Back when meal service was the norm on domestic flights, frequent flyers knew that skipping the meal onboard was a good idea for your short-term wellbeing and long-term health. Most hot airline meals are full of salt and sugar (not to mention preservatives) which are intended to help them taste palatable at altitude, since the body loses much of its capacity to taste in the air.
Today, cost cutting, security regulations, and the advent of barebones travelling on airlines such as Southwest, Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit has more or less destroyed the notion of eating a meal onboard- most people just wait until they finally leave the airport to eat. Those who enjoy airport lounges know that even lounges aren’t what they used to be. Count yourself lucky if you find cheese and crackers and a can of off-brand soda inside these days.
So what’s a frequent traveler to do? Everyone has had that one-hour layover at CLT, LAX, or ATL– or if you’re in Europe, LGW airport- which always seems like just enough time to run to your gate and (maybe) buy some water, but never enough time to order and wait for a decent meal.
Grab offers a thoughtful and effective solution to this problem by allowing you to order food in airports directly from your phone. Grab (not to be confused with the Asian Uber-like app of the same name) is free to download and has been active for several years now in many of the busiest airports in the US and UK. As a former flight attendant and current airline employee, my only regret is that I did not discover this app a few years and several pounds ago, especially because the luxury of skipping lines in front of less-savvy travelers is one of the few things that bring joy to my cold little heart.
Searching for Oxtail
Perhaps the best feature of Grab is its search function. The app allows users to search for any food they may have in mind, instead of making users sort through several menus to find something they like. For some reason, my searches for home-cooked oxtail and peas and rice usually don’t turn up results, but that’s probably not a problem with the app.
As a former full-time flight attendant, my only regret is that I did not discover this app a few years and several pounds ago.
For business travelers, another interesting feature is that Grab allows food to be directly added to expense reports using the SAP Concur app. So feel free to dine away if you’re traveling on company business; you (or your secretary) won’t have to worry about filing the receipts later. Explaining why you purchased an entire bottle of wine at that airport steakhouse? That’s on you.
Where’s My Butler? (And Other Drawbacks)
I can only point to two drawbacks with Grab. First, it would be great if, for an additional fee, food could be delivered directly to your gate Uber Eats-style. At large airports such as DFW or ATL, for example, that could make all the difference between patronizing and not patronizing a restaurant.
Even if it wasn’t a time issue, it would be nice to have a tuxedoed delivery person deliver my food to the gate on a silver platter, preferably preceded by someone playing a fanfare on trumpet. Sure, that feature may never be integrated within the app, but a man can dream.
Secondly, while Grab’s services are available in many major airports in the UK and US (including every airport mentioned thus far in this article), there are some very notable omissions. Both Houston Airports (IAH and HOU), both Chicago Airports (IAD and MDW), and two of the big three New York Airports (JFK and EWR, but somehow the worst place on earth La Guardia has Grab available) are the most notable omissions. Philadelphia and two of the DMV-area airports (DCA and IAD) are also notable omissions, but are currently listed on the Grab website as “coming soon”.
Coupons! Coupons! Coupons!
Those who use the American Airlines app may already be familiar with the concept of Grab, as Grab’s services have been integrated with the AA app for a few years now- just look under “terminal maps” then select the “order food” icon on the bottom of the screen.
If you’re interested in Grab, check out grabmobileapp.com and use coupon code DA1273E5 to get 20% off. You’re welcome.
Want more insider travel tips? Subscribe to our newsletter to keep posted and for special IGB travel-related deals! Just fill out the form below .