What Was Your Worst Airport Meal? I Bet It Wasn’t Worse Than This!

Reddit user spambox odered a bacon and egg sandwich at Edinburgh airport, apparently from the EAT cafe.

And got the smallest egg and tiniest piece of pork, ever. It cost £3.20 (about $5).

There are huge constraints on airport restaurants, and incentives to underinvest in food. Even by airport dining standards, though, this is pathetic.

Here’s why airport restaurants tend to be so bad:

  • Restaurants have to bring everything in through security
  • There are limits on when things can be brought in, they can’t generally bring supplies down the concourse at peak travel times. So you don’t get the freshest just-in-time delivery.
  • And space limitations are huge. Not only can’t you bring things in whenever you want, you often don’t have a lot of space for storage at least compared to a standard retail location. And you may not have room for specialized equipment.
  • The airport may not permit gas ovens, so everything has to get re-created using electric.
  • Security constrains your chefs, their knives frequently have to be tethered to a wall to prevent being taken (and inventoried every day).

When you run a restaurant inside an airport you have a large number of people who need to be served quickly — you need to prepare for quick service even trumping quality because of the pressures of flight departures. Your customers have varying tastes, they didn’t travel to your location to eat your food they are at your location in order to travel.

You need to make up high rents with limited ingredients because of cost and space. So you focus on a few menu items, and make them accessible to the largest number of people. And then your restaurant, often known for lunch and dinner, needs to try to do breakfast, too.

And as a restaurant owner you have to do all of this within price points that may be contractually set with the airport, e.g. that prices have to be the same as outside the airport or at a modest premium of (say) 10%-15%.

Many restaurants partner with concessionaires with plenty of experience working with airports, big names like HMSHost — which helps them operate more efficiently, but reduces the local character of what they offer.

That’s not to say there’s no good food at an airport. But it explains why good food is so hard to do and why most restaurants in airports are far worse than comparable options off airport.

Despite all of this, the Edinburgh sandwich was still uniquely pathetic.

What was your worst airport meal?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. then order bread and not a sandwich if it looks appetizing to you.

    i’d be irate. if they wouldn’t refund my money i’d def dispute the charge

  2. A cheese sandwich in 1st class and not even a good cheese sandwich but one where they tried to make if fancy and failed horrible. Then not only going to my destination but a week later coming back they served the same bad cheese sandwich! Alaska Airlines is the worst!

  3. Pathetic meal. And even more the pathetic is the karma from eating the flesh from one of your brothers.

  4. Looks truly pathetic. But I’m surprised as I’ve consistently found the food served by EAT to be very good. I would imagine it’s a production mistake – the person should have complained first before publishing.

  5. But despite all the constraints, airport food CAN BE GOOD, as evidenced by places like Root Down at DIA, One Flew South at ATL, Nonna Bartolotta at MKE, and the Pappadeaux at IAH

  6. Fish on Olympic Airlines in 1987. Everybody was puking within 30 minutes of eating. Short flight too: Johannesburg to Athens.

  7. The trend in the US is to have local restaurants at the airport so thing like that doesn’t happen… At least here in PHX..

  8. This is sad to see, EAT at Edinburgh airport has actually been my favorite airport food for the last 4 years..normally very good!

  9. Hey, you got the picture all wrong. It isn’t a small egg and ham, it is just a very large bun the two things are on!

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