The 5 Worst Vegetarian Airline Meals

Airlines often boast of their “5 star” infight dining, but little do people realize that this doesn’t apply to all customers. One of the things about flying that absolutely gets on my nerves is when airlines decide that vegetarians aren’t valuable customers. I’m sick and tired of the industry deciding to either not load any vegetarian meals or make the unilateral decision that we are cows that eat only grass. Coming to the point, there are very few airlines that serve edible let alone tasty vegetarian food.

Here are the some of the worst meals I’ve had over the past couple of years:

Emirates Business Class DFW – Dubai

Emirates is often noted for having one of the best inflight products across the board, but this certainly doesn’t extend to the dining experience. Having flown their business class product to India atleast 4 or 5 times, I don’t believe it’s an my observations are anomalies.

First of all, at least 4 out of the 5 flights I took with Emirates (each a year apart) featured the exact same meal. Second of all, there was no bread or curries accompanying the meal. It was usually just blob of rice and dal every time. To top it off there is always the worst cold, rock hard Gulab Jamun for dessert. I did get a chance to switch desserts once, but the three brownies on a plate weren’t any better. Most of the food was borderline inedible.

  • Air France Business Class Sint Maarten – Paris – Manchester

Although Air France sometimes has some of the best desserts and pastries on board, I didn’t find their inflight food to be anything more than vegetables thrown into a tray with some weird rice. I pretty much got 2 courses of steamed veggies.

On the Manchester flight I was served a meal designated as vegetarian, but ended up having meat.

  • US Airways First Class Phoenix-Honolulu

One of the other major issues with airline food is that airlines think that vegetarians are ok with just taking the meat off the salad and main course before eating. The reality is that most vegetarians (especially Indian vegetarians) are not okay with meat products touching the prepared food during any part of the preparation.  It is almost as if they’re allergic to meat.  You wouldn’t give a person with peanut allergies food that had the peanuts removed (the traces will still be there!) Here are some general rules of thumb when catering to vegetarians (article published by the Vegetarian society).


  • Japan Airlines First Class Chicago – Tokyo

Sasidhar and I flew Japan Airlines First Class around the world, while US Airways had the 120,000 mile deal. We absolutely loved the experience other than the food.Presentation was nice, but I presume that they thought we were rabbits given all the carrots they were throwing at us. It was very similar to the Air France meal, but the vegetables were actually not made of rubber. Behold our first 7 course meal of steamed veggies:

The dessert was definitely a saving grace here, though Sasidhar had to convince the FA that being vegan was different from being vegetarian 🙂

  • (DISTANT 5th) American Airlines Business Class LHR – DFW

I throw American Airlines on this list because they don’t have a clue what an Asian Vegetarian Meal is at all. Instead they just end up serving the pasta dish from their main menu. Furthermore, the portion size of their salads is almost laughable. And, given that I recently saw chicken in my salad, I’m afraid that they might just be removing the meat from their salads before serving their vegetarian passengers

What made it worse was that they served the same pasta again for the second meal or snack before landing in Dallas. The pasta wasn’t bad, but come on American, figure out what an Asian vegetarian meal is for heavens sake!

American (like many of the U.S based carriers) does get dessert perfectly right. The ice cream sundae is a saving grace from completely writing off AA’s inflight dining experience 🙂 

Bottom Line: Asian vegetarian meals is certainly an area where every airline has room to improve upon. And as more and more people want to eat healthy, why would it not make sense to expand that portion of the menu? I hope the day will come when airline catering realizes that we as vegetarians aren’t cows grazing on grass and rabbits nibbling carrots.

What has your inflight dining experience been like? Do you agree that vegetarian food can be improved upon?


  1. Animesh

    I have had good experience with Etihad, Qatar, British airlines and Turkish airlines and for that matter Thai airlines business class. In general, you would have better experience coming back to USA (this was told to me by one of the FA on Delta).

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