Vegetarians on BA and VS – don’t advertise it if you don’t do it

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  • BEYbrit

    Is it just me, or are any other vegetarian flyers out there fed up with not getting the vegetarian meal they booked?

    I’m vegetarian – not vegan – so always book the lacto-ovo vegetarian meal in advance. Lacto-ovo should be a standard vegetarian offering – ‘no’ to meat, but ‘yes’ to eggs and dairy, as the name suggests.

    On recent trips with BA in WT+ and with Virgin in Premium I have been given a vegan meal.

    Why would this bother me? Well, on the last flight from JFK to LHR with BA, the standard offering included butter, cheese, chocolate mousse. My replacement for this? a tiny tub of margarine and a (very) meagre fruit salad. It’s not like for like, is it?

    The BA crew told me this was because “it’s easier to do one meal for everyone with special requests”. So why offer choices?

    On a recent VS trip, the pre-landing snack for everyone was margherita pizza slices – perfectly fine as a lacto-ovo option. Alas, my special request meant that I couldn’t have this. Instead I had a ‘tasty’ tomato and vegan cheese on gluten free bread ‘pizza’.

    On both occasions, there were not enough of the ‘on the trolley’ vegetarian options available and I was told that my only option was the pre-ordered meal. Even though a vegan, gluten free, dairy free meal was NOT what I ordered.

    Surely the airlines are a) misleading people by saying that an lacto-ovo vegetarian meal exists and b) wasting money because in both cases above, there was a standard meal option that would have suited.

    Frustrated? Much.

    Willing to take a chance that there’ll be something on the trolley next time? Maybe.


    BEYbrit, I’m ovo-lacto but whenever I’ve booked vegetarian meals, I’ve ran into a lot of situations you mentioned (specifically, most annoying was Japan airlines and cathay pacific where I was even denied the standard ice cream dessert and given some frozen vegan sorbet). Hence, I book ovo-lacto these days.

    When I’d asked various FA’s why they’re clubbing vegan with vegetarian, these were various explanations I was given:
    1. In certain cultures (like Hindu, aka flights to India), “egg” isn’t considered veg. And the ice cream they serve (haagen Daaz) has egg in its ice cream. Apparently someone had sued the airline (or created a fuss) over it.
    2. Sometimes, dessert like panna cotta contains gelatin and they can’t serve it. Sure, there are veggie alternatives to gelatin but doesn’t make economic sense for their airline to use that for the few odd requests.
    3. Like you mentioned – cost cutting and economies: it’s easier to club veg and vegan for the airline from the catering POV

    That said, on flights to/from India on most european carriers, folks who usually book the Asian Veg are quite happy with the choice inc dessert. BA for example serves rather wonderful rasmalai as dessert on their Asian veg meal offering.

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    MarkivJ wrote: “That said, on flights to/from India on most european carriers, folks who usually book the Asian Veg are quite happy with the choice inc dessert. BA for example serves rather wonderful rasmalai as dessert on their Asian veg meal offering”.

    My wife doesn’t eat meat – she’s not vegetarian as she does eat fish – but got so fed up with the vegetarian meals that she goes for Asian Vegetarian on BA and has rarely been disappointed.

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    It is mainly about streamlining 20-odd dietary/religious meals into five or six.

    Hindu meals were always a bone of contention when I flew for BA. The default offering if you ordered a hindu meal was an indian style vegan meal when in fact it was generally the case that the passenger just did not want anything with beef.

    Most airlines offer a veg option as one of the standard meal options. If I was vegetarian and didn’t want to end up with a vegan meal I would just approach one of the crew before the meal service starts, explain you are vegetarian and that you’d like them to keep aside one of the vege options for you.

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    Even if it was a sensible business decision to rationalise offerings for the lowest common denominator, to the OP’s point, why the lack of candour and transparency? Airlines could say, “we offer x-type of special meals, which are also suitable to y, z etc. dietary needs” and leave it up to the passenger to make the judgement call to prioritise what’s important to them. It’s the lack of candour at the point of sale that is troubling, which leaves front line staff having to deal with the repercussions and disgruntled passengers. Leaving front line staff to deal with poor decision-making of those in the back office is a hallmark of a poorly run business.

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    TheRealB completely agree re transparency. But it is not really a strong point in airline marketing! šŸ˜‰ Look at the thread regarding Air France now giving out boxes in Business on short haul. This they are marketing as a ‘premium improvement’.

    But yes, it would be very easy to list on the website how the meals are grouped/consolidated.


    I cannot blame airlines on this. I travelled all over the world and from my experience at many countries, definition of vegetarian food could be widely different.

    We have news items that only fruits were served as vegetarian food.

    Egg is considered non-veg by many. In east Asia a perfect vegetarian meal could consist of very small fried fish. It is practically impossible to create good vegetarian food that satisfies most except probably in India.

    I sympathise with people who can take only vegetarian food, but best option will be to carry own food if one need to be sure. I prefer food with much less salt due to my blood pressure, can I get that everywhere? No. Similar issue with diabetic patients. It is impossible to satisfy a large group of people on daily basis without charging a very high price.


    To be fair there are so many different dietary requirements that it must be a nightmare handling it even if ordered in advance.

    Of course for premium airlines they go the extra mile to sort it.

    Alas for the BA and Virgins of the world you are just a cost to be streamlined and if they can get away with a tired fruit salad and some b/s they will, even if it means chucking a few miles if you manage to work out the complaints system.

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    The real issues from personal experience of delivering these meals onboard long haul flights is that peoples dietary requirements (or preferences) are becoming more and more complex. For example, often a ‘gluten free’ or a ‘non lacto’ meal will suffice and it was quite often I would be asked in economy ‘oh I am gluten intolerant but also vegetarian’. Or, ‘I am diabetic but also lacto intolerant so can’t eat that diabetic meal because it has cheese in it’.

    Whilst I understand airlines should be more transparent I think customer expectations should be kept in check too, especially where individuals have multiple dietary requirements.


    Rferguson2: Currently, BA has these choices Asian veg, lacto ovo, vegan vegetarian and Jain meals. Their Hindu meals are non-veg but no beef included (so, a chicken curry is acceptable). When I’ve booked Asian veg even from Seattle, I’ve received lacto based desserts (kheer – Indian pudding, for example). In that sense, it’s felt like a complete mail.

    On some flights like AA, or most american carriers who tend to club veg and vegan together, what’s annoying is that we’re not served yoghurt for breakfast (as it may contain gelatin) and only given a granola bar and pre-packaged orange juice. I’ve at times requested the FA that i’d be ok with yoghurt but I’ve been refused as they weren’t supposed to serve it to those requesting veg/vegan meals. That’s why I stopped ordering special meals when flying with American carriers knowing that veg pasta will be a mainstream default option and at least I get a somewhat filling b’fast like the others.

    BEYBrit – regarding your VS moz pizza slice experience, the reason they don’t offer it to those who booked a special veg meal is because mass mozarella usually contains rennet as the coagulent/binding agent which isn’t considered veg. Same reason why on some flights, even the puff/pastry/pasty isn’t offered to vegetarians as it may have had an egg wash before going into the oven.


    @Inquisitive – i think we can blame the airlines for this, as they are the ones specifying that different options are availableā€¦

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