An AvGeek Taught a Foodie About Planes. Weird Things Happened.
If you've been reading TPG for a while, you've probably caught on to the fact that a lot of us are pretty big fans of planes. AvGeeks, if you will.
So when I kept calling them "metal things that fly through the sky," my friend / coworker / AvGeek extraordinaire / person who has to listen to me make stupid jokes all day, Wallace Cotton, decided to step in.
But here's the thing: He knew he had to speak my language — and after having to sit next to me all day every day for a almost a year, he knew there's only one option here: food.
Yup, that's right — we're going to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming to explain different airplanes as if they were types of food. For those of you who look at your upcoming flight details with utter confusion over what to expect from the plane listed, this should help.
So sit back, relax, and also grab a snack. You'll thank us for that later.
Embraer E-145: The airport sandwich
Wallace: I'm not going to lie, this plane isn't great for passengers, particularly those who like to fly in larger planes. It's cramped, with low ceilings and one lavatory — but the 1-2 seating means you get your own row if you sit on the left side! You'd typically fly an E-145 on regional routes to smaller cities.
Sam: Got it. So this is like a pre-made airport sandwich from the kiosk next to your gate. The right side is tuna salad, and the left side is a slightly better generic store-bought brand of peanut butter and jelly. Kind of like opting for the lesser of two evils.
Wallace: Uhhh, when you put it that way... sure. Actually not a terribly inaccurate comparison.
Boeing 737: The TV dinner
Wallace: If the 777 is the long-haul workhorse (we'll get to that), the 737 is Boeing's short-haul one. Remember, all Boeing aircraft in commercial service start with the number 7, and Airbus start with the letter A. The 737 is flown all over the world, and it's the best-selling airliner of all time since its first flight in 1967, with more than 10,000 sold. It's a little narrow, not the most comfortable — it's been modernized, but it's a bit washed up, to be honest — but it always gets the job done.
Sam: So it's like a TV dinner?
Wallace: In the sense that...?
Sam: They were popular in the '60s and they still work, in theory, but you'd rather just order in Chinese.
Airbus A321: Sushi from the corner restaurant
Wallace: Here's the deal — you have Airbus A318s, 19s, 20s and 21s; they all just get a little longer with each increasing number. They're slightly wider than 737s and with the typical 3-3 seating configuration they're generally a little airier and more comfortable, although their windows are smaller. You wouldn't really want to fly the A321 (or anything smaller) on a real long-haul flight — like the A321LR version, maybe coming soon to JetBlue or Delta — since there's only one aisle. In the next few years, as we see more and more long flights on narrow-body planes, it's sure to be a letdown for people who are used to flying overseas on so-called "heavies", which are basically all twin-aisle jets.
Sam: That sounds like a really complicated way of calling it sushi from a generic neighborhood sushi place. Like, you wouldn't want it for a nice meal, but it works.
Airbus A350: Crème brûlée
Wallace: This is the newest wide-body from Airbus; when I say wide-body, by the way, I mean it has two aisles. Meanwhile, narrow-body means it only has one. Everything on this plane is finely-tuned and super high tech, all the way from the flight deck to the economy cabin. You can fly really fancy business class cabins like Delta One Suites or Qatar's Qsuite, and enjoy other top-notch amenities on this plane. No matter where you sit, you'll probably enjoy something about your flight.
Sam: Easy. So this is like a crème brûlée. It's going to cost you a lot but it's going to be worth it. And even mediocre crème brûlée is pretty damn good.
Boeing 777: Pizza!
Wallace: The 777 (be an AvGeek pro, call it the Triple Seven!) is perhaps Boeing's definitive long-haul workhorse; you'll encounter it on flights to Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, Australia — just about everywhere. The biggest 777, the -300ER version, is the one you went to San Francisco on, as well as the one Zach took when he flew Emirates in the latest first class suite. That said, though, it might be pretty uncomfortable ride if you're flying in economy as more and more airlines have squeezed an additional seat in each row — fitting 10 seats across (but not Delta, which has still kept their 9 across!). Definitely check the seating arrangement before you book a ticket on one.
Sam: This sounds exactly like a pizza — it's eaten all over the world; sometimes it's really good, and sometimes, it's well... not. Plus, you can put toppings on it and make it fancy.
Wallace: Ok, yeah, I can see that. Plus pizza just looks so wonderful... and I feel the same way about the 777 family.
Boeing 747: Filet mignon
Wallace: A classic and a fan favorite. As an aviation enthusiast it's always a joy to get a chance to fly on one — even though several of the carriers that operate them have lackluster onboard cabins. That being said, a few carriers have invested in their 747s and have even acquired the latest iteration — the 747-8 (hello Lufthansa and Korean Air.) It's incredibly cool to fly upstairs or even fly in the nose. It's unique, and everyone knows about her. (Feminine pronoun, please, we are talking about the Queen of the Skies.) The downside of its retro charm is that sometimes the interior can look tired, but if you know your airplanes, a Jumbo Jet is a treat like no other.
Sam: Oh, I know this one! I'm going to get absolutely ROASTED for this one, but it looks like it needs a nose job.
Wallace: What? That nose is the 747's trademark! And if you made it smaller, you wouldn't be able to fly inside of it.
Sam: Fine. I got off topic anyway. I feel like this one is the equivalent of a steak. Like, say, a filet mignon. It's such a timeless classic, and in the right hands it can be spectacularly good. Just don't put ketchup on it.
Airbus A380: A meal at a top-end restaurant
Wallace: This is the other double decker plane that you'll find. It's got two full levels and is one of the world's most impressive flying machines. In fact, airlines think it may be too big, so it's not selling very well at all.
But because it's so big, you'll find some of the most incredible first class cabins on this plane, such as Emirates (soon to have the newest iteration that's currently only available on the 777-300ER) and Singapore. Its size and power also means you'll get a far quieter, more stable ride than any other airplane. No matter what class you're in, you'll probably enjoy it — but even more so if you can sit in a premium cabin.
Sam: I know this one too! I'm basically fluent in plane, right? This one is like the cream of the crop kind of plane — I'm thinking something like the most exclusive meal you can find: like finally snagging a reservation at Rao's, Lilia (the mafaldini!), or getting into Bohemian. I haven't been to Lilia yet so I can imagine it's the same way a lot of you feel about taking Singapore's new Suites.
Wallace: Yeah, basically. You're getting there, Sam. One day. And, I'm really hungry now.
Photos by Getty Images, Creative Commons, Lilia Restaurant