World Vegetarian Day was founded in 1977 by the North American Vegetarian Society to bring awareness and promote the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.
By definition, a vegetarian excludes meat, poultry, ﬁsh and seafood. Unlike vegans, vegetarians may include dairy, eggs, and honey in their diet.
According to a survey by ResearchGate, there are 1.5 billion vegetarians globally. With 22% of the world’s population being vegetarian, airlines have adapted, and offer a vegetarian option on most flights.
The first functional aircraft kitchen was introduced by United Airlines in 1936, where the airline offered passengers a choice of two meals: fried chicken or scrambled eggs. Airline meals have definitely come a long way since then, with vegetarians having more appealing options than just salad for in-flight meals.
Most airlines offer vegetarian meals, however, not all of them look as tantalizing as promised on ads and menus when presented at one’s tray table on actual flights.
So, to mark World Vegetarian Day 2022, allow AeroTime to take you on a culinary journey around the world in eight in-flight vegetarian meals.
1. Cathay Pacific
Vegetarian Oriental meal
Cathay Pacific Oriental vegetarian meal, economy class. Image credit: Tom Do Vu Facebook Page
Cathay Pacific has extensive options for special meals, and there are at least three types of vegetarian meals on offer.
This image above is a sample of an oriental vegetarian meal in Cathay Pacific’s economy class. Cathay Pacific’s definition of an oriental vegetarian meal is vegetarian food prepared in Chinese style, along with fruit and vegetables. No meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, dairy products, roots or bulbous vegetables, including ginger, garlic, onion and spring onions.
2. Garuda Indonesia
Garuda Indonesia vegetarian meal, economy class. Image credit: Dewi Triani Facebook page
Islam is the largest religion in Indonesia and for the country’s flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, all in-flight meals are prepared under Halal requirements.
According to Islamic law, vegetarian food is Halal by default. However, they could contain non-Halal ingredients that would make them Haram (prohibited food). The same is the case with flour. Processed flour could contain additives that would make it non-Halal.
It’s safe to assume that the flour or wheat used in Garuda Indonesia’s pasta in the photo does not contain Haram additives. A typical vegetarian meal in Garuda Indonesia might include vegetable fritters, or vegetable curry with basmati rice.
Special meals, such as vegetarian options, should be requested up to 24 hours prior to departure.
Economy class, domestic
Qantas vegetarian meal economy class (domestic) Image credit: sarahcooks.com.au
Qantas was recently in hot water when disgruntled passengers aired complaints on social media about the airline’s lack of vegetarian meal options on domestic flights.
The Australian flag carrier ‘simplified’ its domestic meal options at the start of the pandemic, which meant vegetarian meal options weren’t always available. Fortunately, Qantas listened to customer’s complaints and announced that it will increase its vegetarian meals on domestic flights.
The above photograph shows a vegetarian grain salad with chickpeas and pumpkin that had previously been served on a pre-pandemic domestic Qantas flight.
4. Hawaiian Airlines
Vegan/vegetarian island-style meal
Hawaiian Airlines’ vegan island style meal, economy class. Image credit: BigTentVegan.com
Technically, this is a vegan in-flight meal, but all vegan meals can be considered vegetarian. However, not all vegetarian meals are vegan.
We included this in-flight meal because, let’s be honest, when was the last time you unraveled a foil cover on any meal in economy to reveal such a tasty looking dish?
Vibrant vegetables, fluffy steamed rice, and tofu that looks firm and juicy. This economy vegan dish offered by Hawaiian Airlines is certainly the best for presentation.
This vegan island-style meal was purchased on the airline’s website prior to departure for around $10.
Lacto Ovo vegetarian meal
Aeromexico lacto ovo vegetarian meal, economy class. Image credit: Travel Codex
Mexico’s flag carrier Aeromexico only serves special meal requests, such as vegetarian meals, on international flights.
The airline offers vegetarian and lacto-ovo vegetarian meals. The photo above shows a lacto ovo vegetarian meal offered in Aeromexico’s economy class.
A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is based on grains, fruits and vegetables, legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils), seeds, nuts, dairy products and eggs. It excludes meat, fish and poultry or products containing these foods.
6. Uganda Airlines
Uganda Airlines vegetarian meal, economy. Image credit: Joel S/ Flickr
Uganda Airlines piqued media interest in late 2021 when a passenger was caught hawking Nsenene (fried long-horned grasshoppers), a local delicacy, onboard a flight.
At the time, the airline released a statement saying it was also considering including Nsenene on its in-flight meals in order to boost tourism marketing.
Although green, grasshoppers are not exactly vegetarian-friendly, so it may come as a relief that the airline’s vegetarian options are not too exotic, and include dishes like pasta with peas and carrot rather than insects.
7. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Hindu vegetarian meal
KLM Hindu vegetarian meal, economy. Image credit: Arne Meyer / Flickr
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the most vegetarian-friendly airline to fly within Europe. In 2021, the Netherlands flag carrier announced that all meals served within its inter-Europe flights would be vegetarian.
According to the airline’s websites all inter-Europe flights “are vegetarian, such as a typical Dutch sandwich with cheese, to make our flights a little more sustainable.”
Vegetarian options are also available on intercontinental flights but special meals such as Hindu vegetarian meals (pictured above) should still be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure.
Jain vegetarian meal
Emirates Jain vegetarian meal Image credit: MyVeganTrips
Among all religious and spiritually-driven vegetarian diets, Jain vegetarianism is possibly the most rigorous.
A Jain vegetarian diet is completely lacto-vegetarian and also excludes root and underground vegetables, such as potatoes, garlic and onion, to prevent injuring small insects and microorganisms. Additionally, Jain vegetarians cannot eat plants that have been uprooted and killed.
Emirates has one of the most extensive in-flight menu options, and Jain vegetarian meals are just one of its four religions special meal selections.
Based on its website, Emirates definies its Jain vegetarian in-flight meals as the following: “This meal is available for members of the Jain community who are pure vegetarians. It is prepared with a selection of Indian condiments. It can contain fresh fruit, vegetables that grow above ground, tofu, pulses, cereals and rice. It does NOT contain animal products and byproducts, seafood, eggs, dairy products, and root vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, potatoes, carrots, radishes and turmeric.”
And there you have it! Eight different vegetarian in-flight meals from various airlines around the world.
If you’re a vegetarian or have tried vegetarian meals on-board, we’d love to hear about your experience!