• Do airline pilots eat while flying or do they wait until they are back on the ground?
  • If they do eat, do they get the same food that is served to the passengers or do they bring their own meal?
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    $\begingroup$ Related $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:04
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    $\begingroup$ I'm surprised that people have voted to close this question as a dupe of the different meals question. They're asking different things. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife I agree that they are different questions, the only similarity is the meal pilots eat. $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


1: Do pilots eat during flight or they wait until they are back on the ground?

As pilots happen to be humans, their metabolism works in a similar fashion as yours or mine work. So they eat when they are hungry. On a long flight, they can eat during the flight, but on short flights (e.g. 30 minutes - 2 hours), they might not get enough free time to have a meal.

On busy days, pilots may not get enough time to have proper meals, so they try to eat small meals containing more nutrition. This is detailed in an article on Airline Pilot Central. They also avoid heavy meals before a flight.

2: Do they get the same food that is served to the passengers or do they bring their own meal?

Most of the time, food served to the passengers is the same which is served to the pilots, although they don't eat the exact same food. An airline pilot revealed that:

... the pilot gets the first class meal and the copilot the business class meal.

  • $\begingroup$ Does the whole crew eat at the same time or do they stagger it? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox They all go to the dining area where they've a big large round table, the captain says the grace and they all thank the Lord for the food. It's normally a multicourse meal, which can last 1-2 hours. Oh wait, we are on a flying airplane. Forget all that, the primary focus always is flying the plane, reaching the destination and serving the passengers. $\endgroup$
    – Farhan
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ I laughed. And still don't know what I was curious about. But I did laugh. :) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @ToddWilcox: One pilot always has to be watching instruments in case something goes wrong and pay attention to ATC, so they should stagger it. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Aug 6, 2015 at 17:59
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    $\begingroup$ curious_cat - no, they aren't, and the question already exists ;) aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/13534/… $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Feb 8, 2016 at 10:57

Having had a 30 year career as an airline pilot I could probably answer this question. Back when Airlines were still traditionalist in the 70's and 80's, our Airline had no restriction on what or when we ate. Though not put on board especially for us there were usually enough meals left over that we got passenger meals. (Though the Flight Attendants often would eat the first class meals and tell us that all was left were coach meals. They thought we believed that).

Early 90's we got box lunches, not great but OK, better than airport junk food. As we moved forward the into the millennium we didn't get anything other than peanuts and snacks as that was all was on board as domestic airlines cut out passenger meals. We were reduced to getting airport food, and unless we had a long layover between flights it was quick stuff you could get in the concourse, like cholesterol laden hot dogs etc.

As for time to eat, usually it depended on when you got served: a flight of an hour or less you probably ate it after you landed and where parked at the gate.

One quick story about first Class meals.
I was flying a transcontinental flight to San Francisco from the East Coast. For some reason only known to the Flight Attendant Scheduling Gods, all 5 of my Flight Attendants were new hires on their first trip. True to form the #1 flight attendant announced to us that First Class passengers had all requested their meals and the crew was gonna have to settle for coach meals. After we had eaten I got up and went to the cabin, opened the Curtain to the forward Galley and there were two flight attendants shoveling down Lobster from first class meals as hard as the could go. The poor #1 when she saw me damn near choked on hers. I didn't get upset though, those first year Flight Attendants made salvation wages while on probation many living 5 and 6 in a two bedroom apartment to make ends meet. So much for the myth that the Captain got his choice of the meals.


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