/ Food & Drink, Travel & Leisure

Would you chicken out of airline fast food?

A chicken flying through the sky

When I’m on a long-haul flight, I like to get my meal quickly. But Japan Airlines has taken the idea of ‘fast food’ to the next level, and has started serving KFC meals on some of its international flights.

If you’re on a flight between London and Tokyo during the Christmas period, your meal tray may well feature a chicken drumstick and breast fillet. Not to mention a flatbread, some coleslaw and a few lettuce leaves. With no deep-fat fryers on board, don’t expect chips with that, though.

As someone who doesn’t eat meat, I have to say this new move wouldn’t really affect me much, as long as the airline continues to offer a vegetarian option. What might get to me though is the smell of hundreds of these fried chickens wafting around the cabin. I imagine it’d be a bit like taking the night bus.

Chicken or fish?

The key is whether there’s also the option to choose something else. Surely you should be able to expect something vaguely healthy when you’re such a captive audience. The airlines that get high ratings for food and drink in our survey tend to offer at least two standard meal options on the menus for economy passengers.

The quality of airline food – and the issue of whether you have to pay extra for it in the first place – can make the flying experience a much more pleasant or frustrating one. Which? members’ comments about their airline experiences included:

  • ‘Utterly abysmal and extremely unhealthy’
  • ‘The food was horrible, tasteless and luke-warm’
  • ‘The food was dire and inappropriate, with more attention paid to fancy packaging than content’.

Some also complained about the lack of hot food. On a no-frills flight where you pay for everything, there’s little hot food available. Adding fast-food options could be a popular move. You do know what you’re getting with brand names (Japan Airlines’ meals stick to KFC’s trade secret recipe). And ‘normal’ meals aren’t necessarily that healthy anyway.

Japan Airlines are offering the KFC meals to passengers from now until the end of February 2013. This is the first collaboration that I know of between a fast food chain and an airline. Maybe it’s a sign of things to come.

How would you feel about the prospect of McDonalds or Burger King being offered as your in-flight meal? Do you think the standard of food on planes is getting better or worse?


I like the idea of the vegetarian option, Jonathan.

I prefer to stoke up in advance so that I can eschew the unchewable food they dole out on European flights. I’ve never yet had an airline meal that I thought was satisfactory. On a recent Thomson Airline flight very few pasengers took up the food offering as it was not included in the fare. Most people can keep going for three or four hours without eating or drinking; moreover, it reduces the necessity to clamber down the plane to use the poky toilets. For long-haul flights there is a need for a decent serving of something toothsome but a snacky thing and a well-made sandwich would be good enough for me. I think the whole food and drink palaver [and duty-free sales] on planes is more about keeping the cabin crew occupied than about fulfilling customers’ desires. It irks me that the airlines restrict the weight of passenger baggage quite severely then trundle down the aisle with half a ton of spirit bottles most of which go back unsold. I agree with Jonathan that the odour of the drumsticks would bring about a most unpleasant reaction.

all I need to know is – Can I pay for an upgrade and get a Pret A Manger meal instead?

I agree with John. Anyone should be able to survive for a few hours without being fed, though I would not mind a coffee, merely to feed the addiction. I would rather my fare paid for more legroom than dire food.

What’s the film on this flight – maybe Kentucky Fried Rat?

It needs to be mentioned that different cultures do not have the same attitude to fast food, the best example would be Russia, when a few years back it cost a weeks wages for a Big Mac, but, they still queued in their masses.

Yes, and you will find that McDonalds in Tokyo, not far from restaurants selling exquisite food at reasonable prices. Not everyone is keen on being served fast food, which is presumably why Which? has launched this discussion.

wavechange, Cannot seem to reply your reply…

Also, not everyone is keen on being served favourless food in a metal tray, whether its fast food or “chicken or beef Sir” the food is poor, I have no clue if the nutritional value of the metal tray is any better than a KFC or McDonalds. The point I was trying to make is some people might see KFC as a plus.

Some will, no doubt, be comforted by being offered familiar food. Others, like me, reject the offerings of large multinational companies. In a confined space, it would not be pleasant to have any form of food with a strong smell, so I don’t think fried food would be a good idea.

You cannot reply to a reply on Which? Conversation. Just reply to the original post and this ensures that related comments are not separated.

Jill says:
8 December 2012

I can’t eat on any plane that doesn’t offer the kind of meal service that used to be normal, because the flight attendants either have nothing that is gluten-free or have no information about (and don’t care) what is in the food. “Fast food” or not, none of it is safe for me to eat because I can’t tell whether it contains gluten or not.

clare ostler says:
21 December 2012

It is beyond me that people cannot sit on a plane for a few hours without stuffing there faces. I always have a lovely meal in a nice restaurant before take off, its all part of my travel plan. If i could not do this i would buy a good quality sandwich to eat on the plane.

If the food on the flight was good, then of course that would add to the enjoyment of the flight, but how could it be with limited cooking facilities.