Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Don't fly Austrian Airlines, if you're a vegetarian

Two weeks ago, I went on a 5-day trip to Vienna. I had booked a flight on Austrian Airlines, through Swiss. I'm a vegetarian, so I was quite anxious, because I was not asked if any special meal was required when I bought my tickets. I was delighted to see that the meal served during the flight was vegetarian for all passengers. It consisted of spinach and ricotta ravioli with cherry tomatoes and a cream sauce of some sort. Not that bad.

Four days later, on the flight back to Geneva, though, the meal contained ham (why in hell do people need ham or bacon in what would otherwise be perfectly fine vegetarian dishes?). I told one of the flight attendants that I was vegetarian, but she couldn't do anything about it and didn't particularly seem to care. It wasn't such a big deal, but I was really hungry. I ate the small piece of bread they gave me, as well as my dessert. When I arrived in Geneva, I was hungry again. It was 10:15 PM. I had to buy something to fill my stomach before I went to bed.

A few days later, I wrote an e-mail to Austrian Airlines. I guess I cannot reproduce their reply here, since it comes with the usual "confidential" notice. Anyway, to sum it up, they can't offer vegetarian meals, because then they would have to offer "a lot of other special meals". If it's not a bad excuse, I don't know what it is. We're in 2008. It shouldn't be too difficult to have special meals served even during short flights. After all, airlines don't make them themselves. And if I can't have a vegetarian meal, at least I shouldn't have to pay for other people's meals.

So, what airlines would you recommend or advise against for vegetarians? What are your best or worst experiences, when it comes to in-flight vegetarian meals (or lack thereof)?

6 comments:

Alessandro Vernet said...

The solution for airlines: don't provide any inflight meals. It seems that this is already what all the US airlines except Continental are doing. And based on my recent experience what many european airlines do to.

Olivier Bruchez said...

I don't travel that much, so I didn't realize that in-flight meals were the exceptions rather than the rule. I mean outside low-cost airlines such as easyJet.

I guess that if an airline provide that service, it should at least do it well. My Geneva-Vienna ticket wasn't particularly cheap, after all...

Guillaume Schaer said...

Olivier, this has been discussed over and over agin on flyertalk, basically as Geneva-Vienna is more than 95 minutes you should be able to request any special meal in sdvance. More info on that flyertalk post: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=670537

Hope it helps for your next flight...

Olivier Bruchez said...

They're mainly talking about Lufthansa flights, it seems.

Anyway, you can be sure I'll be more cautious next time. :-)

Jay said...

Having worked at Geneva airport for many years coordinating ground services for flights, I can guarantee you it is actually quite a big hassle to have special meal requests. And indeed, as Alex mentioned, it doesn't really make sense for flights shorter than 2 hours: a simple (free) drink and bag of munchies will often be more than sufficient. Ask yourself: do you *really* enjoy plane food? Wouldn't you prefer having a proper meal before boarding the plane? In any case, I know what I prefer and it ain't that standardized over-cooked pasta!

Olivier Bruchez said...

I don't particularly enjoy plane food. But if all passengers except me get to eat something, then I feel I should get a refund (only for the meal, of course).