Veggie airline meals: Which firms pass with flying colours?

Posted by Candice on 13/05/17 in Articles, Life After Retirement, Travel

I have spent a fair bit of time flying over the past few years, working as a live-in carer in the UK, and spending any time off in South Africa, or other far-flung destinations such as Malawi and Croatia. I found myself flying every couple of months. And as a vegetarian who doesn’t have any dairy, I quickly became aware of the importance of being prepared and pre-ordering your meal.

Covering yourself by packing your own food and snacks is tricky nowadays – as I found out when my hummus was confiscated at a Spanish security check. So we’ve pulled together a handy guide to the most popular airlines, what their vegetarian and vegan offerings are, and what to do so you aren’t caught off guard as you jet off on your holidays!

Firstly, here's what those naming conventions mean, in case your meal hasn’t arrived on-board and you are offered an alternative. This list isn’t an exact science – some airlines may describe their meals in other ways – but I’ve found that these general naming rules apply:

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian Does not contain meat, fish or seafood. May contain dairy products such as milk, butter, cheese and eggs.
Vegan Does not contain meat, fish, fowl, eggs, honey, dairy products or derivatives.
Asian/Hindu vegetarian A meat-free, spicy meal. Does not contain fish, shellfish, meat, poultry or eggs. May contain dairy.
Muslim No pork, lard or alcohol is used in meal preparation.
Kosher Prepared to comply with Jewish dietary laws. Can contain animal products.
Gluten free Does not contain wheat, wheat flour, barley oats, rye, bread, cakes (unless wheat free), pastry, sausages or any flour-based products.
Low calorie Low in fat and sugar with a reduced portion of protein.
Low fat A high-fibre meal with reduced fat.
Low salt Does not contain salt, MSG and baking soda/powder. Instead the meal is flavoured with herbs and spices.
Low lactose Does not contain cheese, dairy products and their derivatives, lactose or milk products.

After quizzing each airline about their catering policy for vegetarians and vegans, we've summarised their responses below.

  Vegetarian option/s Vegan option/s Notes

American Airlines 

Yes Yes

Offer special meals to meet specific dietary, medical and religious needs. Request your special meal at least 24 hours before your flight. Special meals include vegetarian/vegan breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts, soy milk and tofu. Shorthaul fligts offer a range of paid-for snacks and light meals, which include vegetarian options, but can not guarantee a vegan option would always be available.

View special meal options.

British Airlines

Yes Yes

British Airways offer a range of special meals if you have specific dietary requirements. Find out how to order your special meal online at ba.com

View special meal options.

Cathay Pacific

Yes Yes

Whilst on many routes we do offer a vegetarian option within the standard main meal selection, the best way to guarantee the entire F&B offering is fully compliant and suitable for vegetarian and vegan ingredients is to recommend our passengers to select a Special Meal (SPML), which needs to be pre-booked with a minimum 24 hrs advance notice to ensure the internal processes can handle the request in a timely manner.  Such information is passed through the reservations systems to our caterers across the network to ensure they fulfil the request.

Vegans can select from our Indian vegetarian meal, fruit platter meal, vegetarian raw Meal, vegetarian vegan Meal, vegetarian Jain meal and vegetarian Oriental meal in any class of travel from our SPML list.
 
Such meals could include:  Potato and chive soup , Wild mushroom risotto, Green leafy salad with sesame dressing, Fresh woodland berries – ginger syrup.

easyJet

Yes Yes

Vegetarians have a huge selection of food available to them onboard our flights. Hot snacks are available for vegetarians, including:

  • Couscous & Lentil Wholesome Pot (70g) – £2.80 / €4
  • Heinz Tomato Soup – £2.30 / €3
  • Moma Porridge (70g) – £2.30 / €3
  • Thai Style Noodle Pot (70g) – £2.80 / €4

View onboard menu.

Flybe

Yes No

Flybe is pleased to cater for vegetarians who wish to enjoy food and beverages on board one of our flights, the average length of which is just 53 minutes. Our on board menu features a wide, readily available selection of 32 vegetarian items, all highlighted for ease of reference by the recognised green ‘v’ symbol.

View onboard menu.

Jet Blue

Yes Yes

Core: http://www.jetblue.com/flying-on-jetblue/snacks-and-drinks/
Mint: http://www.jetblue.com/flying-on-jetblue/mint/

Lufthansa

Yes Yes

Lufthansa passengers who require special food for dietary, nutritional or religious reasons have a choice of 16 different meals. These need to be ordered at least 24 hours before departure through the travel agent or online under ‘My Bookings’, provided that there is a confirmed booking in the required class. There is no additional cost to the passenger for this service. Vegetarian and vegan meal options available.

View special meal options.

Ryanair

Yes No

We provide a pre-order service for hot breakfast (from Dublin Airport only at present). We don’t offer any other pre-order service, however, we sell a selection of food and drinks onboard, hot and cold. All products, including vegetarian options (we currently do not have vegan options) are listed in our inflight menu.

View onboard menu.

Singapore Airlines

Yes Yes

Both vegetarian and vegan meal options need to be pre-ordered, up to 24h before the flight. 

View special meal options.

Virgin Atlantic

Yes Yes

We do always have a vegetarian option onboard but to ensure customers receive this we recommend that a meal is pre-booked on our website. For vegan customers we always recommend that the meal is pre-booked online. This can be done up to 48 hours prior to departure.

Related posts: Cruise holiday cuisine


So that is what the airlines tell us, but what do you think? Please share your thoughts on how well they are doing – and your catering experiences, good or bad – in the comments below.


Comments

Una Gordon
15 May, 2017

I travelled Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic’s Heathrow to JFK in March last year, having booked my vegan meals weeks before travel. As I watched my fellow travellers peruse their menus and receive beautifully presented dishes, I was disappointed when my starter arrived to find that it was a meagre salad drowned in chilli oil; I loathe chilli with a passion. The main course was curry. The pudding was fruit salad so I had something to eat.

Afternoon tea trollies arrived later laden with dainty sandwiches and cakes. My meal was a chilli wrap!

The cabin crew members were very helpful and kept me supplied with fruit and nuts and crudities, fine for a raw food diet but not for the promised gourmet experience being enjoyed by my fellow travellers. The crew undertook to pass my complaints on so that my return journey would be better.

Sadly it wasn’t. There was no chill, but then there was no taste. Virgin compensated me with air miles for which I am grateful. However they need to consult in depth with authorities on vegan catering to ensure that discrimination of this kind does not happen. And all providers of vegan food need to realise that many people do not eat chilli!

Maggie
24 May, 2017

I’ve had some really good, and very bad experiences flying and in airports.

Sadly, when I was travelling to Portugal a couple of years ago the food provided was a ham or cheese sandwich, when I asked if there was a vegan option they shrugged and walked away. Portugal is a very meat and dairy heavy consuming country, but it was a little sad to not been provided anything for the flight.

I also think airports need to start providing better food, at the moment I tend to go to Boots for a meal deal (if there are any left) or stick to snacks. It’s not difficult or expensive to make a vegan breakfast so I’d hope places take notice.

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