How to Get Your Meal on an Airplane Faster

…or why I order special meals when possible.

Although airlines don’t serve meals in coach on domestic flights anymore, most still serve them on international flights. And if you have the misfortune of sitting near the back of the plane, you won’t get your meal until much later, and you might not get your first choice of entree.

But if you’ve ever paid attention to meal service, some people get their meals before everyone else: people who order special meals. So if you want to get your meal before everyone else, just order a special meal on a plane.

There are a lot of different options for special meals on most airlines (Emirates offers over 20 special meals; United offers 9 special meals), and I usually go for the VGML aka vegan meal (note for vegans: just because you ordered a vegan meal doesn’t mean that everything is actually vegan… United’s catering out of the US seems to be particularly bad about this).

united_vgml_breakfastA United VGML breakfast with soy milk and real maple syrup (and some sort of vegan egg substitute)! Not sure what I was supposed to put the syrup on though…

I think special meals are great! You get your food before everyone else (which means that you can get to sleep earlier), they’re often much more appetizing than what they normally serve (particularly when catered from Asian countries, although this is up to your own preferences), and if they forget to cater it, you can usually ask nicely and a flight attendant will try to scrounge up something special for you (if the flight attendant doesn’t seem to care, ask to speak to the purser on the flight; I’ve also gotten free miles as compensation when they don’t have my special meal).

Have you ever ordered a special meal on a flight? What was your experience with it?

3 thoughts on “How to Get Your Meal on an Airplane Faster

  1. P

    I always get “Hindu non-veg” for exactly the reasons you mentioned: your food comes faster, tastes significantly better, and you avoid getting stuck with the item no one else wanted if you’re at the back of the plane.

  2. Where's Pablo

    I don’t usually order a special food item, but many airlines allow you to take fast food on the plane. At least on the flights within the USA. It always cracks me up, I’ll walk on the plane with some Burger King or Panda Express and people are shocked, “You can do that?”

    “Why yes… yes I can. : )”

    1. Edward

      I often bring food onto planes, especially for domestic long-hauls in coach. My recent pick has been banh mi, as they’re super cheap and still taste great after sitting around after a couple of hours.


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