The Airlines That Serve The Best Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Filed Under: Travel

A lot of focus is put on which airlines serve the best champagne in first & business class, though obviously not everyone drinks. While airlines will often invest in $100+ per bottle champagne, they’ll really drop the ball when it comes to non-alcoholic beverages, which can be just as important and only a fraction of the cost.

In this post I wanted to mix things up a bit and share eight of my favorite non-alcoholic drinks served on planes. Of course this is subjective, so these are just some of my favorites. I’m avoiding generic things like cappuccino and regular tea, since those are things offered by dozens and dozens of airlines. Rather I’m trying to only include things that are less common. In no particular order:

Teh tarik (Malaysia Airlines business class)

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.

Karak chai (Qatar Airways business class)

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 tends to run out of these onboard, so I recommend ordering one with the first meal service if you definitely want to try it.

Hong Kong style milk tea (Cathay Pacific first class & business class)

Hong Kong style milk tea is traditionally made with black tea and milk. In reality Cathay Pacific makes this 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.

French press coffee (Emirates first class & Garuda Indonesia first class)

While all of the above tea-based beverages are super tasty, they’re also sweet and have a good number of calories. So if you’re looking for a lower calorie caffeine alternative, Emirates and Garuda Indonesia have French press coffee in first class.

Lime mint juice (Qatar Airways business class)

Let’s switch gears to cold beverages. As a 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, there is one airplane juice that I love — specifically, I’m talking about Qatar Airways’ lime mint juice, which is refreshing.

Smoothies (Qatar Airways business class)

While Qatar Airways isn’t the only airline to offer smoothies on flights, they do have among my favorites. If your flight features a breakfast service, there should also be the option to have a smoothie, which is a nice alternative to the water, coffee, and champagne that I usually drink on planes.

Iced coffee (Royal Brunei business class & EVA Air business class)

While there are plenty of airlines with good coffee, I only know of two airlines that serve iced coffee on planes, and those are EVA Air and Royal Brunei. Just to clarify, any airline can make hot coffee and let it cool, but that’s not real iced coffee. Real iced coffee has to be made with that purpose, as it’s more concentrated given that it will be iced down.

Iced coffee creations (Austrian business class)

This is somewhere between hot and cold, though Austrian Airlines is known for their incredible iced coffee menu. This consists of sweet dessert-like treats that typically have iced cream, some amount of coffee, and whipped cream. Mmmm….

Those are just a few of my favorites. What are your favorite non-alcoholic beverages served on planes?

  1. What stroke me the most about Qatar Airways is that while I was fortunate enough to sample both the saffron and cardamom flavors of their excellent Karak Chai, there was not a chance of getting anything remotely close to that in their Al Mourjan and Al Sawfa lounges. The staff was aware it was served on board, but told me it’s more of an “on-board exclusivity” – Whatever the reason, Qatar’s Karak Chai is amazing!

  2. Yes, I agree that the Austrian Airlines coffee menu is outstanding!! I prefer their alcoholic coffee beverages though 🙂

  3. I know you said you weren’t including “regular tea” but I think you could have made an exception for the JAL Royal Blue!

  4. I remember when I flew Thai Airways in business a few years ago they had a delicious, and very unique, purple drink of some kind. Unfortunately I don’t remember what the drink was called or what was in it. I think I recall that it was only served on my flight out of BKK and not on the return. Googleing “Thai Airways Purple Drink” doesn’t yield me anything. Anyone know what it might be?

  5. LOVE Austrian’s ‘coffeehouse above the clouds’. A unique touch that really sets them apart.

    I also like the lemon/mint drink that they serve on Turkish.

  6. Cathay Pacific’s Oriental Breeze is quite good and frankly a heck of a lot better than powdered milk tea. I also quite liked the kiwi drink served on JAL.

  7. Have you ever had Qatar Airways’s So Jennie? It’s a non-alcoholic rose drink I recall having in QR flying in J. Loved it! Similar to others, I also love CX’s Cathay Delight.
    When I flew Saudia in J, they served freshly squeezed orange juice.

  8. Chicha Morada which is made from corn, is a typical soft drink served by Peruvian Airlines and at times LATAM. It is enjoyed mostly by people who are accustomed to Peruvian food and drink.

  9. Lucky, you really should try out more mocktails that some airlines offer, just to see if any of them would make the list.

  10. Cathay Delight is the best.
    Also Cathay offers fresh orange juice on certain flights. I was quite surprised when I had it onboard.
    And EVA offers fresh pineapple juice on flights out of Taiwan, which is pretty tasty.

  11. Topic of interest. I don’t do alcohol. I don’t do coffee. Flying first without partaking in the alcohol or the coffee is quite a challenge to the staff. ANA served an orange juice. Singapore Airlines served a mango lassi. JAL served a kiwi drink.

    Unfortunately I did not note the orange juice. The staff displayed the bottle prior to opening the bottle. The juice is a specialty of Japan.

  12. JAL SkyTime Kiwi and Yuzu.

    And as many others have commented, it’s criminal that Cathay Delight is not on this listicle.

  13. ‘Cathay Delight’ should be on the list too; refreshing without being overly sweet or sour; a well balanced drink

  14. Let’s not forget the amazing tea service on Sri Lankan Airlines: not just great ginger tea but served in individual teapots on a “silver tray” in J. The service that comes with it definitely makes it their signature!

  15. Finally flew Austrian business a few months ago and love watching the slightly bemused looks on peoples’ faces as I wax lyrical about their caffeehaus in the sky, and their iced coffee in particular – it was truly spectacular.

    The mocktail that Fiji Airways serves in business pre-take-off is also incredibly tasty & outstandingly refreshing. Needless to say, however, the rum-based one is out of this world!

  16. I wish N. American Airlines upped their game in this regard. Sometimes I make my own iced tea on the plane because I get so sick of the same old, same old.

  17. The lack of Cathay Delight is yet another splendid display of the amount of ignorance you have about Cathay and its products. It’s the drink that CX Diamonds go for. Gosh, I just wish you would get your hands off this airline and everyone would be happier. Especially after that oh-so-entitled post by Tiffany a few days ago. SMH

  18. Fruit Spritzer and Citrus Delight served by SQ in economy are pretty good. Moreover, mocktails in economy!
    Also agree with JAL SkyTime drinks, they’re great.

  19. @weymar Tabea’s correct.
    It’s butterfly tea or anchang in Thai.
    Not only tastes great but it alluringly changes its colour when acid is added (i.e. lemon).
    You can buy dry packs at local stores.

  20. I actually got really good freshly squeezed orange juice in Cathay Pacific economy as part of their breakfast meal pre-landing in Hong Kong from London, so it is possible to have good orange juice in the sky.

  21. Oriental Breeze and Cathay Delight from Cathay
    The teas served by JAL and Cathay could make the list because they differ from the low quality barely drinkable teas served by almost everyone else.
    Sky Time from JAL is also not bad (but it’s more of a guilty pleasure)

    Otherwise, I agree with the Teh Tarik from Malaysia business class, it’s nice tasty 🙂

  22. Cathay Delight!
    Never tried the HK milk tea.. never seen anyone under 50 order it on the ground or in the air..

  23. SQ has an extensive mocktails list in J; doesnt LH serve fresh pulpy OJ with TATL breakfast service or has that stopped? Agree re: CX Delight & Oriental Breeze.

  24. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS / SK) serves unfiltered apple juice from Ringi (“Ringi eplemost”) in business. It’s bottled and labeled for SAS, and the specific, single variety of the apple is also printed on the label.

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