How Much Food Can You Order In First Class?

I’d like to think I eat a lot when I fly (I mean, I’d rather not think that, but I’m just being honest with myself). I’d rather not think how many hours I have to spend on a treadmill to burn off what I eat and drink on a longhaul flight on a premium airline in first class.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-053

For that matter, I tend to think that airlines serve too much food in premium cabins, if anything. Like, look at a domestic American first class lunch, for example. You get hot nuts, salad, chicken or ravioli, and a hot cookie. It’s terrifying to think how many calories that has.

How much food can you order in first class?!

Interestingly I’m still often asked if it’s possible to order more food. I don’t think I’ve ever been hungry in international first class. I’ve maybe a couple of times ordered seconds of caviar, etc., and then skipped another course. But I’ve never gone beyond that.

On an almost daily basis I’m asked something along the lines of “I want to maximize my first class experience — can I order everything?”

Like this question, for example:

I will be flying in Cathay first class for first time, if I ask for 2nd, 3rd, 4th request for more caviars and different variation of Main Course for dinner/lunch, will the flight attendant feel annoyed and can say they don’t have anymore or run out of it? What is your advice to ask for more caviars and main course dishes without annoying them? I want to maximize my first time experience in first class, as I don’t have much points/miles to splurge and don’t travel frequently, so it might be once in a lifetime chance. Thanks a lot for your help!

Or this one:

Does JAL have Dom, Krug, and caviar? can I ask for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (unlimited)?

Or this one:

On meal/dinner, can I ask for another dishes that is in main entrée or appetizer after I finished the first one? I would like to try all the appetizers and main entrée dishes (I have big appetites, especially if it’s in first class, I want to maximize my experience! yumm!)

Just to give a few examples…

So I figured I’d share some thoughts, along with the thoughts of an “expert:”

“Maximizing” is not the same as eating/drinking everything in sight

I think this is a struggle many of us experience to some extent in first class. For example, I’ve often said that I’ll arrive more well rested in business class than first class.

Why? Because in business class I’m happy going straight to sleep and skipping the service, since it’s usually unmemorable, while I’ll usually stay up in first class to enjoy a nice meal, a few glasses of champagne, etc.

But I think there’s an important middle ground here. You can enjoy a nice meal and feel like you’ve maximized the experience without having tried everything, in my opinion. And you’ll certainly feel better getting off the plane if you don’t eat just for the sake of “maximizing,” in my opinion.

Asking for extras is fine… in moderation

Like many things in life, moderation is key, in my opinion (not that I’m very good at following my own tips sometimes). 😉 If you really enjoy caviar and it’s being offered, I think it’s fine to ask for an extra portion in a non-pushy way.

Emirates-A380-First-Class-051

If two desserts both sound good, I think it’s fine to ask to try them both, if they have enough.

If they have enough I’m sure they’ll oblige. But I think going beyond that and requesting “thirds” and “fourths” and “unlimiteds” will be perceived as pushy.

I’ll give an example. I have a friend that’s first class crew for a major airline, and he recently texted me about a passenger he had that ordered four starters, five main courses, three desserts, and demanded to try all the wine. As my friend put it, the passenger kept leaving nice “surprises” in the toilet throughout the flight.

Suffice to say at that point the crew will feel annoyed and like you’re taking advantage of the situation.

Lufthansa-First-Class

A purser chimes in…

To get the “definitive” answer, I asked a friend that’s purser for a major airline to chime in. Here’s what he had to say:

Part of my role as a purser is to try to ensure that all my passengers in the First Class cabin receive what they ask for.

If that happened on my flight we would do our best to meet all your requests but the following is likely to happen:

a) The crew (and not just those working First) will have heard about you by the end of the flight.

b) We’d try to direct you to items on the menu that we have a lot of.

c) If you’re really over the top with the ordering I would be forced to have an awkward conversation with you about having to save some food for the other passengers.

My advice? Just explain to us it’s very rare that you get to fly in First and you’d appreciate our help to maximise your experience. It’s then far more likely that we’ll give you extra attention as we know you’ll enjoy it.

Bottom line

Hopefully that’s a fair summary!

Would be very curious to hear both what you guys think and what your experiences have been.

Do you think it’s appropriate to ask for extras, and where is the line drawn? If you do frequently ask for extras, what has the response been?

Comments

  1. Great post, Lucky!

    Now does moderation extend to First class lounges that have a la carte menus, and limited supply isn’t an issue?

  2. I’ve asked for seconds of caviar in Cathay first class twice, and both times was told they only had one serving per person…. also drank them out of Krug once. But on all occasions they were polite and apologetic.

  3. @ILDC

    On the ground is a whole different scenario since they are not weight and space restricted in the way that in flight catering is and should have a larger supply of food and drink.

  4. Good advice Ben but
    “If two desserts both sound good, I think it’s fine to ask to try them both, if they have enough.”

    Those last four words — if they have enough — are the signature of a nonrev passenger. I would just ask for both desserts and let the crew take charge.

  5. Interesting topic. Just my two cents, but you don’t even really have to exercise much moderation, just don’t be that guy. Sure, ask nicely for an extra helping if something sounds great. Thirds or fourths just make you look really bad.
    The problem with really aspirational travel is that you want to get the absolute maximum out of it, and the harder you push, the more you feel you’re missing out on something, which inevitably leads to you feeling dissatisfied.

  6. Lucky-you often eat caviar and I see there are many piles of other ingredients on the plate and my question is how do you eat it?I mean do you pile them all on the blini?

  7. Funny Story. Many years ago, I flew UA from LAX to DFW. Lunch flight, with two friends in front with me, upgraded with my old 500 Mile Certs.

    The lunch was a rather nice Roast Beef sandwich with sides and dessert. We’re talking over 10 years ago.

    After the tray was delivered they asked for Mayo, Grey Poupon, Regular Mustard, etc. When I explained that what was on offer was already on the tray they looked fully aghast.

    Sometimes you can’t please the sweetest guests, through no fault of yourself – simply because people don’t know what is acceptable.

    I think asking for 2nds of anything (or firsts of another app or entree) is fine. But always subject to availability and beyond that it’s just gultonous.

  8. I think it’s really tacky to ask for seconds, in just about any situation — why don’t you try to just eat more slowly, savoring each bite? When food is really top-notch, that’s the best way to eat anyway. Remember that you’re not at Denny’s! Drinking a lot of alcohol (even if it’s champagne) is never classy behavior.

    However, to ask to try the other dessert, or the other appetizer, isn’t tacky, just curious, and I’m sure they don’t mind. That way you really add to your experience. I often ask to try several appetizers since those are yummy but also usually light and not filling.

    Part of the First Class experience is to also act like a first class passenger, so I arrive well-dressed, would never overeat in First Class, and would never take a second amenity kit either. And I do try to sleep as much as possible, since first class seats are the best beds on planes, it’s like sleeping at a really great hotel.

  9. My above comment is about international first class (like Lufthansa or Cathay). In domestic first class, the food and service aren’t that good, so I wouldn’t act any different than in economy.

  10. Not completely relevant but I think kind of funny.My 14-year-old son actually had his request denied for a downgraded meal. Flying United in businesses to London he requested a meal from economy cabin since he thought everything was too fancy for him. The flight attendant denied the request and treated us like peasants the rest of the flight.

  11. The questions from your readers show the embarrassing, and sadly prevalent in the USA, attitude of “getting your money’s worth”… I agree with comments advising moderation and acting like a First Class passenger when flying in the top cabin.

  12. I’ll never forget one of my early experiences in international First on SWISS ORD-ZRH many years ago. A (very) well-known tennis player was across the aisle. He asked for only the appetizer (Balik salmon) and the salad course. Then was quickly off to sleep. I was aghast! How can he pass up the elegant service and food! Fast forward a decade later and dozens of F flights and now I get it. After the novelty wears off it’s more about what you will truly enjoy rather than how much you can “super-size” the meal. Arriving rested and not bloated is quite nice.

    One other tip, if you honestly mention how much you like a food item the crew will often offer more. On one flight they gave me a triple serving of Balik and when I deplaned, loaded me up with every single piece of Sprungli chocolate they had left. And we know Lucky walks off with a lot of champagne as a parting gift!

  13. @ maurice — You don’t have to eat all the accompaniments, and there’s not really a single right way to eat it. You can pile everything onto a blini, you can eat the caviar by itself, etc. For the most part airlines don’t do a great job with caviar service, given how many airlines don’t even have a mother of pearl spoon.

    For my own preference, I typically either eat the caviar by itself, or with some egg white and onions on a blini.

  14. @ Jason — At the end of the day the crew knows if you’re non-rev or not (and on many airlines non-revs aren’t even allowed in first class). I’ve found the crew to be quite thankful when taking a modest/forgiving approach to things.

  15. @ ILDC — I think you’re fine ordering what you want there, though I think in any setting you may get weird looks if you order more than seconds.

  16. @ Nick Farina — Yep, airlines where they serve caviar directly in the tins are tricky. If they don’t have extras catered then they need to keep some for other passengers too.

  17. I am usually stuffed finishing a full course first class meal. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how folks like Gary L and Lucky can have multiple meals on a long haul 🙂 Maybe it is my old age 🙂

  18. It’s all about being polite and asking if there are any leftovers, and if they have them, they usually will serve them. Asking in an entitled sort of way is rude.

    But in my mind, I don’t see why people are all so excited to eat so much airline food. If you really know food and enjoy fine dining, then you will realize that airline food, regardless of class of service isn’t all that good in the first place. Additionally, your taste buds are effected by the pressure at 35,000 feet and you can’t even properly taste the food in the same way you can on the ground.

  19. Never be a fatty in first class, unless there’s a treadmill on that A380 huntay. Plus, the flight crew on their meager salary sometimes get to gobble up those meals that aren’t ordered by gluttonous passengers. Now asking for more champagne on the other hand, is a completely different story. #byefelicia

  20. Asking for all five mains is gluttonous, so no, you DON’T DO THAT.

    I’ve always found that asking for anything nicely usually yields what one has requested.

    Twice on LH in first I’ve been given a bottle of wine simply because I mentioned that I liked that particular wine a lot.

    So, yeah. Manners.

  21. You can never have too much bread. Especially SQ’s garlic toast. Some of the best breads I have had were on an airplane. They rarely run out of bread.

  22. In first class on American Airlines from Dallas to Seattle, I asked if I could purchase a sandwich from the economy menu for my 9-year-old son and my request was denied because “it wouldn’t be fair to the economy passengers if they ran out and he got one in first class”. They did finally bring him a tiny bag of potato chips when they realized he really wasn’t going to touch anything on the first class lunch tray and was just planning to quell his hunger with Coke!

  23. If it’s your first and most likely only experience in international First Class, then I think it’s ok to order the other dessert or main course and what not —- but only AFTER all the other first class passengers have given their order. If they still have extra food, then great. If not, then so be it.

    As for me, I have a sweet tooth so I tend to always eat both dessert options. I normally order the dessert I really want to try first, and after I’m done, I kindly ask if the other dessert is available as well and if so, to serve it. I also tend to nibble or taste the main course since I’ve found the food in the first class lounge to be LOADS better than the main couse meal up in the air.

  24. Wow, these are SOME comments… I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the wealthiest people on this planet (Rothschilds, Kroenkes, some less impressive nouveau riche types), and the common trait among the old money crowd? Hey are probably the most gracious people I have ever encountered. In my opinion that is how to behave like a first class passenger (or any passenger for that matter). Don’t sit there in judgement of someone asking for thirds of a meal because they’re hungry, or because they’re experiencing something exciting for the first time. Mind your own business, be as nice as you possibly can to everyone around you (especially those serving you–it drives me insane when people are rude to service industry employees…), and be grateful for the things you have. *excuse me as I fall off my high horse* I’ve certainly cast my share of glares and eye-rolls, and been annoyed with the picture taking and the constant [audible] awe, but that my own shit I need to work on.

  25. I have never been in 1st, but do the people asking these questions have any common sense? I am pretty petite, but I can eat; however I’m not going to “enjoy” myself at the expense of looking ridiculous. I do think you could get treated special if you told them it was your first time there and an exciting experience. After all, clearly they aren’t rich themselves so I think the “get it.”

  26. Not *quite* like asking for seconds, thirds, etc., but I have asked for one of mains from the first service as my pre-arrival meal on UA (since their meals aren’t very good in the first place, but the pre-arrival ones are even worse). One time, I got a semi-snarky response, “*huff* and *sigh* Well, tell me what you want now, cuz it’ll be gone.” etc. I was the only revenue (albeit award) F pax, but she acted like it was such a huge inconvenience and disruption.

    This may be considered tacky, but on another occasion I asked if there were any leftover mains on a *domestic* AA dinner midcon. I hadn’t eaten all day, and whatever they served still left me hungry. The FA had to go check, but was happy to help, saying that there were other items she could bring if the mains weren’t available. My seatmate looked at me a bit weirdly, but aside from that, it wasn’t an issue.

  27. @Jack “If you really know food and enjoy fine dining, then you will realize that airline food, regardless of class of service isn’t all that good in the first place.”

    Clearly. Try Chez Panisse or Jean Georges or the Fat Duck sometime*; airline food does not resemble fine dining any more in first than in cattle.

    *or any other of the world’s 10,000 best restaurants…

    “Additionally, your taste buds are effected by the pressure at 35,000 feet and you can’t even properly taste the food in the same way you can on the ground.”

    I want to try the unpressurized jets Jack takes someday. The top of Everest is only 8850m (29,000ft) so 10,600m (35,000ft) would be relaxing for your average sea-level pax — comatose relaxing. My home airport (MEX) is around 8000ft so pressurized aircraft cabins actually arrive with more dense oxygen from altitude than we have on the ground and the fine restaurants here don’t have to adjust for anything except the authentically strong chiles and tequila.*

    *and the low boiling point — olla express baby.

  28. I think the simple guidance is eat or drink as you need. If you need to visit the toilet during consumption to barf, in order to make more room (as the tale told seems to suggest), there is something clearly wrong there. If you ask for food or drink, only to waste it (because you were just curious or wanted to tick your way through all the menu items, taking no more than a bite or two), that’s just plain wrong too.

    If you are hungry or thirsty, then by all means ask what you may have (let yourself be guided by the cabin crew, as they can best advise what’s available).

    As for cabin crew helping themselves to passenger catering (as has been suggested in the comments), that’s just plain wrong. Aircrew are specifically catered for separately, them raiding the passenger catering before or during service is petty theft from their employer (after it’s clear that it’s surplus to requirements and will otherwise be binned, that can be permissible if allowed by company policy). Crew aren’t there to help themselves to company resources after all.

  29. if you aren’t traveling alone you could both order different mains and then try each other’s food. then you could still try everything but not have to go vomit in the bathroom to make room. just a thought…

  30. Please don’t order extras. I just got off a flight–CX HKG to AMS and I passed out after take off only waking up 9 hours later to find that they had already run out of dinners and light meals

  31. Ben,

    So the passenger list that the FAs see lists whether each passenger is upgraded, on award ticket, or revenue? Have you noticed getting treated differently? Thanks.

  32. @ Michelle — It varies by airline. Some list whether you’re on a revenue, award, or upgrade, while other airlines don’t. Then other airlines altogether actually put award and revenue in the same category, while only noting those that upgraded. Haven’t noticed a difference in treatment either way.

  33. I always thought the rule of thumb was, you can order one of each of the appetizers (no matter how many there are), choose one of the main courses, and choose one desert.

    Of course, I suppose there is a difference if it’s a pre-set dining meal or dine-when-you-want (where you can basically order one plate of everything, whether appetizer, main, desert, etc).

  34. Interesting subject. I’ve only flown F once…HNL>LAX (some may say I still haven’t flown first)….but on our flight was a husband,wife and their 2 teenagers. The 2 teenagers got on with McDonald’s bags and proceeded to hold onto their bags until the cabin was served dinner. Then they took the hamburgers/fries out and ate dinner while everyone else was eating. Now, I think I’ve seen everything.

  35. As a leisure traveler in business or first class, I avoid sleeping on a plane unless absolutely necessary. I enjoy flying more than sleeping, and I sleep a lot more than I fly so I want to maximize the experience of flying. The normal food offerings are very filling. The most I do is ask for samples of the offerings on the desert cart like a little cheese, fruit and maybe something sweet to go with my ice cream.

  36. In combination with the food you’ll probably consume in the lounge prior to departure and the multi-course meal, I think it might be a bit much to order extras unless a particular course was terrible and you didn’t eat it (like that terrible fish you had on Qantas). But to each his own. I just say be sure that everyone has had a chance to order their initial meal before you ask for seconds.

  37. I am totally with Garrett on this one. I have dealt with some obscenely rich people over the years. Most of them, especially “old money”, are the kindest and most gracious types around. One flight I was on, the passenger across the aisle from me was an heir to one of the storied American fortunes. Being curious, I flat out asked him why he didn’t take private jets. He said he can only tolerate so much in regards to a++ kissing plus he also pointed out that he likes meeting new folks. One of the other passengers (typical fat, entitled lower middle class American) was being a total jerk to the FA and my neighbor stopped her as she passed telling her “He might not appreciate your hard work, but the rest of us do”.

    My grandfather always said you can get a good idea of someone’s character by seeing how they treat waiters, laborers and clerks. I think he was correct.

  38. “typical fat, entitled lower middle class American”

    Wow, stereotype much?

    Also, “old money” isn’t that much better than the rest of us, the ratio of nice people to assholes is the same as it is for other groups.

  39. @Lucky

    Thanks for writing this post. I am about to fly in JAL F class next month and it will be the first ever in my life to fly on first class. Thanks to you, this is like a dream come true for me, to be able to use miles and points that I painstakingly earned. Since I don’t have much miles and points and vacation time to fly first class all the time. I agree with maximizing the experience.
    To quote what your purse friend said “My advice? Just explain to us it’s very rare that you get to fly in First and you’d appreciate our help to maximise your experience. It’s then far more likely that we’ll give you extra attention as we know you’ll enjoy it.”
    So is it okay and better if I say something like “this is my first time to fly in first class so I’m really excited since I don’t always have a chance for this experience, would you please help me to maximize my experience?” Or is it too difficult English language to be understood by JAL F class purser?
    Also to avoid any food being run out, can I place an order and mention that i would like for two main course before take off ?
    and how did you or some people manage to get the flight attendant to give you the whole bottle of krug (or in this case with JAL, a Saloon), can I ask “I really like this champagne, can I please have the whole bottle ?”

  40. Someone assumed that I was referencing the meals eaten before or during service… I was actually making a joke and if said joke was real, it would be after service–never before or during. If you saw your crew member somehow hours later eating that rubber chicken with rice pilaf that you were starving for, after you’ve been told “sorry, we’re out,” then maybe you do have a situation on your hands. Ring your call button and ask for the captain to come to your seat. 🙂 kidding, of course.

    [Quote] Aircrew are specifically catered for separately, them raiding the passenger catering before or during service

  41. @ David — Enjoy your flight! I find there’s a bit of a language barrier on JAL, so you can certainly try. You can also ask for two main courses, though I can’t guarantee they’ll have enough. You typically can’t have the whole bottle. They just let me take a picture of it.

    Hope you have a fantastic trip!

  42. @wwk5d I believe that there’s no real difference in terms of better or worse but was trying to point out that there seems to be a higher frequency of a smug sense of entitlement among certain groups. People are people but I have found that nearly every disruptive passenger I have seen has been lower or middle class. This includes my own family- I grew up dirt poor- and my mother-in-law who narrowly avoided ending up on the no fly list after removing her pants on a flight last year.

    Ultimately, we’re responsible for our own actions but we are not immune to judgment for the choices we make. I will continue to be a nice, polite and professional guy while traveling because that’s the right thing to do. The FAs have it tough enough without myself or anyone else acting like we need our egos stroked.

  43. @Lucky

    Thanks! You saved me from embarassment if I asked for whole bottle lol.
    Ben, actually I also can speak Japanese (not fluent or business level, just basic everyday level) since I learned it 3 years . Do you think I should use Japanese or English to speak with Japanese FA In JAL? This is more like psychological or cultural thing I think and I feel as a foreigner, if they know I can speak Japanese, it lift up their “tense ” and they will act more “casual” to me, as opposed to if I use English to them they will feel more obliged to serve me better….
    Anyway sorry for asking this kind of silly question, you don’t have to answer or can answer whatever your opinion is…..
    Anyone who understand what I meant from “gaijin” who can speak japanese are also welcome to chime in and give opinion…appreciate it.

  44. Sadly Patrick, your joke is sometimes true, although mostly on the rare occasions such conversion of cabin specific catering usually occurs its for friends of an aircrew member on duty, seated in a lower grade cabin (or given an unrecorded unofficial upgrade) rather than themselves (but it has happened that way). Having worked in the industry, it does happen (although why someone would risk their job doing such a stupid thing is beyond my ability to comprehend). Some people just do silly, corrupt things sometimes, defying all logic. When some airlines run tight margins on catering, such behaviour really throws a major spanner in works.

  45. @ David — I always think showing effort in trying to speak someone’s language is nice, so I’d try to speak Japanese, as I’m sure they’ll appreciate that. 🙂

  46. i just can imagine why some people want to behave so cheaply in the air. Eat your share and go to sleep, losers!

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