In recent years, luring celebrity chefs has been a key strategy for airlines attracting premium Business Class and First Class passengers. Travelers that wouldn't dream of a stopover in Qatar or Abu Dhabi on a long-haul flight often have a change of heart when tempted with top chefs along with Etihad's Armani goodie bag or perhaps Emirates full-size Bulgari toiletries.
But the burl elegance of Emirates First distracts from its surprisingly ho-hum multi-national menu selections all but lacking in Michelin luster. We recently double ordered the Wild Iranian Caviar but it didn't come close to Cathy Pacific's version where it's served in a silver coupe and accompanied by perfectly-chilled Krug. Newcomer Qatar Airways does better, recently named "Airline of the Year" at the 2015 Skytrax Awards, with in-flight dining ala sushi star Nobu Matsuhisa and Mumbai-born Vineet Bhatia. Air France La Premiere service tops both with its Bernardaud porcelain and Christofle flatware topped with cuisine by Joel Robuchon and Guy Martin.
Qantas stays native with Neil Perry of Sydney's Rockpool while Japan Airlines does starry sushi at 35,000-ft. with Tokyo top chef Seiji Yamamoto. Singapore Airlines maintains a roster of France's Georges Blanc, LA's Suzanne Goin and Milan's Carlo Cracco depending on your departure. While Delta has all but ruined Virgin Atlantic's in-flight food offerings, it's improved its own service with cuisine by Napa Valley-based chef Michael Chiarello on transcontinental flights and Miami-native Michelle Bernstein on Latin American routes. JetBlue's Mint offers small plates by Saxon + Parole while American Airlines flounders with unsavory pairings by Richard Sandoval and Marcus Samuelsson. This season United ups its premium class game with Cowshed bath products from Soho House and food upgraded throughout the plane by Charlie Trotter alumni, NY's Christian Ramos and Moto's Richie Farina.