There’s not a lot of variety when it comes to dining in the sky, especially if you’re traveling on a low-cost airline. My trips usually start with an overpriced hotdog sandwich at the airport or if I’m really hungry, I’ll order cup noodles on the plane. But usually, I’ll just sleep through the flight and wait until I land to enjoy a good hot meal. I didn’t really expect to enjoy gourmet meals on-board a short-haul domestic flight.
I was fortunate to be invited to AirAsia’s launch of their latest in-flight offerings featuring the best of Asean flavors at a media event held in Amorita Resort in Bohol. The new “Santan in-flight menu and catalogue” features hot meals, savory snacks, healthy food selections, a variety of beverages, and special gift items and merchandise. Santan or coconut milk is a popular ingredient used in different Southeast Asian cuisine, and is featured in some of the in-flight meals.
On our flight from Manila to Bohol, we had Uncle Chin’s Chicken Rice for breakfast. The Malaysian version of Hainanese chicken rice, which is also very popular in hawker stalls in Singapore, is topped with slices of roast chicken and served with a packet of Uncle Chin’s secret chili, ginger & garlic sauce. The rice was really aromatic and flavorful, making the dish pretty filling.
During the event launch at Amorita Resort, we got to try out the rest of the in-flight meal options. My personal favorite was the Pak Nasser’s Nasi Lemak, a fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf, served with side dishes like anchovies, chili paste, cucumber, a hard-boiled egg. If you’ve traveled to Malaysia, you’ve probably encountered Nasi Lemak in street eateries and restaurants, since it’s considered their national dish. AirAsia’s in-flight version manages to deliver big on flavor, with its savory coconut milk-infused rice and rendang chicken in spicy sambal sauce. We were told that some people even order two pre-booked meals of this just to take home the other pack. It’s that good! I’d order this regularly if it was served in a restaurant.
I’m not a big fan of Korean food, but I really liked the Spicy Beef Bulgogi, a stir-fried beef dish served with Japchae or Korean glass noodles. The beef had a good blend of sweet and spicy flavors and just the right amount of seasoning. I thought the rice was a bit too much and would be satisfied if it was just served with noodles, but apparently a lot of customers demanded to have rice.
I also liked the Thai Green Curry, an aromatic chicken curry infused with authentic spices from Thailand like kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil served with fragrant white rice. The chicken was moist and juicy, and the sauce is mild enough for even non-spicy food lovers to eat. I thought it could use a bit of a crunch, but I guess that’s too much to ask when dining in the air.
I was too full to try the Chicken Adobo, but most Pinoys are pretty familiar with the taste of adobo anyway, though foreign visitors flying on AirAsia might be interested to try it out. The dessert selections included Red Velvet cake, Chocolate Meringue and Chocolate Chip Cookies. These came in handy as palate cleansers in between courses and snacks later during the trip. I liked the chocolate covered cookies which had mint inside. They tasted like Peppermint Patties.
For our flight back from Bohol to Manila, we had the Chicken Lasagne, a blend of classic creamy cheese and chicken with assorted vegetables. This is a good and safe choice for pasta lovers and if you’re traveling with kids. The pasta dish is light and fluffy, with a good balance of herbs. Unlike the typical beef lasagna, this doesn’t feel too heavy, so it’s perfect for merienda. I personally think it would be even better with garlic bread instead of steamed veggies. But that’s just me.
What surprised me the most is how appetizing and affordable the in-flight meal options are. For only P149 a la carte or P199 combo (with drink), these are pretty decent for in-flight meals. Considering that I usually pay P100+ for hotdogs or cup noodles, by adding just P50 more, passengers can now get a good rice meal. The meals are a good option for business travelers who only have free time to eat during flights because of their work schedules or meetings when they travel. They’re also good for Asian travelers who want a taste of home when they fly. Or if you’re a foodie who wants something better than the usual offerings. Usually hot meals are only served on international flights, so it’s nice to have the option available for domestic flights too.
According to AirAsia Philippines’ Head of Ancillary Karlo Sanchez, AirAsia has been voted the World’s Best Low Cost Carrier for nine straight years. “Gourmet experience on-board doesn’t have to be expensive and as an added value for our guests, we are keeping our pricing at affordable levels and at the same time maintaining the high quality and flavor of all our meals,” said Sanchez.
All meals are now available on-board and via online pre-booking. A la carte hot meals cost only P150 while combo meals with a choice of drinks and brownie are priced at P180 via online pre-booking. To enjoy greater savings, AirAsia encourages guests to pre-book their meals or to purchase their meals in advance online. Guests who pre-book will be assured of meal availability and will enjoy priority meal service on-board. You can also buy travel essentials like sunglasses from Sunnies, dry bags, water bottles as well as gifts and merchandise.