Watch: Sneak peek at Air NZ's new economy meals

Soon-to-be international travellers got a sneak peek at the food they're likely to be eating when global travel resumes.

Air New Zealand has been working on a brand new economy menu and its breakfast serving was plated up for the hosts of AM on Thursday morning.

"It's actually quite good, the chutney is delicious," said AM host Ryan Bridge as he ate on the show, although he added that the meal was "quite carb-ey."

A lot goes into the planning of an inflight menu and Air NZ says customer feedback is key to what gets fed to its customers.

In special trial runs it tried a variety of meal options to find which ones were the most liked.

"Customer insights have helped us decide which foods to put on board and post the trial flights, we ask for feedback as to whether customers enjoyed the new food offering. So far, feedback has been really positive and the frittata is a hit," an airline spokesperson said.

A meal that's good in the air will probably taste a whole lot different on the ground. 

Human taste buds are a bit like nervous flyers: They don't really function when at altitude, meaning meals need a whole lot more flavouring to satisfy passenger's hunger.

Food items for inflight meals are cooked, blast chilled, assembled into casseroles or kitsets, then chilled for a minimum of four hours to ensure the food meets hygiene requirements. 

Meals are then loaded onto the aircraft in aircraft ovens to be reheated for customers. The meal, of course, needs to travel well.

What makes good airplane food?

It's all about the flavour!

  • Slow cooked meats and casseroles work well, as do curries, creamy pastas, lasagne and saucy meals
  • Appetisers that hit the tongue work well too such as hot smoked salmon, olives and artichokes 
  • Brunch style dishes also work well with a combo of hot and cold elements.


What doesn't work? 

  • Airlines tend to steer clear of things like molluscs, raw shellfish, raw or cured fish, jellyfish or oysters and prawns
  • No peanuts due to customer high customer allergy risk
  • Spicy food isn't overly common as it is an acquired taste, Air NZ says it avoids food that is too spicy in order to meet its broad customer base.
  • Fried foods are also avoided as they don't reheat well.


So when will we be able to try the new meal - and, more importantly, fly internationally? 

Air NZ says it is well positioned to begin flights to Australia, Asia and North America once the pandemic lessens.

The airline's plan to launch a non-stop flight to New York is back on the table, too.