This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Pilots and flight attendants are more familiar with the ins and outs of travel than almost anyone else. And, after chatting with a number of pilots and flight attendants about what they eat while flying, we decided to query them on the world’s best airports for dining. Below, six pilots share their favorite food-focused airports, and where they refuel.
Delta Air Lines Captain Walter Judy: Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
I spent the last six years flying as a copilot on our 757 and 767 fleet, flying domestically and internationally, while working in a management job, and transitioned to being a full-time-flying captain on the MD-88 flying domestically three months ago. So, I’ve eaten at some really good airport restaurants around the world in the past several years. Now, I spend almost all of my time in the Atlanta International Airport, or one of Delta’s Eastern, Southeastern, or Midwestern domestic stations. The food choices in ATL are myriad, and it’s where I have the majority of my down time—lately, that equates to the 45 minutes between landing one flight and taking off again, often changing planes and/or terminals, so it’s a good-spirited running between jets and grabbing food on the way. If I have an hour or more between flights at or near mealtime, I make the trek from gates where my fleet normally lives down to (Terminal) D in order to pick up a laffa—a vegetable and meat wrap—from Garbanzo Mediterranean Fresh. The food is tasty, fresh, filling and usually quick, which for me are the important boxes to check. And to come away with a good-sized meal for under 10 bucks is a solid deal. I keep coming back for the laffa with everything, chicken or falafel depending on what’s the freshers, and tzatziki, pickles, feta and kalamata olives. It’s filling, messy, and I skip the rice so the ingredients are mostly vegetables and protein and comes off feeling less heavy or fried than a typical airport option.
Alaska Airlines Pilot Susan Sherman: Portland International Airport (PDX)
Within the US, without a doubt the best airport for dining is PDX in Portland, Oregon. My fellow pilots are always equally excited when we pass through PDX. There are numerous great dining options, but my favorite is a Yumm! Bowl from Café Yumm!
Atlas Air Pilot Starr Blum: San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
I used to love SFO to get Blue Bottle coffee and to get a slice or loaf of Boudin Bakery’s sourdough bread to take home if it was my last leg. Boudin is a bakery in San Francisco that is famous for its sourdough bread. Also, many people—myself included—love Rick Bayless’ restaurant in ORD, Frontera Torta. It’s delicious and always a long line. But if I’m hungry and have time, I always go there.
Southwest Airlines Captain Keith Coneby: Houston’s William P. Hobby Airport (HOU)
One of the best places for tacos is right in the center of Houston’s Hobby Airport … Pappasito’s Cantina.
All Nippon Airways Captain Yuichi Nishiyama: Tokyo’s Haneda International Airport (HND)
The Tokyo Haneda Airport, where ANA is based, is my favorite airport in the world to dine. It is the closest airport to the Tokyo metropolitan area, and has more than 40 restaurants and cafes in each of its three terminals. Passengers can enjoy cuisines from all over the world, as well as some of the finest Japanese cuisine including sushi, tempura, soba, ramen, and much more. It would certainly take more than a few visits for a passenger to taste all of the uncountable delights at Haneda Airport. Thankfully for me, I get to enjoy Haneda’s culinary offerings quite often.If you ever have the chance to eat a meal at the Haneda Airport, I would recommend Tsuru-Ton-Tan, an udon noodle soup restaurant located in the International Terminal. Udon is a Japanese thick wheat flour noodle that is usually served with a big choice of broth flavors and toppings. My favorite dish is Sudachi-Udon, which is made with the Japanese citrus fruit sudachi.The citrus taste goes very well with the udon noodle, and is refreshing before or after a long flight.
Feature photo of Edo Market Place in Haneda international airport by Shutterstock.com
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards