The Unsettling Reason Pilots Don't Eat The Same Food As Passengers On Flights

Getting sick on vacation is something most travelers fear, yet the food served during long flights could be putting us all at risk. According to an NBC News report, inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration have found a range of food safety issues at airline catering facilities in recent years, including moldy bread, rodent droppings, and live birds and insects. While it's hard to pinpoint just how often these issues cause food poisoning and other illnesses, it's not a stretch to assume that some travel-related stomach issues could be triggered by contaminated or improperly prepared airplane food.

Airlines are aware of this risk, which is why, as one anonymous pilot told Express, pilots are advised to avoid eating the food served to passengers from the meal cart. "We will eat different food to prevent any issues arising if there is a problem with the food that could incapacitate us," the pilot, who works for a U.K. airline, revealed. The dishes given to crew members are typically provided by the same catering company but follow stricter safety measures. Moreover, the insider shared that co-pilots' meals vary from each other in case one is contaminated. Then, even if one pilot falls ill, the other can continue manning the plane.

Do pilots eat better food than passengers?

The pilot didn't offer too many details to Express on exactly what they eat in the air. Still, if their meals follow more stringent guidelines, it might seem as if airline workers receive higher quality meals than flight passengers. But is that always the case? Not necessarily, according to Captain John Cox, a retired airline pilot. In a USA Today column, Cox explained, "On long flights there are dedicated crew meals, but they are very similar to the food served to passengers." In other words, if the food you received from the flight attendant gives you flashbacks to the questionable slop served in your school cafeteria, your pilot is likely thinking the same thing.

However, some airlines might be a bit more generous, depending on the flight and availability of food. Air Canada's Captain Doug Morris confirmed that captains and first officers must eat different foods, and at different times from one another, though occasionally crew members are allowed to nibble on gourmet airplane snacks from the business class menu, such as cheese. When leftovers are scarce, pilots might only get a bag of almonds, which Morris jokingly referred to as "pilot pellets."