The best and worst airline food of 2018 revealed

The best and worst airline food of 2018 revealed: Diet expert rates the on-board food of major airlines – and it’s Alaska that has the healthiest offering and Frontier Air with the worst

  • Dr Charles Platkin looked at snacks and meals on 11 North American airlines
  • Delta, Jet Blue and Air Canada are also praised for offering healthy choices  
  • Southwest and Spirit Airlines don’t cover themselves in glory in this study

The airlines that offer the healthiest food on board have been revealed by a diet expert.

Each year Dr Charles Platkin, a lecturer at the City University of New York School of Public Health, analyses the snacks and meals on offer by 11 US and Canadian carriers and offers a breakdown of nutritional value and calories.

And this year, the food served on Alaska Airlines is rated the best, while Frontier Air is deemed to have the worst offering.

US diet expert Dr Charles Platkin has analysed the nutritional value of the snacks and meals on offer on 11 US and Canadian airlines (file picture)

The Annual Airline Food Investigation for 2018 is published on Dr Platkin’s website,, and each carrier is rated out of five.

Alaska Airlines scores 4.25 out of five and is praised for developing ‘lighter, better and healthier’ snacks and meals.

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The average overall calorie count (including meals, snack boxes and individual snacks) on an Alaska Airlines flight is 404.

Coming in second place is last year’s joint winner Delta, scoring 3.75 out of five and offering meals with an average of 499 calories.

Alaska Airlines is deemed to have the healthiest food offering on board

Dr Platkin noted that Delta’s free offerings are generally low in calories but urged the airline to display more nutritional information about food items on its website.

Other airlines to rank highly include Jet Blue, which scores 3.55, Air Canada (3.45) and American Airlines (3).

However, at the other end of table, Southwest Airlines fares badly, scoring just 1.6, while Spirit Airlines scores 1.1.

Coming rock bottom is Frontier Air, with Dr Platkin awarding it his ‘Shame on You’ award 

Coming rock bottom is Frontier Air, with a score of 0.85. That earns it the ‘Shame on You’ award.

According to Dr Platkin, the average calorie count on a Frontier Air flight is 372, but the carrier failed to answer any questions on the nutritional content of its food.

He said: ‘As with last year, the trail mix could be the healthiest option, but travelers would be best off bringing their own food.’

MailOnline has contacted Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Air for comment.


Alaska Airlines, 4.2 stars, average calories 404

According to Dr Platkin, Alaska has taken on Virgin America’s approach to healthy food after merging with it – and is the clear leader. Dr Platkin also noted that Alaska has always been committed to food, just not the healthiest, but now its offering is on the ‘lighter, better and healthier side’. He found the healthiest dish on offer this year is the Mediterranean Tapas snack box.

Delta, 3.75 stars, 499 calories

Delta is praised for having a strong commitment to healthy eating but Dr Platkin criticised the airline for taking nutrient information off its website 

Dr Platkin says Delta continues to have a strong commitment to healthy eating and he recommends its peanuts as being the best snack on offer. However, he noted that the airline had taken some menu items and nutrient information off its website. 

JetBlue, 3.55 stars, 323 calories

For JetBlue, Dr Platkin praised the introduction of the new EatUp snack boxes but said he would like to see them on all flights, not just those over three hours. However, he added that the individual snacks on offer are relatively low in calories as well as nutritional value.   

Air Canada, 3.45 stars, 346 calories

Air Canada is praised in the study for keeping nutrients high and calorie counts low. Dr Platkin commended it on offering meals rather than snack boxes, which can be unhealthy and are typically low in nutrients and high in calories.

American Airlines, 3 stars, 416 calories

American Airlines has recently started a partnership with clean food company Zoes Kitchen

American is praised by Dr Platkin for starting a new partnership with Zoes Kitchen, a clean food company focusing on a Mediterranean diet. However he criticises the airline for not publishing any food or nutritional information on its website.

United Airlines,  2.75 stars, 360 calories

Dr Platkin says that even though United is one of the biggest airlines, it still has very few good choices for passengers. He praised the airline for offering oatmeal at breakfast and a Mezze sampler for lunch but criticised it for replacing a grilled chicken sandwich with a fried or breaded chicken sandwich. 

Hawaiian Airlines, 2.6 stars, 419 calories

Dr Platkin noted that Hawaiian Airlines, which was bottom of last year’s table, has slashed its individual snack calories from 582 to 389. He also found that the airline’s meals are also lower in calories, down from 971 to 502. But he added that his team of nutritionists had to estimate what was in the food as the airline only gave limited information. 

Allegiant Air, 2.1 stars, 335 calories

Dr Platkin says Allegiant Air is moving in the right direction when it comes to offering nutritious food 

Dr Platkin says Allegiant has dropped its overall and individual snack calorie counts by almost 17 per cent by reducing portion sizes. He added that the airline is moving in the right direction when it comes to nutritious food but added it would be wonderful if it added ‘a few more nutritious food items’ to the menu. 

Southwest Airlines, 1.6 stars, 138 calories

Dr Platkin says Southwest offers the least in terms of variety, even though all snacks are free. He suggested it road test some more healthy alternatives even if only on a trial basis. If selecting a snack, he suggests going for pretzels since the carrier has stopped serving peanuts to help protect passengers with allergies. 

Spirit Airlines, 1.1 stars, 378 calories

The best bet for a satisfying snack on Spirit Airlines is the quinoa with artichoke and roasted peppers, according to Dr Platkin 

For Spirit Airlines, Dr Platkin says it should start offering healthy snacks on board. He says the best bet for a satisfying snack is the airline’s quinoa with artichoke and roasted peppers.

Frontier Air, 0.85 stars, 372 calories

Frontier Air’s 2018 menu has remained the same since 2017 and Dr Platkin said the airline did not share much information about its menu’s nutritional values. He added that the trail mix was the healthiest thing to purchase but passengers are better off bringing their own food.


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