A Ranking of Airline Snacks

Food Lists Airplane Food
A Ranking of Airline Snacks

There are few things I hate in this world, but flying is one of them. The takeoff is the worst part for me, as every slight dip or change in direction makes me feel like we’re about to go down. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get much better once we’re actually up in the air. I wish I could avoid flying altogether, but since my family lives in a different corner of the country (plus the fact that, like many of us, I really, really love to travel), it’s not much of an option. So, every time I step foot on a plane, I have a strategy in place for distracting myself: headphones in, movie on and breathing exercises activated.

But the most important distraction of all? Food. Long-haul flights are the best because you get a whole meal, but on a shorter flight, you may have to settle for a snack. This is the true test of an airline: How good are their snacks? Some carriers offer a wide range of at least somewhat appealing options, while others seemingly want to see you starve after picking three pretzels out of a tiny plastic bag.

Without further ado, these are how some of the most common airline snacks I’ve encountered stack up against one another, starting with the worst of the bunch.

10. Sun Chips

Sun Chips are inarguably the worst chips to ever exist; they quite literally taste like over-salted cardboard. I asked for a tiny bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips once on a Delta flight, and there were probably only six chips in the bag. They tasted like plywood covered in Kraft mac and cheese powder. Fortunately, though, they were so bad that they did indeed distract me from my flying anxiety. 

9. Peanuts

For a long time, peanuts were the airline snack, but these days, most airlines have cut them from their offerings due to allergy concerns. For this, I am grateful. I’m not allergic to peanuts, but they’re somehow the least satisfying snack to have ever graced the skies. They’re salty, sure, but they don’t actually fill you up very much. Be thankful that the airlines have kept you from making the mistake of choosing the packet of peanuts yet again.

8. Clif Bars

I used to eat a lot of Clif Bars before I realized one day that they didn’t actually even taste that good. Regardless of the variety you choose, they have very little flavor, and they’re so sticky that you feel like you need to brush your teeth right after you eat one. I’m glad some airlines are offering sweet snacks on their flights, but a Clif Bar is unlikely to leave you satisfied unless you have a seriously desperate sweet tooth.

7. Kind Bars

The same goes for Kind Bars. They too are too sticky due to the massive amounts of sugar that coat the entire bar. You’d be better off just eating some nuts on their own without having to wash off the sticky sugar on your hands after eating a Kind Bar.

6. Popcorn Chips

Popcorners Popcorn Chips are… lacking, to say the least. Somehow, they took two delicious snacks and made them worse than the sum of their parts. Their weird, airy texture means that they’re going to satisfy you for all of five minutes before you get hungry again, and they don’t contain nearly enough salt for what I want to eat on a plane. There are worse snacks to be had, for sure, but I would never go out of my way to order Popcorn Chips.

5. Biscoff Cookies

I’m not much of a sweets-in-the-air kind of person, but I do appreciate a package of Biscoff Cookies, especially if I’m pairing them with a hot cup of coffee right before the plane starts its descent. These spiced, cinnamon-infused cookies might not be anything special on the ground, but something about eating them on a plane makes me want to beg a flight attendant for another package.

4. Cheez-Its

You heard it here first: Cheez-Its are too cheesy. However, because they’re salty and super-snackable, they are a suitable airplane snack. There’s just one caveat, though: They must be consumed with a can of tomato juice.

3. Plantain Chips

I recently flew JetBlue, and I was pleasantly surprised that they offered plantain chips on board. I got them, and they were glorious, their saltiness and strangely soft texture a suitable (and delicious) distraction during a four-hour flight. Unfortunately, though, I can’t ever remember being offered plantain chips on a flight before, so you might be out of luck if you’re not flying JetBlue.

2. Goldfish Crackers

Goldfish Crackers are a superior snack in literally any context. They would come in first place if it weren’t for the fact that the packages you get on airplanes are so tiny—a crime when you consider that Goldfish were seemingly invented for binging. Don’t even get me started on how the original flavor is better than the standard cheddar.

1. Pretzels

Pretzels are the absolute pinnacle of good eating on an airplane, and it has to do with the salt content. Airplanes are dry and low-pressure environments, which tends to dull your sense of taste, especially when it comes to your salt receptors. Therefore, eating something super-salty like pretzels is the perfect way to counteract the blandness you may experience when you take a bite of anything else. Plus, lots of different carriers offer free pretzels, so if it’s your go-to plane snack, you’ll rarely be disappointed.

Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.

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