Over the years, the awareness about Vegetarianism and Veganism has compelled and encouraged airlines to provide such options in the in-flight meal. I will be writing about such experiences on regular basis. This post is intended to give a general overview.
I am vegetarian, preferably Vegan or in the process of being so. Since I am still a student, hence I am constrained by the options what I get at the University residence. However, during my journey, I have a greater flexibility.
My first air travel that too international travel was by AirAsia from Kochi to Bali via Kuala Lumpur. Since, Air Asia is a low cost carrier it does not provide meal as included in the ticket prices. Hence, preferably book it in advance. Air Asia provided broadly two options – Biryani and Vegetarian Pasta. I have tasted both, on various segments of Air Asia including Delhi- Kuala Lumpur- Siem Reap, and they are all fine. Like everything else on Air Asia, meals are also perfect. Pre-booked meal would also get you a complimentary bottle of water with the meal.
Vegetarians in India or Indian Veg meal often find that – Paneer almost seem the only option available to them. However, I have experienced that inflight meal options have become more varied with South Indian meal choices and also include Parantha and Puri occasionally. Like in India, I found that on Vistara’s Delhi – Ahmedabad, they have lot of regional variations. In case of Indigo, the meals are rather packed snacks, though you get some options like Vegetarian Sandwich, or Upma etc. Since, Vistara is a full service service airline, the meals are complimentary like that in Air India and Jet Airways, however, in case of Indigo, it is available on purchase and can be pre-booked, saving you lot of money. Indeed in both the airlines the meals are tasty, but Vistara provides a proper meal, filling your stomach.
Among the full service airline, I travelled with KLM from Delhi to Lima via Amsterdam, in November 2015. KLM on Delhi – Amsterdam route is 100% Vegetarian and provides two options – Indian Vegetarian and Western Vegetarian. In fact, you can make an online request for other special meals too for medical or religious reasons. I have also tasted Vegan meal on KLM in Delhi- Amsterdam route, but I found the meal more like hospital meal, hence I would recommend Indian Veg rather.
Some of the airlines devise their meal option based on the food available in the home country of airline. In this reference, I found that Ethiopian Airlines served Palak (Spinach) and beans in almost all the segment, while I travelled from Mumbai- Addis Ababa- Lome- Sao Paulo route. Though rice is what they bore the travelers, but the onward journey from Mumbai to Addis Ababa served Parantha. Also at the Lounge at Addis Ababa Rice and Beans are available in plenty.
All the flights departing from India have sufficient amount of Vegetarian meals for passengers even in case when passenger have not opted for a Vegetarian meal option in advance. Air India for obvious reasons, has plenty of Veg meals for all. I have tasted Air India meals on Delhi- Mumbai domestic route and Delhi- Chicago international route. Best thing about Air India: Indians can feel more comfortable in asking for extra meals, as and when they feel like. I did the same while returning from US to Delhi on Air India. Meals are good, though not presented the way other international airlines do it.
Usually the worry for most of the passenger is – whether Vegetarian meals should be pre-booked. Certainly, unless the booking is made in less than 24 hours’ time and such online requests could not be placed. It happened to me once, I booked a Lufthansa Delhi – Munich – New York segment just six hours in advance. I knew that I won’t be able to book the special meal online, nevertheless I tried to do the same through the call center. I was informed that, though they can add a note to the reservation, it cannot be guaranteed – but also the fact that on Delhi- Munich route there would be plenty of Vegetarian meals, hence it is not much of a problem when flying out of Delhi (or anywhere from Indian airports). Despite all the attempts at Munich Airport, only when I boarded a flight I found that they always keep multiple options – one of which would be for Vegetarians on this route.
Now for Vegetarians travelling to South America, which has been more or less classified as a hard nut to crack. I found that it is relatively hard to find pure Vegetarian environment, but still one can find several options and Vegetarian/ Vegan restaurants using websites like Happycow.com for that matter even a simple google search. As regarding intercontinental flights to and out of South American destinations, getting any meal if requested online would be easy. However, case is quite different for inflight meal in domestic airlines.
I have travelled in three airlines based in South America namely Star Peru, LATAM Brasil and Avianca Brasil. The Star Peru’s Lima- Cusco route offers refreshments/ snacks are Vegetarian by default – Habas (Peruvian beans) and fruit juice. Avianca Brasil on Rio de Janeiro- Brasilia route provides only Lacto- Ovo option (may contain milk and egg products). I have travelled on various domestic segments on LATAM Brasil and found that though special meals cannot be booked unless the flight time is above 3 hours – which in any case won’t be while in Brazil – but there would be chips and Cold Drink/ juice available.
As I mentioned, different types of options available in various flights, I also wish to acknowledge that you can always carry your meal in the flight. Some of the flights where food is available on purchase in the flight may of course prohibit outside meal for various reasons. Rightly so, they cannot take the responsibility for the same, if something goes wrong to a passenger after he/she consumes the food that was not provided with the airline.
In a course of time, I will be posting a detailed analysis of each and every in-flight meal on different flight segments.