When talking about drinks served in first & business class, understandably the focus is often on alcohol, especially great champagne. However, it goes without saying that not everyone drinks alcohol. For that matter, even many who usually drink may not want much alcohol when flying, since it’s not exactly great for beating jetlag.
With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to talk about the airlines that serve the best non-alcoholic beverages. It seems to me like this is an area where lots of airlines drop the ball — they’ll invest in $100+ bottles of champagne, but then will have a really lackluster non-alcoholic drink list.
In this post I wanted to share some of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks served on airlines. Of course this is subjective, so these are just some of my favorites, and I’d love to hear what others like. I also want to mention that I’m avoiding “generic” drinks that you’ll find on dozens of airlines, like cappuccinos (as much as I love great coffee). Rather I’m trying to include rarer options.
With that out of the way, below are some of my favorites, in no particular order.
Cathay Delight on Cathay Pacific
The Cathay Delight is one of Cathay Pacific’s signature drinks in first & business class. It consists of kiwi, coconut milk, and fresh mint. It strikes a perfect balance between being refreshing and tasty, all without being overly sweet. Yum.
Lemon mint juice on Qatar Airways
As a general rule of thumb, I don’t drink juice on planes. That’s because it’s rarely fresh. On the ground, the term I generally use for bad orange juice is “airplane orange juice,” which should give you a sense of my feelings on the matter. However, I do have one favorite airplane juice, and that’s Qatar Airways’ lemon mint juice, which is incredibly refreshing. I order this on almost every Qatar Airways flight.
Blueberry juice on Finnair
Finnish cuisine is known for its use of berries, and Finnair incorporates that into its onboard service with a unique juice — Finnair serves blueberry juice in both business class and economy. While this isn’t “fresh,” it’s still one of the best juice drinks you’ll find on any airline. It’s so popular that you can even buy the Finnair branded blueberry juice in select supermarkets in Finland.
Teh tarik on Malaysia Airlines
Teh tarik (literally translated “pulled tea,” because of how it’s made) is a hot, traditional milk tea served in Malaysia. While on the sweet side, it’s super tasty, and is available in Malaysia Airlines business class, even on short haul flights.
Hong Kong style milk tea on Cathay Pacific
Hong Kong style milk tea is traditionally made with black tea and milk. Cathay Pacific serves this in first & business class, though in reality the airline makes it with a powdered mix. So while it’s not as good as what you’ll get on the ground in Hong Kong, it’s still a treat to get on a plane. Be warned that this is rather sweet, so think of it more as a dessert-type indulgence, rather than a typical cup of tea.
Karak chai on Qatar Airways
Qatar Airways serves both saffron and cardamom flavors of karak chai, which is essentially a strong tea with some milk and sugar. Personally the saffron flavored one is my favorite, though both are good. Qatar Airways sometimes runs out of these onboard, so I recommend ordering one with the first meal service if you definitely want to try it.
Iced coffee creations on Austrian Airlines
While some other airlines serve “regular” iced coffee, Austrian Airlines has a special coffee menu, with a variety of Eiskaffee specialties. This consists of sweet dessert-like treats that typically have ice cream, some amount of coffee, and whipped cream. Mmmm….
Iced coffee on Royal Brunei, EVA Air, & Starlux Airlines
While there are plenty of airlines with decent hot coffee, there are very few airlines serving iced coffee on planes. I find that to be odd, since it seems like a pretty low cost thing to offer, and iced coffee has become increasingly popular globally (especially in the United States). Specifically, EVA Air, Starlux Airlines, and Royal Brunei, all served iced coffee in business class.
Cold brew on Delta
Even better than iced coffee, Delta recently launched a partnership with Explorer Cold Brew, and now serves cold brew on select premium routes. This is complimentary in business class and Comfort+, and available for purchase in economy. I hope we see this expand not just to more Delta flights, but also to more US airlines.
Iced oat milk cappuccinos on JetBlue
When it comes to an impressive iced coffee game, I think nothing can compete with JetBlue Mint on transatlantic flights. The airline has iced cappuccinos and iced lattes. The airline even has oat milk, for those who prefer non-dairy options.
While plenty of airlines serve expensive champagne in first & business class, surprisingly few airlines invest in great non-alcoholic drinks. The above are some of my favorite hot and cold non-alcoholic drinks in the sky, though admittedly we all have different preferences.
What are your favorite non-alcoholic beverages served on planes?