Heathrow's 118 restaurants serve 35 million people a year

Asian airports have always been a good pit stop for travellers with discerning palates

Every year, passengers at Heathrow airport munch through 6.4 million croissants, 630,000 steaks and 250,000 pieces of sushi, sipping more than 800,000 glasses of champagne. Airport catering is big business, and operators are realising that even if you have a captive audience, you don't have to serve them bad food.

Europe's busiest airport is at the forefront of the epicurean revolution – almost half of Heathrow's annual 73 million passengers eat at one of its restaurants. Its impressive line-up includes establishments overseen by Gordon Ramsay and Heston Blumenthal. Terminal Two is also home to a branch of the on-trend, healthy fast food chain, Leon, while passengers can now buy picnics from all 118 of the airport's eateries to take on board.

While Gatwick's South Terminal still lacks in the gourmet stakes, the North Terminal features Jamie Oliver's Italian and Bakery outlets and the fashionable Middle Eastern café, Comptoir Libanais. This summer, a new branch of noodle chain Wagamama will debut in the North Terminal.

Asian airports have always been a good pit stop for travellers with discerning palates. Hong Kong International was voted Best Airport Dining at the Skytrax 2014 Airport awards, with more than 120 options including pre-departure plates of superior dim sum at Maxim's.

Singapore's Changi Airport unveiled the new Singapore Food Street last July, with 13 stalls offering more than 200 dishes. The airport has also just turned the soil on a project called The Jewel, which will see an array of new restaurants set amid verdant indoor gardens and the world's tallest indoor waterfall.

Several airport restaurants across the US have already attained cult status among hungry passengers. Fans of Danny Meyer's Shake Shack empire, can get their airside fix of its burgers and milkshakes at New York JFK's Terminal 4.

The Obamas may favour chef Rick Bayless's Mexican restaurants in Chicago, but he now also counts many grateful passengers at Chicago O'Hare airport as fans, at one of three Tortas Frontera outlets in Terminals 1, 3 and 5. Similarly, the fare on offer at Boston Logan's Legal Sea Foods branch is every bit as laudable as its other locations downtown, while Austin airport's The Salt Lick is often singled out as one of the best places to sample Tex-Mex.

But one of the most ambitious transformations is under way at Newark Liberty airport's Terminal 3. A $120m overhaul will introduce 55 new restaurants – headlined by chefs such as Alain Ducasse and Mario Carbone. You might even be glad to miss your flight.