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Normally, you get a meal or two depending on the length of your flight. However, let's say that you also brought your own food with you (maybe a burger or ramen). Are you allowed to ask the crew to heat it up for you? If so, what's the best way to do that?

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    Allowed to ask? Certainly. Will they do it? It will most probably depend on each airline’s policy. Heating up baby bottles is something they usually do, I believe. Anything else is probably much less likely, for all sorts of reason including the risk of contamination. – jcaron Jul 24 at 6:10
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    Can the ramen be prepared by just adding some hot water? If so, ask for a cup of hot water when the drinks cart comes by. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 6:44
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    also, define "heat up" - do you mean in a microwave? The hot meals are in a special cart that goes into a sort of oven thing and heats them all up at once. There are taps that dispense hot water. There may not be a microwave -- I think those baby bottles are heated by sitting in a bowl of hot water. – Kate Gregory Jul 24 at 12:50
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    You may get more chances, if you ask for you heat on a very calm period (not during main service), e.g. when crew is just waiting and checking things are ok. Think about hygiene (their point of view): bought ramen is better then home mane recipients (maybe old with sign of time) – Giacomo Catenazzi Jul 24 at 12:55
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    @Chronocidal I bought it before passing the security. I just put the takeaway bag in the scanning tray and it was let through. – Ski Mask Jul 27 at 13:17
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A cabin crewmember here.

The answer is: No, it is NOT allowed!

For various reasons, including:

  1. Security: We do not know what are you heating, is it a heat-activated bomb? is it something that might make a lot of smoke? etc.
  2. Health: We cannot contaminate the ovens, we know the source of the food that is provided by the airlines, we do not know the source of your food. Same ovens are used to heat the pilots' meals as well, we can't afford to have one of them having food poisoning in the middle of the flight?

The same goes for the refrigerators also.

Cabin crew do help passengers when it comes to babies' milk and so by providing hot water to heat up the bottle or a bag full of ice to cool things like medicines, but we shall never use the aircraft equipment to heat/cool any other food that is not provided by the airline.

There's a policy in the airline I work for that prohibits even the crewmembers from using the ovens/refrigerators to heat/cool their own food that they bring from outside the aircraft.

Some might say that they had a different experience and the crew helped them, yes it could happen when a crewmember decides to violate the rules to help a passenger based on his/her judgment, but that's not something to expect on every flight.

Factoids: there are various heating devices onboard airplanes, depending on the model and the airline, including Conventional ovens, steam ovens, microwave ovens, bun warmers, water heaters, steam wands, coffee makers, espresso machines, etc. Airlines and manufacturers have really taken these flying machines to the next level.

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    That kind of "we don't heat your food" policy is universal in every restaurant and cafeteria I've seen. You can get away with it in convenience store style operations where you're expected to microwave your own popcorn or hot pockets... but any place a server puts the food in the oven, forget it. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 24 at 18:31
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    @einpoklum yes, but sometimes they buy food from airports or bring their own from home, just like any passenger. Sometimes we just get bored from having the same choices for 3 or 4 months. – Nean Der Thal Jul 24 at 21:56
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    "is it a heat-activated bomb?" That's pretty ridiculous Bond-villain territory. If a passenger can smuggle a heat-activated bomb on board, they could also, more easily, have a push-button or timer-activated one. Should we ban in-flight Wi-Fi because someone could have a Wi-Fi-activated bomb? – nanoman Jul 25 at 20:08
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    @nanoman that's not ridiculous, a bomb that is made from simple material is possible, an expert managed to buy the material from the duty free market, look it up in youtube.. It's never bad to be extra cautious. – Nean Der Thal Jul 25 at 20:37
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    @nanoman the whole airline safety is built on the concept of multi lines of defences. We cannot rely on airport security, we have to assume that someone managed to out-smart it, and so on. That's the whole idea, everyone assumes that they are the last line of defence and act accordingly. – Nean Der Thal Jul 25 at 21:13
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They are unable to do so.

Most aircraft don't even have microwave ovens.

Not least, because of potential effects on avionics and sensors, not to mention power surge issues.

What they use for hot meal service is elaborate ovens made to heat many meals at once, provided they are packaged a particular way from the food supplier. The oven doesn't lend itself to general use for single meals.

There is also hot water spigot service for tea, which is how they heat a baby bottle. This might help with the ramen, but will get you nowhere with microwave fare such as burgers, pizza etc.

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    Do you have any example of an oven using engine bleed air? I found several companies selling aircraft ovens but they are electric. – MFlop Jul 24 at 14:27
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    Aircraft do not have microwave ovens This seems inaccurate. They seem to be rare, but some aircraft do have them. Also seconding request for a reference for ovens running off bleed air. I can't find any evidence of this. – MJeffryes Jul 24 at 14:48
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    @SkiMask, they do have ovens, but they are designed for heating the food packages that are served by the airline during the flight, not random items a passenger might bring on board. The flight attendants aren't going to take a chance that whatever you brought isn't going to make a mess or start a fire if put in the oven. – Seth R Jul 24 at 16:12
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    Some aircrafts DO have microwave ovens. I can confirm that as a cabin crew! – Nean Der Thal Jul 24 at 18:08
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Please don't insult my intelligence by pretending you did not insult me. It's a childish game of semantics to claim that you didn't call me a "sophomore pedant", and I'm not going to take lectures on helpfulness from someone who plays them. – MJeffryes Jul 25 at 18:21
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Cold food, such as a salad or cold sandwich, is likely to be easiest to bring on a plane. Reheating something, e.g. a burger, is very unlikely.

However, there is one way you can got hot food without asking the attendant for anything special. Pick instant soup, oatmeal, or indeed ramen, that can be prepared by adding hot, not necessarily boiling, water and waiting a specified time. During hot drinks service, when they are serving coffee etc, ask for one or two cups of hot water and use that to reconstitute your food. They serve tea as a cup of hot water and a tea bag, so the cart will have it.

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    I'm not sure tea served as hot water and tea bag is universal, is it? – jcaron Jul 24 at 12:48
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    @jcaron On flights I have been on even if they have pots of regular hot tea they also offer herbal teas in tea bags. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 13:08
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    @AzorAhai--hehim A burger is a sandwich that needs to be heated to be appetizing. I have modified my answer to make it clear I meant cold sandwiches. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 16:18
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    @AzorAhai--hehim That is also what I pictured, and the problem is that it needs to be warmed up. There are many sandwiches that are fine eaten cold. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 16:41
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    Oh I see, since the question was "Can I heat up food?," I read your first sentence as "likely to be easiest [to get warmed up]." I see now you meant it as easiest to bring on a plane. – Azor Ahai -- he him Jul 24 at 16:52
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British Airways will heat up milk for babies for you. You can certainly ask, but considering airlines are even reluctant to heat up the food they're serving to you, it would be a hard sell to ask them to heat up your personal food. Bring a salad or just wait until you land.

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    Thanks for your first answer on travel.stackexchange. Could you quickly explain why the cabin crew is reluctant to heat up the food they're serving you? In my experience i always burn myself on the food in the airplane. – Daan van Hoek Jul 24 at 13:56
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    I think it's more to do with the fact that they cannot, since they don't actually have an oven to warm up the food, as opposed to they are reluctant to. – Ski Mask Jul 24 at 14:18
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    Hot meals on flights are heated in special ovens designed to heat a lot of standard form-factor meals at once. – Patricia Shanahan Jul 24 at 16:19
  • Any airliner will heat baby's milk: they just use hot water. Airlines do not have any sort of over, whatsoever. no microwaves, no conventional ovens. – Fattie Jul 25 at 19:12
  • @Fattie "Airlines do not have any sort of over" -- assuming you mean "oven", this is incorrect. Planes where hot meals are served have convection ovens. – nanoman Jul 25 at 20:17
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A few planes didn't have warming stoves or on the off chance that they did, they were stuck loaded with the dinner embeds that should have been warmed for the feast to be served inflight. Which implies there was no capacity to do as such. Likewise, if the flight is just so long, full with drink administration to do, at that point supper, at that point bar administration, at that point tidy up… .there basically isn't time as the entire thing is completely organized and planned to fit impeccably inside time boundaries.

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  • On long flights there is plenty time between scheduled services, and as is shown in some other answers, on some flights cabin crew can and does heat up food. In most they don't but not for lack of time. – Willeke Jul 27 at 10:08

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