Food on a plane doesn't necessarily get the best rep and for justifiable reasons. Typically, plane food is mass made, sort of like a TV dinner, and simply reheated on the plane before serving. Personally, I tend to pack a lot of snacks on the plane just in case the food is not to my liking. But, I have been watching a lot of videos on YouTube highlighting first class and business class seats and the food served in those cabins look a lot more appetizing. So, I was wondering how does economy food compare to first class plane food.

I recently got the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, and thanks to my brother's abundance of points, I was able to be upgraded first class one way. I returned in economy on the way back and I was interested in comparing and reviewing the food in each plane class. My flight was on Hawaiian Airlines and the menus between first class and economy vary greatly. 

(Note: This flight was taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and some meal protocols were changed by Hawaiian Airlines in response to the pandemic.)


Rating: 8/10

In economy, I was given a barbecue chicken and cheese sandwich and a snack mix. This was the only choice given so if you have any dietary restrictions preventing you from eating this meal, you should bring your own snacks on to the plane.

Melody Chen

To be honest, the sandwich was pretty good. It was fashioned sort of like a hot pocket with an outside breading and a barbecue chicken and cheese filling. It had a nice barbecue flavor with gooey bits of cheese and pieces of chicken. I'm not the biggest barbecue sauce fan, but I still thought the sandwich was decent. If you like barbecue sauce, I'm sure you would love this sandwich. My biggest complaint would definitely be the bread. The bread was very bland and dry, and the texture was very rough. I would have preferred the bread to be softer, and it would've been nice if they had seasoned the bread with herbs or added a cheese crust on top. The snack mix was typical with a variety of stuff like chips and sesame sticks. Not really much that can go wrong there. 

First Class

First class was a whole different ball park in terms of food options. It was a three course meal with two options (vegetarian or non-vegetarian) for the main course, so there was little more leeway compared to economy if you have dietary restrictions. I went with the miso-glazed chicken.

Melody Chen
Melody Chen

Presentation wise, first class food knocks economy out of the park. The food is actually on silverware instead of being served inside wrappers or plastic trays like in economy and it is plated beautifully. I would not be surprised to see this at a restaurant. Everything looked super appetizing when I first received my food.

I started off with the snap pea, cucumber, avocado, jicama, gem lettuce, and sesame brittle salad with chile lime vinaigrette.

Rating: 5/10

Melody Chen

I personally wasn't the biggest fan of the salad. It wasn't bad, but it just wasn't as good as I expected it to be. The salad was dressed in a sour and light vinaigrette which was super refreshing and tasty, but everything else was mediocre. It felt like I was eating vegetables in an un-positive way and the texture, especially with the avocado, seemed to blend in to a mush. However, my sister-in-law liked the salad, so it just might be me.

Next up was the miso-glazed chicken.

Rating: 9/10

Melody Chen

This was definitely the highlight of the entire meal. The chicken was flavorful and surprisingly juicy despite it being reheated on the plane. I also appreciated how the chicken is precut for you, so I don't have to worry about attempting to cut chicken in the small space that is a plane seat. The potatoes on the side had a very nice and soft texture, but they were bland. The veggies were also bland. However, they do give you a salt and pepper shaker to season to your own taste. 

Last was the dessert, a caramel cheesecake!

Rating: (with all caramel) 6/10, (with some caramel) 8/10

Melody Chen

My first impressions of the cheesecake was literally just caramel, caramel, caramel. I know that it's caramel flavored, but you could literally only taste the caramel on top, and it was overpowering the actual cheesecake. If you really like caramel, I'm sure you would love this dessert, but caramel is not really up my alley, so I did not appreciate the elevated caramel flavor. However, after scraping off some caramel to create only a thin layer on top, I could finally enjoy the cheesecake flavor underneath. The crust on the cheesecake was virtually nonexistent. It was a super soft kind of pastry instead of the usual graham cracker crust, and it meshed with the rest of the cheesecake. For a while, I thought there was no crust at all. All and all, not a bad way to end the meal.


Honestly, I thought both the economy and first class options for meals were pretty decent. I would be satisfied with either option. However, looking at both meals holistically, the first class meal definitely does have a leg up. It was presented much more beautifully, and with the silverware, it feels like you are actually enjoying a normal meal unlike economy. The options given in first class are also far superior to that of economy as there is more room for people with dietary restrictions to be able to eat what is served. Food wise, in first class, you are definitely getting more high quality food. In economy, while I still did find the food to be tasty, you were served a glorified hot pocket and a snack mix. In first class, in contrast, you were getting a fresh salad, an actual chicken entrée served with vegetables, and a dessert to top it off. So, first class, being the better cabin, does have much a much better food game compared to economy which is to be expected. Still, the food in economy is not bad and you are not missing out on much if you are not in first class. Personally, being the junk food addict that I am, I would rather have a glorified hot pocket and chips rather than a salad and chicken.