Thanksgiving 2023: a guide to in-flight meals and foods you can take on a plane

Olha Yefimova / 06photo/

The Thanksgiving travel season officially kicked off on November 17, 2023, and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) anticipates that airport security checkpoints throughout the United States will be busier than usual during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period. 

An estimated 30 million travelers are expected to fly during the Thanksgiving season, with passenger numbers due to peak on November 26, the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 24). 

The TSA also predicts that the two other busiest days will be Tuesday (November 21) and Wednesday (November 22) prior to Thanksgiving.

In anticipation of the travel rush, the Federal Aviation Administration FAA published a friendly reminder on Facebook asking passengers not to be “a Turkey” and bring food or liquids onboard that are prohibited by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

So, if you’re a foodie and want to know what types of festive food you can bring on board, or which airlines are serving up a Thanksgiving feast, then we’ve got you.

Can you bring turkey on board?

Alexander Raths/

The TSA knows that the festive season is getting everyone excited to see families and tuck into that tasty Thanksgiving dinner.

So to make things clear the agency has published a list of Thanksgiving food and dishes that they allow on board, and those that are prohibited.

As a rule, the TSA said: “If it’s a solid item, then it can go through a checkpoint. However, if you can spill it, spread it, spray it, pump it or pour it, and it’s larger than 3.4 ounces, then it should go in a checked bag.”

Thanksgiving foods that can be carried through a TSA checkpoint:  

  • Baked goods:  Homemade or store-bought pies, cakes, cookies, brownies and other sweet treats.
  • Meats: Turkey, chicken, ham, steak. (Frozen, cooked or uncooked)
  • Stuffing:  Cooked, uncooked, in a box or in a bag.
  • Casseroles: Traditional green beans, onions, etc
  • Mac ‘n Cheese: Cooked in a pan or traveling with the ingredients to cook it at your destination.
  • Fresh vegetables:Potatoes, yams, broccoli, green beans, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, beets, radishes, carrots, squash, greens.
  • Fresh fruit: Apples, pears, pineapple, lemons, limes, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, kiwi. 
  • Candy
  • Spices

Thanksgiving foods that should be carefully packed with your checked baggage:

  • Cranberry sauce: Homemade or canned are spreadable, so check them.
  • Gravy: Homemade or in a jar/can.
  • Wine, champagne, sparkling apple cider.
  • Canned fruit or vegetables: It’s got liquid in the can, so check them.
  • Preserves, jams and jellies: They are spreadable, so best to check them.
  • Maple syrup

So the good news is that you can actually bring a turkey on board. The not-so-good news is that you cannot have a complete Thanksgiving feast due to liquids like sauces and sparkling drinks that have to be in checked baggage. 

However, not all is lost. Some airlines have prepared a Thanksgiving treat for passengers traveling during the season.



Lounges in Dubai will serve pumpkin tarts, traditional dinner with glazed chestnut stuffing, and cranberry sauce. Sides of potatoes and brussel sprouts.

Lounges in New York’s John F Kennedy Airport (JFK) , San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) will serve sage roasted turkey breast with preserved lemon, green olive and fig stuffing. For dessert: candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows and toasted pecans or a pistachio pumpkin spiced baklava.

Selected US flights on all classes from November 23-30, 2023:

First & Business class

Cinnamon pancakes, sweet potato soup, turkey leg roulade with pumpkin purée, cranberry jus lié, brussels sprouts, glazed baby carrots and roasted pecans.

Economy class

Quinoa salad with roasted chicken roulade served with cranberry jus lié, mashed parsnip and carrot, green beans and baked potatoes


First class- key lime tart with raspberry coulis

Business class – spiced apple cake with date compote and raspberry curd

Premium economy – spiced apple cake with crème anglaise, date compote and raspberry curd

Economy- pumpkin delice with cinnamon cream and crumble

British Airways

British Airways

On November 23, 2023, British Airways will be celebrating Thanksgiving on all long-haul flights to and from the United States. 

Passengers across all cabins will have the choice of a festive main course and dessert. Those traveling in First and Club World will be able to enjoy a traditional turkey roast followed by either a classic pumpkin pie featuring nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger, a pumpkin and walnut cake, or a pumpkin-flavored cheesecake.

Customers in World Traveller Plus and World Traveller will be served a traditional turkey roast followed by the option of pumpkin pie, gingerbread mousse or a spiced pumpkin and white chocolate mousse. 

Alaska Airlines

Image: Alaska Airlines

Not exactly specific to Thanksgiving, but from November 8, 2023, Alaska Airlines sparked nostalgia on board by bringing back some of its “greatest hits” in food and beverage for winter 2023. 

Of the 35 First Class entrees, two dozen are returning fan favorites, including Jerk Chicken with coconut curry fried rice and Kalbi Beef in a Korean BBQ sauce.  

Alaska’s Sesame Chicken and Rice will continue to be served to First Class guests throughout the winter.

Actor and comedian Dax Shepard recently posted on social media that he “was still reeling” over two servings of the roasted chicken with sesame teriyaki glaze on an Alaska Airlines flight from Burbank to Portland. 

By December 1, 2023 Alaska’s  coffee blend with Stumptown Roasters will be available onboard. This custom-made roast is said to be crafted to be enjoyed at 30,000 feet.

American Airlines

While the Dallas Fort Worth-based airline does not have a specific Thanksgiving-themed menu for 2023, it said that it has seen some of the highest load factors for travel in the Thanksgiving 2023 season.

The airline prepared for the busy travel period by fine tuning its catering operations. In September 2023, American Airlines opened a $100 million catering facility to serve its hub at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW). 

The airline uses automated and robotic systems for loading to minimize delays, errors and to also save time. 

Etihad Airways

On November 23, 2023, Etihad will be serving a special Thanksgiving menu for guests on all flights from New York, Chicago and Washington to Abu Dhabi. 

The traditional Thanksgiving menu features roast turkey with mashed potatoes, thyme, roast carrots, brussels sprouts and cranberry jus. Dessert will be pumpkin pie served with whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.

United Airlines

A UA spokesperson told AeroTime that for a limited time at select United Club locations, the airline is offering  a variety of Thanksgiving food and beverages, such as apple cider, roasted turkey and cranberry sandwiches, and pecan pie.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving food? Or a particular favorite dish served on board a flight during the holiday period? Let us know in the comments below. 

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