Particularly on longer flights, inflight catering has the potential to make or break a passenger’s satisfaction with the trip. As this is a key part of the onboard experience, airlines want to ensure that all plans are covered appropriately. In recent years, this has included an increase in the availability of vegan meals.
Advance notice is usually required
While plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, they remain far from the norm. For example, The Guardian reported last year that just 8% of UK respondents to a YouGov poll said they were vegan. That, in itself, is above the global average, which Pawsome Advice says is around the 1% mark (79 million people).
As such, vegan meals are not necessarily part of an airline’s daily dining plans, meaning passengers on such diets are normally required to notify their need for a meal in advance. special. Times for this vary, but at least 24 hours notice seems to be the general industry standard.
This is the case at Delta Air Lines, where passengers can order special meals, offered on all international flights and some domestic flights (first class), via the carrier’s “MyTrips” portal. Emirates offers passengers a similar arrangement. Interestingly, Singapore Airlines requires longer notice for certain destinations: 32 hours for Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo, and 48 hours for Athens and Fukuoka.
Emirates also offers an extensive vegan offering in its lounges. Photo: Emirates
What types of food are available?
Although a vegan diet prevents followers from consuming meat or animal by-products (such as dairy, eggs, and honey), this does not necessarily mean that they face a limited selection when it comes to airline catering. Indeed, Emirates claims to serve a portfolio of over 170 vegan dishes at its Dubai-based lounges.
Of course, the exact nature of the food served varies from airline to airline. Finding sample menus isn’t always an easy task, but one airline that provides significant clarity is All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan. Between March and May 2022, it serves “tomato penne pasta and thick fried tofu with soy sauce” as its main vegan meal, with “vegetable pilaf, stewed red lentils and vegetables” as a second option.
One particular zeitgeist of the plant-based movement that has sprung up in recent years is the popularity of vegan burgers. It has also reached the airline industry, with Live Kindly noting in July 2019 that Air New Zealand was the first carrier to serve the factory-based ‘Impossible Burger’. In February 2020, Simple Flying also reported that Japan Airlines had started serving “Beyond Meat” vegan burgers.
Air New Zealand has found the Impossible Burger to be a customer favourite. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | single flight
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A growing trend
Emirates has covered the vegan movement extensively this year after seeing a noticeable increase in demand for its plant-based options. The Dubai-based flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates said that “Vegan meals are one of the most requested special meals on board Emirates flights. During the month of January, the airline is witnessing an increase in demand for plant-based meals.”
This is because these diets are most popular in the first month of the year, as people try to supplement “vegan”. At Emirates, this translates to a 10% increase in the number of plant-based meals served compared to other months. That popularity will likely continue to grow as the movement gains momentum, with VegNews noting that 23% of American Airlines customers are already pre-ordering vegan meals.
Have you ever eaten a vegan meal on your travels? Which airline do you think offers the best plant-based options? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.
With thanks to Simple Flying reader Oliver Adcock for a fascinating topic suggestion.
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