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In an effort to “reduce wastage, reduce cost and improve catering service,” Air India has cut meat meal options from its domestic flights — at least in economy. But, the airline is maintaining hot meal service (with vegetarian dishes only) in economy on its domestic flights — good news for Air India passengers.

#AIUpdate : This Decision ( Non-veg Meals) Is Effective Only For Domestic Economic Class Passengers. It Will Reduce Wastage & Costs. #FlyAI

Posted by Air India on Monday, July 10, 2017

This is foreign to us US flyers, but in other parts of the world, airlines still serve complimentary meals in economy on domestic flights. That perk disappeared here in the US a while back, but has started to make a comeback, with American Airlines, Delta and United (in Economy Plus only) now serving free food on select (mostly transcontinental) routes.

Meanwhile, even on flights under an hour long, Air India provides “vegetarian refreshments” in economy. Full hot meals are served on flights starting at just 90 minutes long:

Air India meals

Until now, economy flyers had a choice of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. After this change, economy class passengers will get just one choice: vegetarian. If you want to continue to eat meat on-board, you’re going to have to upgrade to business class, where the “non-veg” option will continue to exist. Unless, of course, you have the unlucky experience of being served a a stray lizard in your meal.

According to NDTV, an airline official got pretty defensive when asked about the move:

For very short flights like a 45-minute flight, there is hardly any time to serve, so we offer snack boxes. But even for an hour long flight, if you take away the time soon after take-off or before landing, cabin crew gets only about 30 minutes. Where’s the time to ask passengers for their choice?

It seems that most travelers have been picking vegetarian options anyways, leading to lots of waste of the meat-based options. The same anonymous airline official disclosed to NDTV that having to stock flights with both options was costing the airline an additional 80,000,000 rupees (US$124,081) per year. Clearly, this change won’t result in a huge amount of savings, but every bit helps, especially when the airline is struggling to stay financially solvent.

Maybe it’s just our American perspective, but I’d still be happy with any sort of meal on a domestic flight. If Air India’s catering is anything like the London-based catering I had on a recent London Heathrow (LHR) to Newark (EWR) Air India flight, the vegetarian option was delicious. If you’re dissatisfied with your lack of choices, just make sure not to delay your flight. Paying for business class outright would even be cheaper than that $7,000 fine.


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