PHOTO: Delta and Virgin Atlantic serve the healthiest food in the skies. (photo via Flickr/Pat Guiney)
Eating airline food is rarely a memorable experience (unless, of course, you’re in first class).
Not only is the cuisine less than appetizing, it’s also not typically all that healthy or fresh. The number of calories in the average airline meal, for instance, rose to 405 this year.
To help travelers everywhere, a professor at New York’s Hunter College has studied and ranked the 12 biggest airlines from best to worst based on which carrier serves the healthiest food options. Charles Platkin, the editor of the Diet Detective website, scored airlines from zero to five based on a variety of factors such as calorie levels, healthy nutrients, clarity of nutritional information, menu innovation and more, according to Lonely Planet.
In order to assess each airline's food offerings, Platkin contacted the carriers and requested nutrition information for foods served and made available for purchase in economy-class on domestic flights. He also evaluated food quality based on data found on websites and other online resources.
According to his measure, the two airlines with the healthiest food in the industry are Delta and Virgin Atlantic (both with four stars).
Delta, according to the report, was extremely cooperative, providing nutritional information for evaluation. As for how its food stacked up, the average calories per meal is 559. The airline’s snack boxes have an average of 560 calories, and individual snacks were found to have about 164 calories.
“Delta is doing an incredible job focusing on improving its food, transparency and communication. It is the clear leader among the big carriers by a long shot,” states the report.
What’s more, Delta continues its commitment to improving its food in terms of health and consciousness, the report adds.
Virgin Atlantic meanwhile, was also described as excellent in terms of cooperation providing nutritional information. The airline’s snack boxes have an average of 358 calories, while meals have about 460.
“Virgin is still the only airline that provides nutritional information (not just calories) for all items,” states the report. “We applaud that transparency and hope Alaska (which recently bought Virgin) continues to do so.”
READ MORE: Airline Food Is Bad in More Ways Than One
Air Canada and JetBlue tied for second (3.75 stars), while Alaska received 3.5 stars. Rounding out the rankings is: United (2.75), American (2.5), Frontier Air(2.25), Southwest Airlines (2), Allegiant Air (1.75) and Spirit Airlines (1.75).
Hawaiian Airlines earned just one star.
The “Shame on You” award, according to Platkin’s report, goes to both Hawaiian and United Airlines, both of which were described as “less than helpful” when contacted for information. Hawaiian, according to Platkin, “just would not respond, while United’s food and beverage department seems put-out by the process, and it showed in their responses to queries.”
Additional news regarding airline food provided in the Diet Detective’s report includes that American and Delta are offering free meals in economy class for the first time in 15 years. Other airlines are going back to offering complimentary snacks. (Just how healthy those snacks are may be another matter.)
The full rankings can be found here.
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