Lufthansa food

Travelling Business Class is very lovely, and I was lucky enough to be flown that way to Rio and back last week on a Lufthansa flight via Frankfurt. On my own dime I am always in the back of the plane, but when you are doing over fifty hours of travelling in four and a half days with public speaking in the middle of that, then Business Class, where you really can sleep, becomes infinitely desirable.

Given a choice I would always fly Virgin Atlantic, not only because they serve great food, but because they have the most comfortable Business Class. But they often don’t fly to the places I travel, and usually I am in the hands of clients as to the airline on which I travel, which often means the less inexpensive carriers. I do a lot of flights on the Star Alliance, (recently I flew United First Business which was properly excellent), but I usually fly Lufthansa, which I generally like, both for their efficiency and for the WiFi on long haul flights. But the food, oh GOD the food…

I’m easing you into this post: above are the gummy sweeties we were handed just before take off on the flight from London Heathrow to Frankfurt last week. I thought it a charming gesture. Unfortunately the frankly Byzantine Lufthansa online system meant that my vegetarian meal request wasn’t processed in time, so no food for me on the first leg of my flight.

Good thing I wasn’t hungry: I had had a bowl of industrial catering company mushroom soup in the Star Alliance lounge at Terminal 1 – its near culinary relation would be wallpaper paste. Still, it was more edible than the curling desiccated fish fillets, prehistoric nuggets and flaccid French fries on offer. I will draw a veil over the dehydrated, wrinkled baked potatoes and their pickled egg accompaniments.

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The entire thing was a national embarrassment: how can we still be serving food like this in the 21st century? Any visitor from Foreign would have their belief that British food was beyond rehabilitation fully reinforced.

On board on German territory, things did not perk up. This is a starter of ice cold noodles with grilled pineapple, with a lump of papaya. Just…bizarre. And a tomato dressing of such industrial chemical horror that I spat it out.

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This is the vegetarian dining option in Business Class. One of the most offensively disgusting things I have ever seen or tasted on a plate. Apparently it was an aubergine (eggplant) stuffed with Feta. Apparently. The pale things floating in a puddle of grease are parsley root. Apparently.

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Pudding was a passion fruit mousse. The jellied top would have bounced down the aisle.

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Breakfast was ham or sausages. (Slightly odd in that pork is probably the meat that fewest people choose, so German or not, you’d have thought they’d have a non oinking option). Eggs and potatoes were fine though. (I think the sprinkling of parsley shows that this is a Business Class option, because other than that I couldn’t discern any difference whatsoever between that and an economy breakfast.)  That yogurt thing was so sweet I could feel my fillings screaming.

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This was my main course on the way home. It was a practically raw tomato filled with breadcrumbs. That’s it. Unseasoned, unfried, pappy, soggy breadcrumbs. Lufthansa also apparently own a machine for extracting all flavour out of raw vegetables. For once, words fail me.

lufthansa business food

So if you are labouring under the illusion that turning left on the plane leads to a world of luxury, then think again. The flat (ish) seats do make a world of difference where sleeping is concerned, but I would always advise packing a picnic…

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25 comments

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Um, I realize you’re entitled to critique any business any way you see fit, but as someone who just got off a long-haul flight in economy class travelling with a baby and the flu, I’m a little chuffed with you about now. The tone of this post just comes off as bitchy and entitled. For godsake, it’s airline food! It’s supposed to be awful!

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@Sadie: I am sorry that you feel that way, and that you personally did not have a good recent flight. And, sure, writing about expensive experiences that go wrong does have the odd person saying ‘oh poor you, are your ruby slippers pinching?’

But I have never understood the mentality that says ‘oh your experience was expensive so shut up and put up if something goes wrong because other people can’t do what you did’. How does that make any sense whatsoever? Everyone should receive what they have paid for, in this case edible food, at whatever price they have paid.

I also don’t understand why this piece is bitchy? I am not writing this because I am a nasty person or because I have an axe to grind with Lufthansa – I travel with them frequently – I am merely reporting my experience as I found it.

Neither do I believe I am acting in an ‘entitled’ manner by boarding an aircraft with an expectation of good food on a ticket which had cost my client thousands of dollars, and which held out the promise of excellent food.

I both cook and write about food as part of my career, and am at a loss to understand what is so offensive about critiquing a terrible meal or culinary experience, whether it is thousands of feet in the air, or down on the ground. And this wasn’t just bad airline food: it was incomprehensibly disgusting food, badly conceived and poorly executed.

I refuse to go through life with low expectations, shrugging my shoulders and saying, ho hum well it was supposed to be bad when I get something crappy. Airline food is not ‘supposed to be awful’. (And, as I have written before, generally I really like airline food both in Economy and elsewhere. I have eaten delicious meals whether at the back or the front of the plane.)

In particular, airlines spend millions of dollars developing their Business Class menus, working with famous chefs, and use food as a hook to attract customers. On this flight I was handed an expensively bound personal menu detailing in food p*rn prose what I might expect to eat. Sadly it did not live up to the billing.

The fact remains that Business Class fares are what keep the airlines going: they need the margins on those fares and, supposedly, enormous thought goes into the experience to a)attract customers and b) aid customer retention (which is why they offer Miles – anything to keep them loyal)

So I think pointing out that the food is bad is a valid point, and also one that is of value to others thinking of travelling on a particular carrier. And I believe in showing things how they are: maybe it’s good to realise that things aren’t always as wonderful as people believe them to be.

I was also horrified that our flagship airport, which goes to great lengths to promote UK Limited, should serve the kind of 1970s food that reinforces the old British reputation for bad food. What is so wrong with pointing that out?

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@LLG: I agree that this looks horrendous and I can just imagine that it tasted the same too. I do not believe Sadie that you would be happy with this meal if it was received by yourself.

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@Georgina: I had one mouthful -it was GRIM! LLGxx

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@LLG: Excellent response.

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@Natalie: Why, thank you! LLGxx

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As I said before, you are perfectly within your rights to critique the airline food (and overall experience) any way you see fit. And I can understand how others would find that helpful. But my issue was with the tone of the piece; saying you spat something out or that a jelly could have bounced down the aisle may be entertaining to some, but I found it adolescent and nasty in tone; something I am happy to say I don’t think I’ve noticed on your blog before.
No, I would not have been happy to pay thousands of dollars and receive this meal, but at the same time, I probably would have been a bit more philosophical about the entire experiences. Airlines exist to make money. And they often make more money by cutting staff, services and the raw materials that make up their business. Say what you will, but that’s capitalism 101. Airline staff exist to safely get you to your destination and back; they aren’t really as concerned with your comfort and dietary preferences as they are with your safety (and personally, I prefer it that way). There are a multitude of complicated factors that could have affected your meal service. I’m wondering, did you bring your disappointment to Lufthansa’s attention so they could try to do something to remedy the situation? Or did you just blog about it?
Like I said, my issue wasn’t so much with the content of this post, but with the tone. It was imbalanced, whiny and seemed like bitchfest more than a balanced, thoughtful review.

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I told them the food was inedible. And last time I checked airline staff had nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of food. I have to say I find your depressive and downbeat view of life terrible dispiriting. LLG

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Look LLG, I’m not going to argue with you. If you don’t understand tone (the overall sentimental impact or “mood” your word choices leave upon the reader) or what it means to write a balanced review (such as mentioning more about the services and amenities you did find pleasant on the flight) you aren’t much of a writer. Fine.

However, as someone who lives with Bipolar disorder, I find your comment about my “depressive and downbeat view of life” rather nasty (hey, I’m not the one whining about her business class food now am I?) One should never refer to depression as an insult and your doing so really speaks volumes about your attitudes towards those with a genuine, serious medical condition. Lovely. Is that really the kind of message you want to put out on this otherwise very nice blog?

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@Sadie: Ok Sadie, you clearly have your issues but I am Sasha’s sister. I have MS and have had serious bouts of depression in the past (been in hospital etc) so I find your assumptions about her offensive. She understands more than most people about serious medical conditions. As for insulting her writing skills, I think you will find that her many clients and hundreds of thousands readers worldwide do not share your view. I think you should stop and think before you judge people so harshly. Right now I am ‘chuffed’ with you. Have you thought about the impact your word choices have on those who read them? Clearly not.

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@Sadie: Hi Sadie,
– I thought it was clearly a light hearted look at how things can veer badly from their intended path (viz the carefully selected menu presented in a binder). If she spat something out, or found a jelly rubbery and hard surely she is within her rights to say so? I, as with LLG, am at a complete loss to understand why that is adolescent and nasty in tone. (You can’t rad many restaurant reviews!) And anyway it was clearly the truth! I also don’t think that any airline would be happy to hear that airline food is meant to be awful!! And explain why it was imbalanced and whiny? @Sadie:

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Ouch, that is a disgrace. Airline food doesn’t have to be so bad. In fact, I had the tastiest Indian vegetarian meal on a flight from Amsterdam to San Francisco recently (cattle class). KLM food is generally acceptable, but this was just very tasty. Which should be the standard.

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@Saskia: I’ve had some really good Indian food on planes too in Economy: maybe it’s because sauced dishes like curry travel better? And of course they are always beautifully and strongly flavoured which must help in the palate dulling confines of a plane…LLGxx

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Haha…..your post makes me smile. Yes as a ‘foreigner’ I did often wonder how on earth that type of food i.e. pink ‘boiled’ bacon, flaccid chips etc etc could still be served these days! And it’s not just these lounges, take a look at some hotels here serving that type of food too. Very often I am really disgusted with it. It’s just insulting, and what a waste of the ingredients!

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@Tammy: Yes! I think it’s the waste that really gets to me too. And the fact that someone, somewhere actually thinks that this ‘food’ might be nice…LLGxx

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Perhaps Sadie’s mixture of jet lag & flu is wearing off now & she can see your side of it . Personally it’s rather satisfying to think the posh folk in business class are being fed gruesome food too , but then I’m not a very nice person . Most of my veggie options in flight have been not too bad but once all they offered was a heap of little chunks of plastic wrapped cheese & matching little packs of crackers . Yes , usually the curries were good . Horrendous coffee though – always stewed

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I always love the way LLG responds to those who bemoan her post, clear concise and appropriately worded. Regardless of the situation where service is expected of a certain level at the promise of the provider it should meet up to standard. That is all.

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@Anna: Anna, I think I love you! LLGxx

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I travel in Coach all the time. We traveled a lot when my daughter was younger from 3 months to 5, sometimes averaging 10-12 flights a year. I’ve been through vomiting, crying, sickness etc on the plane and yet I struggle to understand why Sadie has taken offense to this piece. It’s an honest review of the airline which is rather appalling (I know people who used to work for Lufthansa’s catering division – LSG Skychefs). I would not have been so restrained in my review so Sasha, you’re far more diplomatic than I am.

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Part of what I LOVE about this blog is its complete mix of the down to earth and the aspirational and always from Sasha’s intelligent, informative, often humorous and relatable perspective. What I do find horribly depressing is the way that other women sometimes attack her on this blog through that very particular kind of self-righteous, passive aggressive tone. Why would you do that? But its always good to see the “interventions” by supportive readers that remind us that bullying in all its shape and forms is completely unacceptable. PS: I have travelled in the worst sort of economy and the nicest sort of first class. All airlines are mandated to ensure fundamental safety for all passengers, the high price tickets are for the extras: namely leg room, service and better food. I believe that you are entitled to what you pay for. To define something as luxury and then not deliver on that is plain wrong!

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I’m not sure that Sadie’s disagreement with Sasha’s review can be called bullying can it? Whilst I don’t share Sadie’s with her view of this blog entry, (I actually think it’s well – balanced and funny) I think she’s put her view across fairly. I totally agree we should all do all we can to stand up to trolls and other cyber-nasties, but I hope we’re not at the point where any healthy debate or disagreement is labelled as bullying.

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I was traveling and missed this post…But I’ve read through all the comments and, naturally, would like to stick my oar in:

1. You’re damn right you should complain about the shitty food that your client paid for. I watched a horrifying documentary the other night about the Koch brothers. Did you know that the average CEO makes more 273 times the salary of their average worker? I bet the CEO of Lufthansa doesn’t eat shit like that!

2. You’re an excellent writer, and always demonstrate a keen sensitivity for tone and appropriate word choice.

3. Lil Sis’s comment is hilarious! (esp. the “chuffed” line– hahaha!)

4. I had a childhood friend who used to tease me really badly. One day it got to be too much and so I called her a “bastard.” She immediately burst into tears because she was adopted and was technically, indeed, a “bastard.” I had to apologize profusely and she continued to cry, but after a few hours, it was all forgotten and she began to mercilessly tease me again. It was a real lesson for an 8 year old child. People get away with all kinds of shit when the play the Bastard Card.

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I personally wish that airlines wouldn’t try and serve a full english breakfast badly on long-haul flights. Microwaved eggs and sausages of questionable meat are never good and after hours of disrupted sleep, it’s the last thing you want to eat.

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