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  • https://i1.wp.com/fatgayvegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cous-cous.jpg?fit=640%2C480
  • https://i2.wp.com/fatgayvegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/salad.jpg?fit=640%2C480
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Jet trails in the sky

Do you often fly coach/economy? Then you will be acutely aware of how lousy airline food can be.

Requesting a vegan meal on a plane is even more of  minefield. I was once served a lamb curry for my special meal request. Another adventure involved nothing but a few blocks of cheese and water crackers. And of course we all know the anguish of having nothing to eat except a bowl of under-ripe melon. I have enjoyed the occasional vegan meal on a flight and the memory will always be cherished of being served a vegan donut with chocolate soy milk on a United Airlines flight.

I am keen to share my latest experience of vegan flying food with you, but before I do I want to ask a question. What is the best vegan food you have been served inflight? What is the least memorable? What is the most unbelievably bad? I know that is more than one question, but I am just that curious!

Here is the vegan meal I was served on British Airways a week ago on my way to Mexico City. Overall I was impressed by the quality and the thought that had gone into my meal. The vegan dishes were actually vegan as far as I could tell. It was definitely one of the most satisfying vegan meals I have experienced on a flight during the last few years. How does this rate with your experiences?

Dairy free bread with vegan spread was a rare flying treat

Vegan couscous served by BA was tasty & filling

The mixed salad was slightly underwhelming

The vegan rice pudding was decent with a hint of vanilla

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Written by fatgayvegan

39 Comments
  1. That’s certainly not a bad effort! My very worst food based flight experience was with Kuwait Air, they had nothing I could eat except fruit on a 6 hour flight and one flight attendant insisted I was ‘being stupid’ when I refused a croissant & told me that she wouldn’t tell anyone if I ate it. She also put her fingers through the tunnels in my ears and told me that my tattoos were ugly so I guess customer service wasn’t her strong point!

    On the way to NYC with Virgin this spring I was served a delicious apple crumble but unfortunately on the way home the margarine & non-dairy creamer both contained milk.

    • The dairy in things really irritates me. Why offer a vegan meal and then give dairy?

    • how can a non dairy creamer have milk????

  2. Best: Singapore Airlines and Qantas have both served up really nice fare.

    Worst: Thai Air kept stuffing up my meals and I had long flights with nothing, or salad cobbled together from other unused meals. I’d never fly Thai again – we went to extra effort to confirm our meals and they still got it wrong!

    I’m going from Melbourne to Paris by Korean Air in a couple of weeks so we’ll see how they go.

    • Come back and let us know what it was like!

    • do you realise, if they mess up your meals, write to them and let them know, lodge an official complaint and they always give you a present of some kind… either a discount or a voucher or something… PLUS it helps them to be more aware of the problem and be more serious about fixing it…….

      • We did write and complain, and Thai couldn’t care less – hence deciding not to fly with them again.

  3. I once flew Virgin from London to Antigua with the choice, choice remember, of having during the entire flight either 3 rice cakes or 1 non-soy full dairy strawberry yogurt and when I said I couldn’t eat the yogurt they responded with “why not”? They then shared, “we had some grapes but the someone ate them”. They then offered me a bottle of champagne to compenste for the lack of food “I liked”! As I later passed by their cubby hole in the sky I heard one of the cabin crew saying “that vegan man refused to eat his yoghurt, why do people like that travel on planes”. Strangely enough on the way back I got lashing of wonderful fresh fruit, a cous cous salad with tons of chick-peas mixed through, hummus and fresh crudities, and enough vanilla soy milk to keep the Titanitc afloat. Somone had obviously gone shopping at the change over.

    • I hope you complained about the treatment David? Once on a United Airlines flight I asked if they had soymilk as they were bringing around the tea and coffee. The crew member didn’t even bother answering me directly but instead turned to a colleague at the other end of the aisle and yelled;

      “This guy’s asking for soymilk – do they think this is a café? They’ll be asking for cappuccinos next!”

      Fearing international headlines and instant deportation upon arrival in the US I bit my tongue until we landed then wrote the most ferocious complaint letter and promptly received several hundred dollars in United vouchers – but they stopped short of acknowledging that their cabin crew had done anything wrong…!

  4. I don’t fly very often, so I only have one story. I had an unmemorable but adequate vegan meal on a trip from the UK to the USA with Delta (NWA at the time). There may have been some spread with milk in but mostly I remember it being okay. On the way back they offered vegan meals to the people sitting in front of us. “Cool!” I thought, “that’s a nice coincidence”. Then there was a little delay, during which the people in front started picking at their food. Then it turned out that was our food. I think I ended up with pretzels and fruit and beer.

  5. air new zealand are the best! great customer service. tasty and filling food. cassava chips/crisps for snacks and hummus. I had chickpea curry…don’t remember what else. Am a bit bored of ‘bag o’ fruit’ for dessert though. Virgin ‘forgot’ to pack my meal on the flight several times. My teeth were on edge from eating a banana and cut fruit for meals and snacks. Didn’t compensate me. I look forward to the day when ‘they’ all ‘get it’. How was Mexico City? I am probably going in November.

    • I’m still here! It is fabulous. You should definitely visit. You can use my blog as a short cut for finding some vegan food.

  6. Someone once told me the quality of the food doesn’t depend on the airline, but the departing airport, because most airlines tend to be serviced by the same catering service depending on the airport.

    I think the best meal I had was a flight from London to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, their attention to detail was meticulous (like you I was pleased to find vegan spread and vegan bread).

    The worst I had was a flight from London to Chicago on BA; they forgot my meal so I had to eat some Pringles I had in my bag for dinner. Then the flight attendants proceeded to make fun of me for my poor meal choice.

    The most amusing experience I had was a flight on China Eastern from Shanghai to Beijing. It was a cheap ($100) flight and short (2 hours) so I didn’t expect to be fed. So I was pleasantly surprised when they emailed and said they’d be offering a meal and asked me to select my preferences. When I got on the plane, they put a tray in front of me with the standard foil-wrapped plates and bowls. I began eagerly unwrapping them to discover a main plate filled with melon, a salad bowl filled with melon and a dessert plate filled with yet more melon (all cut into different shapes depending on bowl/plate size)! Luckily it was a short flight so I didn’t mind because I knew I could eat when I arrived in Beijing.

    • Pringles in the bag is a MOST excellent idea, I’ll be doing that!

  7. My worst experience was flying Klm from LA to Amsterdam. For breakfast I was served a biscuit, crackers and marge (only the crackers vegan) and two portions of what looked like vomit – one yellow and one white. Didn’t even bother finding out what the vomit like stuff was cos it was unlikely to be vegan. Had chips and mushy peas at the airport and felt much better!

  8. Best vegan airline meal was on air Canada from Madrid to Toronto. Everything including the bread and margarine was vegan and it was all delicious. Their customer service was also the best I’ve ever gotten from flight attendants.

    The worst meal was from the US to Madrid on air lingus (I think that’s what it was called) since it was a last minute flight. They didn’t have vegan options, only vegetarian options so I had to survive on snacks in my purse, apple sauce, plain side salad, and crackers.

  9. Aeroflot from Moscow to Beijing – cold slimy noodles and mushrooms. At least it was actually vegan, but I was feeling travel sick at the time and my meal did nothing to improve the situation. That was the first time I flew as a vegan and hopefully the last time I will ever fly.

  10. I usually fly American and they always give me the same dang meal. Rice with red stuff with eggplant in it and green stuff with tofu in it. Depending how hungry I am, I pick out the eggplants and tofu. I always bring plenty of snacks though, because if you don’t confirm your veg meal at every step they will forget it, and sometimes even if you do. The staff has always been more or less polite to me; one lady was really concerned when my meal wasn’t there and kept offering to scrounge up a baked potato or something, but I refused because I had brought pretzels for just such an occasion. I wouldn’t bet on the margarine or the bread actually being vegan but it usually doesn’t have ingredients written on it. The fruit is crusty and terrible. Once I was able to fly first class, and the food was better (and more of it), although the main course was the same dang thing. The fruit was great, but unfortunately everyone else got ice cream, and fruit, while awesome as fruit, is not a replacement for ice cream, so it ended up being a bit disappointing. Things I’ve had that were not rice with eggplant stuff and tofu stuff: Vegetables cut into sushi shapes, but with no rice, strange but okay, not so much that I would want it again; pasta with tons of olives, fairly edible but made me airsick, which has otherwise never happened.

  11. I never even eat airline food!! Too afraid because you never know what’s in it, so always come prepared with alternatives!

  12. Oh my word. I flew with Virgin Atlantic once. They invite you to prebook your special dietary meal on their website. I did, but it didn’t get registered and I only knew about this when I was onboard and being confronted with a shepherd’s pie. The only vegan thing they could offer me was a microwaved jacket potato, with nowt else, and a bag of crisps.

    When I finally arrived at San Francisco, I pretty much ate the whole town.

  13. I had an amazing vegan curry on Kuwait Airways on the way to New York a few years ago. All other experiences have been pretty disappointing.

  14. Virgin gave us an ok evening meal but had NO snacks prepared when everyone else had bacon butties/ice creams and the breakfast they gave us on the way back had dairy in the creamer and marge. I was unimpressed! United on this trip seemed better but didn’t have vegetarian meals for the others in my family – bit worried about the return trip! I always take LOTS of snacks!

    • Lots of snacks in the hand luggage is definitely the answer – even if the airline provides vegan food it’s usually inedible and bland. Strange yellow rise with stir-dried (unidentifiable) veg, etc. I think they should stop the whole food business, just serve lots of drinks and fruit, and have all passengers bring our own food.

      • Yeah, maybe you’re right. I always carry lots of snacks with me EVERYWHERE (I’m a greedy vegan!) but get cross when we’ve paid, and asked for the meals and don’t get.
        We just flew with United and the meal was actually pretty good (chickpeas & curry) but they didn’t have the rest of the families veggie meals!

  15. Or even RICE! Sorry.

  16. Years ago, I flew from Kentucky to Alaska on Delta. I called in advance to ask about meals and was offered vegetarian or vegan. Although I wasn’t vegan at the time, I was curious and asked for the vegan meals. They were WONDERFUL–they looked and smelled so much better than the meals the rest of my family got! They only made one slip-up on the round-trip, when they accidentally gave me a vegetarian (not vegan) meal–but as I said, I wasn’t vegan at the time so I didn’t much care. My favorite was breakfast; I had a Kashi-type cooked cereal that tasted like it had been made with apple juice instead of water, and contained chopped fresh fruit. I also had a bagel with jelly. Everyone else had greasy sausage links and those awful-looking “institutional” scrambled eggs and soggy buttered toast.

  17. […] next time you are taking a long haul flight. We all know too well that you can’t rely on vegan airline food. Spread on a rice […]

  18. I’ve had very good experiences with British Airways. The food is certainly edible, tasty and enjoyable. My encounter with Virgin’s food was average but they didn’t have soy milk.

    The best vegan airline food I’ve ever had was with Qantas. I fly with them about eight times a year and I have never ever been disappointment by their vegan meals. For lunch and dinner the main is always delicious and inventive and you can tell that a lot of thought has gone into it, which is awesome. Aside from the main there is a slice of gluten-free vegan rhubarb cake, a piece of fruit and a little tub of soy milk to have with tea or coffee. Occasionally there’s also a flapjack/muesli bar. For breakfast they serve cereal with soy milk and fruit or a hot meal consisting of bubble and squeak or potato cakes.

  19. I’ve have decent experiences with BA, though I generally find they have a main meal to give me, but nothing vegan for the snack/smaller meal.

    Worst was United, as they simply stated that they didn’t take meal requests. Coincidentally there was another vegan in my row and he asked them about vegan meals and was told “we don’t do those any more” and tried to offer him a vegetarian meal (which he refused of course). This was on a UK to US flight. Fortunately I had sandwiches with me due to knowing I hadn’t been able to request a meal.

  20. We ordered and received adequate vegan meals on Virgin to Los Angeles, then they passed around ice-creams. I asked if they had a vegan option (eg a lolly!) and she said that they were complimentary – so No!
    She said “Oh good – that means more for me!”
    … and another time ..
    Flying BA – they ‘forgot’ our vegan meal – but she apologised and said she could probably get us some extra packs of butter if we wanted !!
    It’s true!!

  21. yeah, I’ve never had a vegan meal on a fligh. I make the special request, and it’s basically ignored. I was once given a cheese burger, and told to take the meat off. ugh. I just eat before I board and bring snacks with me.

  22. In March I took an organized group trip to France on United and another vegan was in the group with me. Our meals were planned and I got the same thing as you got in the picture except it was greatly freezer-burned and served with some packaged goods which weren’t vegan. For breakfast they had absolutely nothing. On the way back, I was given what another poster said, some rice with eggplant-looking stuff which was a lot better, but served with more packaged items, the only “vegan” one being a mushy fruit salad from a can. The lunch was just a sandwich with white bread with some lettuce and tomato in it with a clementine (my friend next to me got a bag of all-natural chips, but those weren’t in the vegan meal because…?) Airlines really should have more consistency and variety for all passengers as friends have told me about similar incidents happening with gluten-free meals or allergies.

  23. […] on from the immense interest shown in my recent post about vegan airline food, I have started to ask people to share their words and pictures about their own […]

  24. […] on from the wildly-popular posts about airline food (one by me and one by my friend The Vegan Butcher), I put out an open call for readers to submit their own […]

  25. I’ve also had good experiences with Qantas, as well as Singapore Airlines and even Lufthansa. These were longhaul flights from Europe to Australia. I haven’t been “forgotten” for ages although the snacks in between meals are often not vegan. I also haven’t been made fun of for a very long time. Part of me is hoping for some shoddy treatment so I can complain and get vouchers!
    Short flights are more problematic, the ones where you have to buy food if you want some. Almost never any vegan options.

  26. It really does depend on the airport you’re flying from. I’ve had pretty reasonable food when flying BA from Cape Town to London, but less healthy-feeling options when flying from US hubs back to the UK, still with BA. They’ve always been vegan though. And on the occasions they’ve failed to bring suitable food with them, they will manage to rustle at least something up from the first class and business stashes. Less can be said for United, who left me without food for a journey from west coast US back to UK, and the stewards didn’t even manage to find vegetarian items I could refuse in an attempt to satiate my growling tummy.

    That said, I don’t like airline food at all, as the levels of salt are WAY too high and I suspect they add chemicals of some sort, maybe MSG as a flavour enhancer. So I always cook myself a big big tub of spicy bean rice or something I can snack on whenever I want during the entire journey. Invariably the tub leaks all over my hand luggage / floor / lap, but I can eat in the knowledge that I’m not going to get sick from the additives… bacterial growth on unrefrigerated food aside x-D

  27. I think the best food we ever had provided by the airline was when we were doing short-ish internal flights and they’d made up fresh bread rolls with grilled peppers, raw asparagus and salad. No spread or dressing needed. And served some fresh fruit, water and juice.
    I’ve never found any of the cooked meals edible, particularly when the smell of the meat-based food is all around. Wish they would stick to rolls, fruit and snacks for everyone – much less hassle and stink – and stop pretending they can cook at all!

  28. Brunei airlines have always been fantastic when i fly from London to Australia, they have always provided full vegan meals with vegan spread and breads, different vegan mains and snacks and also little vegan organic gluten free cupcakes or other desserts, 10/10!

  29. I’m flying long long loooong haul with Singapore Airlines next month. By all accounts they seem to offer some of the best vegan airline food out there.

    Thank God! After many years of being served up nothing more than miserable, undressed salads, teeny-tiny bowls of rock hard boulders of fruit, and maybe some bone dry crackers or bread, while fellow diners feast on plentiful meaty offerings (the unavoidable odours of which add further insult to vegan injury) and tantelising desserts, things have changed quite a lot.

    I think I’ll always fear the worst though and plan accordingly. Arriving at your destination on the other side of the world, ravenous, jet lagged and grumpy is not ideal.

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