Nix The Pretzels: Check Out This Ultimate Airline Snack Guide. It Rocks.

the ultimate airplane snack guide what to eat when you're on a plane
Written by Terry Gardner

Eventually you’ll be fed up with free pretzels and peanuts. But how to navigate dangerous airplane food options? Travel editor Terry Gardner has advice, so she put together this Ultimate Airline Snack Guide. Thank us later. And yes, by all means, order the hummus.

terry-gardner-anewdomain-ultimate airline snack guideaNewDomain — Almost nothing is worse than running late at an airport. The worst part? Having to board without snacks. Usually, you’re stuck scarfing down as many free peanut and pretzel packages as you can successfully scam off the flight attendant.

As much as I appreciate the free nuts and pretzels that Southwest, Delta Air Lines and other airlines good naturedly throw my way, I want more. I want great things to eat, especially on flights longer than two hours. But getting to decent, much less great, isn’t easy.

As a travel editor for aNewDomain, I fly so much. So I came up with the following ultimate airline snack guide to help us all out. It focuses only on US domestic carriers, but I’ll be adding to it as I gather snack suggestions for airlines like El Al (awesome hummus!) and SWISS, which serves creative, filling vegetarian meals from Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world.

ultimate airline snack guide

Ready? Here we go.

On all airlines, say yes to the smushed up chickpeas.

Say what you will about chickpeas, I haven’t flown an airline yet that can screw up hummus.

Although I have mainly sampled hummus on domestic carriers, when I flew El Al to Tel Aviv, I had the best hummus ever. If you like garlic like I do, you will love El Al’s hummus (pictured at right).  The airline also offers a variety of special meals for vegetarians, gluten-free and other diets. But domestically speaking, in the US there are some decent smashed up chickpea options, too.

ultimate airline snack guideHummus-wise in the US, United’s Tapas snack box (below left) is one of my favorites. The box features tasty hummus from Wild Garden, plus, count them, two kinds of crackers.

Don’t yawn. A second ago, you thought you were just going to be stuck with pretzels. You could do worse than hummus. Fortunately, with a little planning, you can do better.

On American, skip the fruit and eat the cheese

American Airlines has other things going for it, but it sure falls short in the snack department. Back when I still ate meat on flights, I loved the airline’s pastrami sandwich. But that was it. I thought most of the other sandwiches were pretty average.

Definitely beware American’s cheese and fruit tray, though. The cheese is tasty and the crackers are good. But the apples? Like rubber. Your best choice on American is to circle back and get the hummus and chips snack, if it’s available, but it probably won’t be if you’re sitting behind the first 10 rows or so.

If you’re flying American, try not to let time catch up with you and make you rush onboard. Make sure you either pack snacks or grab a meal to go at the airport. At LAX, they have great food options now at Terminal 4, including the Kogi BBQ truck, where I’ve also noticed American flight attendants grabbing snacks.

Probably no one’s sicker of the in-flight food than American flight attendants, but I suppose I could be wrong.

ultimate airline snack guideDo opt for the cheap Tapas Picnic Pack on Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines’ Mediterranean Tapas Picnic Pack is a great deal for six bucks.

I can’t recommend its fruit and cheese platter because, as is the case on American, the fruit is tasteless. I should add here for the sake of fairness that there are new theories around tasteless airplane food — it has to do with the noise, I kid you not.

 In general, most of the food served on Alaska Airlines is a cut above the rest and often 50 cents to a dollar cheaper.

Get a Eat Up Box or Eat Up Cafe meal on JetBlue. Trust me. 

Looking over JetBlue’s free snacks and Eat Up options makes me want to book a flight soon – maybe just for a healthy snack.

JetBlue gets high marks in my book for offering truly delicious — and free! — in-flight snack foods, like Terra Blues’ potato chips and Snyder’s 100 calorie pretzels.

And this is one airline where it really makes sense to toss my guide aside and really dive into the menu and experiment.

JetBlue in-flight meal options include various $7 Eat Up Boxes. They are all awesome. And JetBlue provides nutritional info on its pricier Eat Up Cafe choices. The chicken and brie meal, aged cheeses and fresh kale salad are great options. Collect them all, lucky JetBlue flyers.

On Delta Air Lines, you gotta love Luvo. 

As my regular aNewDomain readers know, I flew Delta Air Lines lately and was impressed. Not only does Delta not suck anymore, it’s actually pretty great these days. But I didn’t get a chance to tell you about the excellent “Luvo” meals I sampled on my Delta flights.

That’s the Edamame and Feta cheese salad Delta served me on my Seattle to Los Angeles leg, below. I was in first class, but this was out of control amazing for airplane food. And the same Luvo meal’s available in coach, you just have to pay.

Delta-Luvo Feta-Edamame salad in 1st Ulimate Airline Snack Guide

Then, as I was pondering how Delta was able to make such a huge turnaround, they gave me a cookie. It was sinful. Feeling guilty, I read the wrapper and was amazed that this decadent treat was actually pretty healthy.

I really wanted a cookie for the road, but I didn’t have the guts to ask the flight attendant for a second dessert.

I bet Delta flight attendants are getting their cookie on right now. They must be so glad they are not working for American …

Delta-Luvo healthier cookie-IMG_3834


Luvo cookie on delta ingredients the ultimate airline snack food

A cookie that tastes fantastic but has 2 grams of protein, low sodium and no trans fat

Luvo is who Delta now teams up with to offer passengers healthier, fresher in-flight meals and snacks.  I’ve enjoyed them on a complimentary basis in Comfort+ seats, but I wouldn’t hesitate to buy Luvo when I’m sitting in a standard economy seat, either.  Luvo says that changing what we eat can change our lives. That’s marketese, sure, but for sure it’s already changing my Delta food consumption experience.

And Delta isn’t skimping in offering snacks from Luvo. I keep looking for coupons because Luvo is pricier at my local grocery store than Lean Cuisine and other instant meals. Check out how good it looks when steamed in either a microwave or an oven, below. Yum. Never thought I’d write that in a piece about airline food.


For aNewDomain, I’m travel editor Terry Gardner. Don’t eat anything I wouldn’t eat.

Cover image, courtesy:, All Rights Reserved. Image of El Al Hummus: Conde Nast (, All Rights Reserved; United Airlines Tapas box with hummus:, All Rights Reserved; Alaska Airlines’ mediterranean tapas image: Peta.Org, All Rights Reserved;
All videos: Luvo’s YouTube channel. All photos taken by Terry Gardner, All rights reserved, except for the cover image, courtesy:, All Rights Reserved.
All videos: Luvo’s YouTube channel.