Analysis finds healthiest meals on Virgin America, Jet Blue and Delta, while Hawaiian packs in calories.
When you are traveling 550 mph at 35,000 feet in the air, your food choices are pretty limited.
The good news is that the overall trend in airline food is improving, with one of the world’s largest carriers making huge strides toward more healthful food over the past year.
That was the assessment of Charles Platkin, an expert at City University of New York School of Public Health who has been analyzing airline food for nearly 15 years. He released an annual ranking last week of airline food.
“You are starting to see a major push forward,” he said.
He found the biggest improvement at Delta Air Lines, which jumped from eighth out of 12 airlines in 2013 to second place this year, tied with Jet Blue. Virgin America ranked first.
Delta introduced items from packaged food maker Luvo, including fruit and hard-boiled eggs for breakfast and vegetables and hummus wraps for lunch and dinner.
“When an airline like Delta makes a move like this, it’s a really big move that is going to start a trend,” he said.
Low-cost airlines such as Allegiant, Frontier and Spirit ranked at the bottom, with food choices so limited and unhealthful that Plotkin advised fliers on all three carriers to bring their own food.
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Platkin blasted Hawaiian Airlines for refusing to provide any nutritional information, forcing him to hire nutritionists to estimate the calorie count for the airline’s meals and snacks.
The nutritionists projected that the average meal on Hawaiian is loaded with 1,056 calories, more than twice the 481 calories in an average meal on Virgin America.
Hawaiian said it offers “a locally made selection of items for purchase that are popular for island visitors.”
In a statement, the airline added: “Those with specific tastes or dietary needs are welcome to bring their own meals onboard.”