, and then landed. Entire flight time was less than 15 minutes. Upon entering the cabin you were handed:

  1. A pack of juice
  2. The landing card to fill for Bahrain

You had just enough time to finish both before the plane touched down.

My most bizarre experience was recently on a flight where (due to weather) I was bumped to a different airline - which didn't serve complimentary meals even though the original airline I booked with did.

I ended up having to pay for a coffee on board.

Then I have been on some airlines where you can ask for an additional serving of the entire meal (so two complete meals) and were happily taken care of; and then on the Emirates A380 that has a bar that is open during flight where you can enjoy all manners of snacks and drinks.

  • 1
    I don't understand what is bizarre about the experience you describe. – gerrit Oct 4 '17 at 16:55
  • The bizarre thing was that I should not have to had to pay for meals; since I already paid a fare that includes a meal; the airline bumped me to a partner carrier which used [a] smaller aircraft [b] no meal service [c] did not have my premium preferred seating, which I paid for. – Burhan Khalid Oct 5 '17 at 4:50
  • 2
    That's "unfortunate", not "bizarre". – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 5 '17 at 10:11
  • I once flew from Vienna to Graz in Business Class and was served a meal. The distance is about 200 kms and scheduled duration of the flight was 35 minutes, of which maybe 10 - 15 mins was non non taxi, take-off or approach. Was in a hurry to eat. It was a cold meal, obviously. Didn't fully understand why such a short flight has a business class in the first place. I did not book the tickets myself. – Tero Lahtinen Oct 6 '17 at 8:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.