“What do you have?”
he number one question flight attendants get asked during in-flight service is, “What do you have?” Undoubtedly at least a quarter of the plane will ask this even though there’s a menu in the seatback pocket, in the magazine, on the app, or the crew just announced the offerings available. It’s no secret that in-flight service has been scaled down since the start of the pandemic, but even before those changes were implemented, you could generally find the same beverages and snacks available on most flights, and for frequent travelers and those with eclectic palates, it’s boring.
So what are those passengers to do? Well, some create their own menu items as if they were appearing on an impromptu in-flight episode of MasterChef with the flight attendant making a guest appearance as sous-chef. Throughout my decade career as a crew member, and now when I fly as a passenger, I’ve heard some interesting and downright disgusting concoction requests from passengers.
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“Milk and Coke please,” was one such order, overheard on a flight to Orlando. That’s right. Milk and Coke. I’ve never heard of such a thing. According to the passenger (because of course the flight attendant asked) mixing the two drinks created a hydrating beverage to help cure a hangover and boost energy. I didn’t buy into his reasoning, and it looked like the flight attendant didn’t either. The crew member told the passenger they were unaware of the exact proportions to create a drink up to their expectations, and they proceeded to deliver the necessary ingredients so they could mix it themselves. I was happy I could peek over and watch the magic happen. The passenger filled their glass about three-quarters of the way high with Coke, shook up the container of milk, and added it to fill the glass. I later asked my fellow passenger what it tasted like and they replied, “an ice cream float.” I took their word for it.
“Milk and Coke please,” was one such order.
Sometimes the complexity of a specialty drink order requires a legal-size pad to get the instructions right.
“I’ll have a ginger-ale with a little bit of seltzer, a shot of cranberry juice, a little Sprite, a lemon, and a lime. And, I know this is weird…can you mix a half and half in there too? Hold the ice… No, wait, I’ll have two cubes. Oh! And don’t forget the orange juice as well.”
Really? I actually received this request while working a flight from New York to Los Angeles. I couldn’t help but wonder if this passenger made and drank this beverage at home on a random afternoon. “I’m sorry, one more time,” I asked while trying to remember the recipe. I told the passenger I remembered the order, but I knew I didn’t. I figured with all of those ingredients, there’s no way they were going to know if everything was included. I returned to the galley, mixed almost everything together, reluctantly added the half-and-half, but I intentionally left out the Sprite. Would they know? I wondered. I delivered the drink with a smile to which the passenger immediately frowned. “You used Sierra Mist instead!” they complained. “Not a fan of it, but it’ll work.” I apologized, saying it was all we had, but I had the answer to my question.
There are some more normal mixtures that won’t garner crazed looks from the crew. For example, cran-apple juice and orange juice is a drink flight attendants frequently make for kids because mixed together it becomes a fruit punch. There’s also Diet Coke with a splash of Sprite–together it easily delivers the same taste as a Diet Coke with lemon and/or lime in case the plane wasn’t catered with lemon wedges.
When a passenger requests five packs of Biscoff cookies and a cup of limes you quickly realize that creating a menu masterpiece doesn’t have to stop with beverages. Creativity can also flow when “cooking” with the free onboard snacks. By simply squeezing lime juice onto the staple domestic main cabin breakfast snack before eating, you create the taste of enjoying a piece (a very small piece) of key lime pie. Intrigued, I tried this one myself and it’s true. The cookie carries the taste of a pie crust and the lime adds the right amount of flavor for your imagination to take over.
Although the beverage and snack options presented on your next flight might not sound as appealing as you would prefer, it’s polite to try and stick with an easy order. Recognize that the flight attendants have other passengers to assist. You should also try to locate the menu before the cart reaches your row or the next time you ask “What do you have?” On a short flight you may get the response, “Not a lot of time.”