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The Picky Eater’s Guide to Airline Food

It takes extra planning, constant ingredient checking and explaining that chicken is, in fact, meat when traveling as a vegetarian. Never mind you paleo eaters.

Sure, there’s no free food on domestic flights anymore but at least everyone knows you need to eat when you’re flying halfway across the world. Complimentary food is a mainstay of international flights and most airlines will accommodate all types of passengers with special diets that range from low-sodium to halal. This is your guide to those special meals, whether you’re vegan or Hindu.

Mostly, I found that international airlines like Turkish Airlines, JAL, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic—but not Qantas—tend to do it better than many U.S. airlines, with many going so far as to offer raw vegetarian meals. In terms of North American airlines that fly internationally, United is the only airline that does not offer any type of medical diet meal. (U.S. Airways does step it up, though.)

The meals won’t magically appear on board, though. Most airlines do require prior notice of at least 24-48 hours. A confirmation call a few days before flying can also ensure that the meal makes it on, something I recently learned when I was left with last pick of dinner dishes because my vegetarian meal was nowhere to be found.

There’s even a helpful Chowhound thread for veggies outlining which airlines’ vegetarian meals are edible — and which are better left untouched. If all else fails, pack some snacks.

To see how most airlines did, I searched a handful of popular international routes out of major U.S. hubs, using LAX-SYD, LAX-NRT, NYC-LHR, ORD-CDG and MIA-GRU, and the airlines that serviced them.

Updated: October 5, 2015 < ?php the_modified_time(‘F j, Y’); ?>World Halal Travel Awards says that Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines and Turkish Airlines are the best airlines for halal travelers

Airline Vegetarian/Vegan Medical Allergy Religion
Air France
  • Vegetarian
  • Non-Dairy/Egg Vegetarian (No meat, seafood, eggs, milk)
  • Diabetic
  • Low Salt
  • Allergen-free Option*
  • Gluten
  • Halal
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
American
  • Vegetarian/Vegan**
  • Diabetic
  • Gluten
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
Asiana
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Raw
  • Bland
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Sodium
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim

 

British Airways
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Salt
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
Delta
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Bland
  • Diabetic
  • Low Sodium
  • Low Fat/Low Calorie
  • Gluten
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
Iberia
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Salt
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Islamic
  • Kosher
JAL
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Raw
  • Diabetic
  • Low calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low salt
  • Soft Meal
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
LAN/TAM
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Low calorie
  • Low cholesterol
  • Low sodium
  • Soft Meal
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Kosher
Lufthansa
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Low calorie
  • Low Cholesterol
  • Low Sodium
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
  • Vegetarian Asian meal is available for Hindus
Qantas
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Nut/legume free (non-strict)
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Moslem/Halal
Singapore
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Raw
  • Bland
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Salt
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Nut/legume free (non-strict)
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
Turkish Airlines
  • Vegetarian
  • Strict vegetarian (vegan)
  • Raw
  • Bland
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Salt
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
United
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • N/A
  • Gluten
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
US Airways
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Bland
  • Diabetic
  • Low Calorie
  • Low Fat
  • Low Sodium
  • Gluten
  • Lactose
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim
Virgin Atlantic
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Diabetic
  • Liquidized (Soft)
  • Low Fat
  • Low Sodium
  • Lactose
  • Nut Friendly***
  • Hindu
  • Kosher
  • Muslim

*The allergen-free meal on Air France does not include peanuts or nuts. See full list of allergens excluded here.

**American Airlines’ website states the meal is vegetarian only but I was assured over the phone that most of the time they make the vegetarian meal vegan to accommodate both. It’s a good idea to call and make that clear before flying.

***Virgin Atlantic’s Nut Friendly meal may contain traces. See nut policy here.

Updated: < ?php the_modified_time(‘F j, Y’); ?>





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