Leading children’s food writer Annabel Karmel has criticised airlines for serving ‘horrible’ food on flights.
The UK’s best-selling author on baby and children’s food said airlines frequently ‘destroyed’ food by overcooking it and said many parents ‘don’t trust’ meals served on planes. She also criticised the lack of healthy snacks on flights, saying too often junk food was offered to passengers.
She told MailOnline Travel: “Airlines should be able to provide good food for children. I think it will get better but currently it’s pretty unhealthy.
“A bag of crisps, maybe biscuits and some dried-out food. It’s pretty horrible and a lot of parents bring their own food because they don’t trust it. If it was improved, parents would much prefer it, rather than having to carry their own food with them.”
Ms Karmel said a recent British Airways flight had left her in no doubt that airlines were failing customers when it comes to food onboard planes.
“I was served what they called a ‘salmon salad’. It was a piece of warm, salmon fillet – I have never eaten anything as dry as that. Really horrible. Everything we ate was really dry. It’s horrible and you end up eating it because you’re so bored but I would never normally eat something like that.
“Salmon – fish – with no thought is a disaster, it will never be right. Salmon needs to be slightly cooked for around eight minutes. If you’re heating it for 20 minutes, it’ll never be good. How anyone could think that would be a good meal on a plane is beyond me.”
She added: “I don’t think it’s that difficult to do. It’s just about having the right recipe to begin with, it doesn’t need to be any more expensive. They get it so wrong – they make things that would never withstand reheating.”
Karmel also doesn’t hold back when it comes to breakfast services. “Omelettes end up dry as a bone, scrambled eggs are congealed. Airlines would be better off serving a croissant and cereal. You can very rarely get eggs right on a plane.”
The criticism comes as British Airways released research on what their passengers like to eat at 30,000ft. The airline said ‘butter chicken curry’, Cadbury’s chocolate and lager were all hits with flyers but that requests for healthier options, such as peppermint tea and sparkling water, had also increased.
A BA spokesman defended their in-flight food, saying: “We’re disappointed that Annabel Karmel didn’t enjoy her dining with us on her recent flight and apologise if her meal wasn’t up to our usual high standard.
“British Airways is committed to constantly improving the menus for our customers, so they can chose from a range of dining options from healthy to indulgent.
“We always source fresh food wherever we can and ensure our suppliers provide us with produce with local provenance and have worked hard to reduce salt and remove all hydrogenated fats.
“We test all our menu’s before they go on our flights, with an in-house team of professional chefs and a tasting panel to maintain our high quality.”
Karmel said that there was lots more that carriers could do to improve food for children and that she was already working with an unnamed airline.
“Forget starters. Do a really nice main course that can be heated up and not destroyed. A hidden vegetable spaghetti bolognese can be brilliant – using something like penne because it’s more robust.
“Mum’s happy because she knows the child’s getting one of their five a day. The child’s getting their favourite meal – spaghetti bolognese ticks most boxes of what most children like. It’d be a really good meal.”
It isn’t just long-haul carriers that could improve, says Karmel. “You go on easyJet and it’s extra to buy Pringles or a Heinz tomato soup that’s just about passable. [A sandwich might be] white bread with a bit of cheese and ham in it, it’s disgusting and you pay extra for it. Why not have granary bread or something like a chicken salad? It could be done. I’m on holiday I want to have a treat!
An easyJet spokesperson said the airline’s food offering ‘has been carefully put together to cater for a wide variety of budgets and tastes”.
“Unlike legacy airlines, we offer our passengers the flexibility to choose from a comprehensive range of sandwiches as well as snacks like tasty couscous and lentil savoury pots. For our younger passengers we do offer a snack pack which includes healthy snacks as well as little treats.
“We let our passengers decide whether they would like a healthy option or a slightly more indulgent one and our customers are also welcome to bring their own food onboard.”
The low-cost carrier said it would be introducing more salads and organic drinks to services from this week.