There is no shortage of jokes about airline food. Most of them are negative, but the truth is that airlines have taken great strides to ensure passengers get fed tasty and healthy meals.

While airlines have made efforts to improve the quality of their onboard meals, there’s simply no getting around the fact that it can be pretty bad -especially when you consider all the time we spend on airplanes every year.

This article looks at the joke’s origin and other insights into airplane food and why we find humor in this.

What’s The Deal With Airline Food Joke?

One of the examples of viral content created by American stand-up comedian Jerry Seinfeld was his joke about airline food. Airline food is usually not very good, and this gave birth to the joke, what’s the deal with airline food.

The Origin Of What’s The Deal With Airline Food Joke

In a 1992 episode of Saturday Night Live, comedian Jerry Seinfeld hosted a comedy game show called Stand-Up and Win, where comedians competed for cash prizes by answering topical questions with Seinfeld-Esque punchlines. 

In the show, three comedians competed to see who could get the most laughs from the audience; Tommy (Dana Carvey), Barry (Adam Sandler), and Billy (Rob Schneider). The following is the Saturday Night Life transcript:

Jerry Steinfeld asked the contestants the opening question: what is the deal with airplane food and of the contestants, Billy answered by saying that the stuff couldn’t taste any worse. 

He went ahead to joke about being full from the small bag of smoked almonds. This response garnered a lot of laughs from the audience. 

After the taping, and within a few days, people were re-telling the joke to each other. Soon it spread worldwide and became one of the most popular jokes ever told.

The Humor In This Joke 

Humour is an important part of pretty much every culture, and it’s an excellent way to capture people’s attention.

We all know the airline food joke. It’s a classic that you can’t help but laugh at. But what is it about that joke that makes us laugh? Why do we find humor in failure?

If you are a frequent traveler, then the prospect of eating airplane food is enough to make your stomach churn. The quality of airline food has always been a subject of discussion amongst travelers.

The humor here is that the airline serves food that many people find unappealing. You can get a served in a pretty dish, only to open it and find small servings, yet the price is exorbitant.

Most airplane servings are very small in proportion, and there isn’t variety in the menu. Often the food is stale and distasteful, and it’s quite unfair for the price you pay.

Why Is Airplane Food Considered Bad?

Airlines have been notoriously bad at food service for a long time. It is a known fact that most airplane meals are prepared in bulk and then frozen before being reheated in flight. 

In addition, the quality of the food served on flights has decreased over the years, with the price only increasing. 

The plastic-wrapped sandwiches, rubbery pizza slices, and limp salads are often jokes themselves.

Airlines want to serve you the most convenient and portable meal possible. As a result, they usually serve food with a higher fat and salt content than ground food.

The smaller portions and higher number of snacks also mean that the food is less likely to go bad before it’s consumed.

The food that airlines serve is not necessarily bad for your health, but it does tend to be high in ingredients such as sugar and fat. This is because these ingredients help preserve the taste and texture of the food. 

It may not be as good as eating a vegetable-based meal, but it’s a convenient alternative.

The airline industry has changed a lot over the last few decades, but food hasn’t. People are willing to pay more for a plane ticket if it means better food.

So why are airline meals so often the butt of jokes? The explanation may lie in airline history, filled with accidents, delays, and contaminated food. 

Part of the reason that jokes about airplane food persist might be because there’s a grain of truth to them.

How Does Cabin Pressure Affect Your Taste?

The cabin pressure on an airplane is incredibly low, and this is why your ears will pop as you take off. It’s because the air pressure inside your ear is higher than the air pressure in the cabin.

The higher you go in an airplane, the lower the air pressure and humidity. The dry, low-pressure air of an airplane cabin suppresses the sense of smell, which is vital in taste. 

Background noise such as jet engines running and low air pressure further affect how you taste by repressing the ability to taste sweet and savory foods by up to 30 percent.

What Do Airlines Do With Remaining Food?

Airline food is rarely eaten and usually ends up in landfills. Most of the time, the leftovers are going to be thrown away. 

Open packets and partially consumed meals cannot be reused or donated. While certain meals can be recovered for composting, airlines are ultimately at the mercy of international food waste legislation.

In 2018, the International Air Transport Association released its research on food wastage. Globally, cabin waste was a whopping 6.1 million tons, of which around 20-30 percent was unconsumed drinks and food.

A brand called ‘Food Cowboy’ is working with airlines to donate these leftovers to feed vulnerable people in their communities to stop food wastage.

Air France started a program to donate their extra unused food in 2020, and they donated 9000 lunchboxes to the Restos Du Cœur Charity to help those in need.

Why Is Airplane Food So Expensive?

Have you ever wondered why airplane food is so expensive? 

It’s not because of the ingredients they use. Airlines don’t use many fresh ingredients in their meals (other than meat and vegetables). Instead, they tend to make use of frozen and processed foods.

So why does airplane food cost so much? One reason is that airlines know that passengers will pay for it if they buy it, even though they hate to admit it. 

Another reason is that airlines make more money when they charge for food because they outsource most of these services, and they pass on the costs to the customers.

What Types Of Food Are Served On Airlines?

The term airline food is a broad term that encompasses what type of food is served on the planes and how it is served. Airline food has changed drastically over the years as airlines compete for passengers. 

The icebox era was replaced by better-quality food, which gave way to pay for meals and snacks. 

This era seems to be ending as airlines try to offer meals that tempt even the most discerning traveler.

Airplanes are required to serve food that is “wholesome, genuine, nutritious, and palatable.”

It’s no wonder airplane food is so bland. With all the restrictions, it’s almost impossible to create an interesting menu. But some airlines do their best to make dining in the air enjoyable. 

Airlines are constantly trying to one-up each other by offering special treats, so frequent flyers need to understand what food is served on each plane.

Still, some people don’t enjoy airline food. They find it bland, flavorless, or are simply allergic to some ingredients in the meals.

Airline foods are typically high in sodium and fat. Still, airlines are starting to offer healthier foods lower in sodium and fat and free of artificial preservatives, dyes, and flavors. The average commercial airline meal has 1,200 calories.

Snack bars are usually offered for short flights, while seven-course gourmet meals are offered for some long flights. Champagne, caviar, and sorbet are offered in first class.

Typically, foods served to depend on several factors:

  • The airline’s country and cultural cuisine include Asian, Indian, African, Turkish cuisines, etc.
  • Religious origins such as Halal, Kosher religion, and Hindu religion are also factors in determining cuisines.
  • Infant foods include baked beans, mini hot dogs, and hamburgers.
  • Medical diets include low fat, diabetic, low or high fiber, gluten, peanut-free foods, and non-spicy and non-lactose foods.
  • Vegan foods
  • Breakfast typically includes pancakes, eggs, fried food such as sausages, grilled tomatoes, pastries and muffins, and hot chocolate/beverages.


Airline food is sometimes unappealing, even though airlines strive to provide the best services. 

The jokes about airline food are here to stay for a long time, as the airlines will continue to serve it despite its poor taste and presentation (and even cost).

Looking at the popularity of this joke, it is clear that people are enjoying the humor. So many comedians have picked up on this joke speaks volumes about how much people love to laugh about airline food.