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Business fliers looking for a healthy meal are in luck if they book a flight on Virgin America. But they might need to bring their own nutritious snacks on some other airlines, according to a new survey. In an annual analysis of the snacks and meals offered by 13 major carriers, Virgin America came out on top for nutrition, says the survey’s author, Charles Platkin, editor of DietDetective.com

The San Francisco-based carrier earned 4.25 out of five stars. While the onboard snacks got low marks: they were either lacking in nutritional value or high in calories, Platkin says Virgin America's meals menu had several healthy choices, including an autumn vegetable wrap and a ginger salad that was a mere 390 calories.

Delta and JetBlue each earned 3.75 stars. Delta's score improved over last year in large part because of its partnership with the nutritious food provider Luvo. The airline has sought to “bring healthful, seasonal options to flight,'' says Brian Berry, Delta's director of onboard services. “Our Luvo partnership is an important part of making that happen.'' Platkin says the survey rankings are based on a variety of criteria including an analysis of nutrients, menu creativity and whether the airline's offerings have improved from the previous year. 

“There are several airlines ... that realize serving clean, tasty, healthy food is what consumers want,'' Platkin says. “It's understandable when a relatively new airline such as Virgin America (offers) healthy fare, but when an airline like Delta moves in that direction, this is the start of real movement.''

Frontier, Spirit and Hawaiian Airlines were at the bottom of the survey, with Hawaiian getting the lowest ranking, just half a star. The airline stands out from many other carriers that now charge for food in the coach cabin by offering complimentary meals. But Platkin says such service can lead to passengers consuming too many calories.

“It’s a mixed bag,” Platkin says. “Business travelers would appreciate being offered healthier choices. ... For the airlines, improving the health quality of the food could potentially increase customer experience and brand loyalty.''


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