Meal service now (re)allowed on India’s domestic and international flights

The Government of India had allowed re-start of domestic flights on May 25, 2020, and international flights started under the repatriation banner called Vande Bharat early May as well. In both cases, the airlines were barred from conducting their regular service of F&B, and also not operate IFE given CoVid-19 related contamination concerns. The Government of India has now changed its stance.

Domestic flights can serve/sell in-flight meals.

Given the last note from the Government of India, there was not much difference left between the full-service carriers such as Vistara and Air India, and the likes of SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir which are no-frills carriers. The new stance of the government, or the new Standard Operating Procedures for Domestic Flights, allow airlines to serve meals on both domestic and international flights.

For domestic operations, airlines can now serve pre-packed meals, snacks and beverages as per the policy of the airlines depending on the flight time. That means, airlines such as Vistara and Air India might resort to pre-packaged meal boxes for domestic flights for customers, still a shade away from the standard tray service, but much better than the current nothing. Vistara used to do box-service for passengers anyways for a few years before switching to tray service and would have experience in the space already.

a food in a box

This would be great for passengers in Economy and Premium Economy; however, for passengers in Business Class, I’m hoping there is a different boxed meal that is served up.

Hot meals can return on International flights.

Till so far, airlines were only allowed to provide boxed-meals for their international customers arriving or departing from India. This meant some great meal boxes like this.

a blue box with food in itOr some tardy meals wrapped in polybags.

a bag of food and a bottle

The good news is, international flight operators, can now serve hot meals with limited beverage services hereon. This would also mean beverage service would return. I’m interpreting the limited as you can’t walk up to the galley for a drink, but when the airline crew comes to serve a meal and brings a drink trolley along, you could grab two instead of one.

Everything needs to be disposable.

In both cases, the government has asked airlines to ensure that the tray set-up, plates, cutlery are completely disposable with no re-use. Which would mean out goes the steel/silverware and in comes the plastic/wooden spoons for the customers.

In all categories of seats, tea, coffee, and other beverages will be in disposable cans, containers, bottles, and glasses. There will be no pouring service, and beverages will be served in single-use disposable units. That means you will now be able to enjoy Champagne in First Class, but not in a flute, just a plastic cup.

Another commonsensical one included to dumb-proof the note is that the crew shall wear a fresh set of gloves for every meal, beverage service. While many are reading this as each meal served would require a change of gloves, I think this means every time the crew rolls down a trolly down the aisle to serve their aisle, the need to don fresh pair of gloves.

Seatback IFE can return.

The government has also allowed in-flight entertainment on domestic and international flights. While airlines such as Vistara were already keeping their streaming IFE on, this means airlines with seatback IFE, such as Air India and Vistara international, can also now switch on their IFE for the flights. To this extent, airlines need to ensure that either disposable earphones are provided to customers, or these are cleaned and disinfected prior to boarding of passengers. For international flights, anyways, all sorts of in-flight headphones are anyways sterilized before re-use.


This is a positive step for the passenger experience to start returning to airline flyers, however, runs counter to the DGCA directive of keeping masks on at all times. Such a mandate does mean that customers will have to remove their mask to eat, and also their visor, which could be complicated. I’m not for a minute arguing against the passengers’ right to eat, but I am just worried if they eat too slowly to justify keeping the mask off for long, as we saw some precedent of that in the USA where some non-maskers argued for this.

What do you think of the latest notifications about the passenger experience for flyers in and from India?

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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. This means everyone probably removing mask and keeping them off at the same time for longer duration. This is risky in the current covid phase, especially with the high infection rate in India.

  2. From when are the starting hot meals international flights does vande matram flights have the same flying in to india airindia 29th international

  3. Good article, after COVID-19 the government allows serving pre-packed meals, snacks, and beverages as per the policy of the airlines depending on the flight time. It’s necessary for precautions. Hope, all National and International flights will follow rules & regulation.

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