A few major airlines in Canada, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates have recently introduced new vegan menu options.
I've been vegan since 2004. Since then, aircraft cuisine has improved significantly, but certain airlines still offer superior dining alternatives than others (and whether they even load your meal on the plane in the first place).
I've learned over the past 18 years that some airlines are more dependable than others when it comes to providing the vegan meal I requested and verified in advance. Let's examine what vegan meal alternatives are available on flights, how to request them, and which airlines are most dependable in providing them.
In recent years, restaurants around the globe have added a wealth of vegan alternatives, so it's likely that you will find a delicious plant-based lunch wherever you travel. And with this week's innovations at four separate airlines, both the journey and the destination are becoming more accommodating to vegans.
The possibilities for vegan meals on flights
Most airlines demand that meal requests be made at least 24 hours, and occasionally 48 hours, prior to departure. It is also prudent to double-check upon arrival at the airport to ensure that your special lunch request was processed correctly. Thus, if the airline does not have the meal you requested, you can eat in the airport or purchase something to carry on the flight.
Sounds straightforward, right? Well, airlines also use various meal codes, which can add to the uncertainty regarding what you are actually ordering:
VGML- Vegetarian Vegan Meal. This dinner will contain no animal products whatsoever, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. However, this will often come with the same non-vegan bread as everyone else, as well as butter and regular cow's milk for your tea and coffee.
VLML – Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal. A typical vegetarian cuisine that does not contain fish or meat, but may include eggs, dairy, and honey.
VOML – Vegetarian Oriental Meal. Typically, these are seen on Asian carriers. They are nearly always vegan and made in an oriental fashion, such as with rice and vegetables. This option is typically gluten-free.
AVML – Asian Vegetarian Meal. Unlikely to be vegan, as it often contains spicy vegetables (which may contain ghee) and dairy items like as paneer cheese.
VJML = Vegetarian Jain Meal. This is an extremely secure alternative for vegans, as the meal will adhere to Jainism's religious principles. This indicates that it will contain solely fruits and vegetables that grow above the ground, and no animal products.
RVML stands for Raw Vegetable Meal. If you're seeking a vegan cuisine, you can't go wrong with this option, which consists solely of raw fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, this usually means that it is the most tasteless alternative.
FPML – Fruit Platter. This is the one for all those fruitarians out there.
These are the fundamental guidelines, while some airlines may just provide a “vegetarian lunch” as their sole vegetarian choice. In many cases, these items are vegan and tailored to accommodate all vegetarian meal requests.
However, what is the actual experience here? How frequently do airlines provide these vegan meals? Are they of any value?
Japan's vegan sector has been expanding in recent years, with the number of vegan restaurants increasing from 400 to around 1,000 between 2018 and 2020. All Nippon Airways (ANA), the country's largest airline, is embracing the plant-based change with new menu selections.
ANA's Executive Vice President, Customer Experience Management & Planning, Tomoji Ishii, stated that offering all-inclusive food options is crucial to providing the greatest in-flight experience possible. We anticipate delivering these high-quality menu items and offering a variety of meal options to each of our consumers.
Beginning November 1st, ANA will provide vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free alternatives cooked in collaboration with renowned chef Hideki Takayama. Curry-flavored Chickpea Hamburger Steak with Vegetable Curry served with rolled cabbage in couscous salad, mixed salad, rye roll, and assorted fruit; and Vegetable Pilaf Stewed Red Lentils & Vegetable served with petit Paris bread roll and assorted fruit are the two vegan meals developed by the chef for flights departing from Japan.
“Many foods, including dairy products, eggs, fish, and meat, could not be used,” chef Takayama said in a statement. “We also devised the menu without root vegetables to satisfy the dietary preferences of more consumers.” “With so many limits, it was impossible to attain the same level of results as the gastronomic menu, but this was the issue on which we concentrated.”
“As we developed the menu, we were able to reaffirm the popularity of veggies, and I feel we have created a unique in-flight meal,” chef Takayama stated.
And ANA is not the only airline to offer vegan food during World Vegan Month (November).
North American airlines now provide vegan options.
In November, Air Canada will also expand its vegan lunch options onboard. In addition to other modifications, the airline will introduce a Farro Salad and Spiced Chickpea Wrap to its Air Canada Bistro menu, as well as Good to Go vegan blondies and Nomz energy snacks, all developed by renowned Montreal chef Jérôme Ferrer.
The airline is implementing other enhancements, including complimentary Wi-Fi for Premium Rouge passengers and a 25 percent boost in entertainment options.
“Air Canada is committed to enhancing the customer experience and providing the kind of world-class services that Canadians can be proud of from their flag carrier,” said Air Canada's Senior Vice President of Products, Marketing, and eCommerce, Mark Nasr. “Accordingly, we are investing in all parts of the journey, including our Economy and Premium cabins, to enhance the client experience. The announcements made today go well beyond the end of the pandemic; we are happy to present numerous new services and solutions that are not currently accessible in Canada.”
Alaska Airlines is expanding its vegan offerings with the introduction of a new fall salad. The Brusselin' Vegan Salad, developed in collaboration with Seattle-based chain Evergreens, is comprised of Tuscan kale and romaine lettuce, topped with roasted shaved Brussels sprouts, red quinoa, red peppers, golden raisins, capers, and roasted almond slices, and served with an agave and apple cider dressing.
Alaska Airlines' managing director of guest products, Todd Traynor-Corey, said in a statement, “We take great delight in developing new seasonal food alternatives that taste great and are healthy for you.”
Traynor-Corey remarked, “Many of our guests tell us they adore the fresh, West Coast-inspired flavors made with natural, wholesome ingredients.” We continue to emphasize plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free alternatives on our fall menu.
The new dish follows the introduction of the “Soy Meets World” vegan summer dinner option in Alaska. First Class passengers get access to extra vegan dishes, including Chickpea Teriyaki on flights more than 1,100 miles and Vegan Quinoa and Roasted Carrot Salad on trips less than 550 miles.
Emirates passengers will be pleased to learn that the major Middle Eastern airline continues to prioritize vegan dining offerings. Since the 1990s, the airline has honored requests for vegan meals, primarily from passengers who abstain from consuming animal products for religious reasons. In recent years, however, Emirates has significantly expanded its vegan offerings to meet the rising global demand for plat-based meals.
As part of a multimillion-dollar initiative, Emirates will extend its vegan options this fall. After a year of development by a team of culinary specialists with global palates, Emirates is introducing a curated menu for its first and business class passengers that will include beyond meat kofta.
Emirates' economy menu will also showcase new vegan meals produced with sustainably sourced ingredients every month. Vegan recipes included include Creamy Spinach and avocado Mousseline with Marinated Tofu, Multi-Colored Quinoa with Caramelized Pear and Celeriac Purée, and Roasted cauliflower, Glazed Carrots, Sautéed Kale, and Lovage Pesto.
And Emirates did not forget the desserts, including Dark Chocolate Custard Cake and Chocolate Tofu cheesecake.