Air India stops serving non-vegetarian meals on domestic flights

While I’ve amply written about airlines taking away a bit of your food from the tray, such as Jet AirwaysOlive theory, there is always something new to learn in today’s world. Air India seems to have determined, the best way to cut costs and reduce wastage on their flights is, just serve one kind of meal, a vegetarian meal.

Air India already moved to an all-veg meal model on sub-90 minute flights last year. Apparently they also nicked the tea and coffee from their lunch and dinner menu.

From mid-June, the airline has apparently stopped serving non-vegetarian meals on their flights. As per The Hindu:

“We have decided to serve vegetarian meals in our economy-class seats on domestic flights,” Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told The Hindu. However, non-vegetarian meals would continue to be served in business and executive class on domestic as well as international flights.

The national carrier took the decision to cut wastage and cost, and to avoid mix-up of vegetarian with non-vegetarian meals. “It also eliminates the possibility of mix-up: a non-veg meal getting served to a vegetarian passenger, as it had happened a few times in the past.”

All I have to say to this is L-O-L! I actually sputtered my tea this morning when I first read about this, because in early June 2017 was the last time my family flew Air India and they did not have this feedback. So, this is clearly something coming from after their flight. I have 3 things to say on this:

  1. This is incompetence: Heck, if your crew mixes up vegetarian meals and non-vegetarian meals, then it is their incompetence. This is not the passengers mistake. So how about not devising a one-size fits all approach to cover your own mistakes.
  2. Taking away choice is not a Full-Service Carrier notion: Look, I am aware that Air India is trying to sell itself with a full-service carrier tag. But they are already not the best. I’ve noticed broken seats, I’ve noticed a miser frequent flier program. People used to appreciate the food of Air India, and now they are taking away the option there as well. I know it is not a given in the West that economy fliers get a meal (forget a hot-meal), but it is different in the East where a lot of competitors serve up a meal on the plane.
  3. They already have an image problem: Air India has an image problem. And while I personally don’t try and judge them for every move they make, in today’s world, they are perhaps the favourite whipping boy of everyone. On top of that, any mistakes made by Air India are not just reported to Air India on social media, but to their eventual owner, represented by the Government of India Civil Aviation Minister. Just not fair on them. But they invite trouble with such carte blanche moves like these.

Hey Air India, how about asking people what they need and stocking up accordingly? A suggestion, allow people in Economy to pre-book their non-veg meals (via the web, TA or phone) and only offer the non-veg meals to those passengers who have it on the manifest supplied to you. Or maybe firing the guy who is your catering analyst, and get another guy who can predict the meal uplifts better.


I don’t agree with the one-size-fits-all approach that Air India is trying to work here. This is plain lazy. For a carrier whose market share is shrinking, they are doing such things which are actively going to drive people away form them. I wonder how their other such moves have worked for them, such as women-only seating. And again, this is just one more isolated decision someone with a memo book wrote up without considering the impact on the brand.

What do you think about this move from AI? Is food a part of your decision making on an airline? Does this move affect your decision to fly AI?

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. I don’t see the big deal. I am not vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean I require meat at each and every meal. Indian food is predominantly vegetarian anyway, and can be enjoyed by everyone. If someone absolutely must have meat, they can wait until landing, because domestic flights are not very long.

  2. Air india is in severe debt and the government is finally letting go of it. Once they find good owners and become privatized i know that air india will become better. Please don’t let this cutoff Air India as a whole, a massive change is coming.

  3. Hi Ajay,

    I am an Indian living in Europe for the past few years, hailing from Mumbai and want to share an observation.
    For me, this concept of “vegetarian” dishes served on full-service carriers isn’t new. Turkish, BA, and even Lufthansa do that on short flights. Turkish does a great cheese & salad sandwich, BA does a great Mature Cheddar Cheese with Pickle, while Lufthansa has given pure cheese, or egg & cheese options. To note, LH during breakfast times has provided meat sandwiches as well, but keeps some Cheese options too.

    Its purely operational reasons that these airlines provide a standardized meal, as i was often surprised with this choice and asked the crew of these airlines for the logic. correct me if i am wrong, but i doubt anyone commenting here has *true insider* knowledge on the reasoning behind the decision (maybe you can leverage your contacts in the industry?), and I cannot see the need to politicize this issue.

    Ofcourse, it might be worthwhile to write to AI with suggestions which might be easy to implement. for example: allow passengers to pre-book a meal of their choice (like for International flights). I do that on Jet, where i often prefer their fruit platter meal over either veg or non-veg options. And I have never been disappointed.

    Anyways, AI definitely needs to better manage their communication approach! They really suck at it, and the good work being done by Lohani & Co seems to be undone when the average Indian links it to politics!
    I don’t think passengers will choose flight based on meal choice offered! if that was true, AI’s food is much better than Jet already, but we dont see that in market share!

    Lastly, thank you for the blog and its a good way to keep tab on the Indian Aviation sector!


  4. Sadly, one has to bring politics into this. The government is trying to make vegetarianism the default diet of our country on religious grounds. To deny that is to stick ones head into the sand. We are sadly well on our way to becoming a Hindu Pakistan, where minorities & lower castes can be lynched for eating meat, all while being egged on by the PM

  5. Atleast still better than Jet airways. Jet now does not even serve proper meals on their flights. All I get is “snacks” during dinner, like a patiz or something!

  6. This is a fantastic and brave decision. In 2017, there’s no reason to promote environmental destruction and suffering by selling animal carcasses to passengers. Nobody wants to sit next to someone shoving roadkill in their mouth.

  7. as the things stand I personally prefer Air india to jet airways, which is now the worst airline in indian skys. I am a gold tier by the way,

    Air India when compared to Jet has far better benefits, anyways Ajay while we keep scolding Air india, I think if an objective review is done between Air india & Jet airways,

    Air India will surely come on top,

    Aircraft condition of both is same,
    Delays of both airlines are same,
    Staff is bit better for jet but only for Business -for economy it does not really matter for 2 hour flight.
    Coverage- Air India timings are surely better when we compare to jet airways maybe due to legacy slots.
    On FF program both are now same (bullshit i mean).
    ON food Air india is still very very superior.

    while both loose to indigo,between them i prefer Air India tickets. I am done with Jet airways which is becoming a bloody shitty airline.

  8. Complete shambles, the sale cant happen fast enough. Harder they try to cover their incompetence, brighter the spotlight they shine on them. This aint no national airline, they are a national disgrace.

    • And if it’s cost cutting they’re after then I’d love to see a quantification of cost saving expected from serving only veg vs cost saving expected from waiving off free travel to MP’s & Babus.

    • I agree. I can live with a veg meal on a 2 hours domestic flight with a free web checkin option. Maybe Jet should learn something for AI for a change 😀

  9. This is a fantastic move. Truly brilliant. It’s makes the work of the airline much more streamlined and saves not only money but also precious resources. This makes Air India a more sustainable airline. Meat has such a high carbon footprint. I hope more airlines follow the lead of the National carrier. Still hope for AI after all.

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