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How to Order a Vegan Meal on a Long-Haul Flight

Image Credit: Instagram/jileila

A few years ago, I taught a vegan student from Poland who traveled internationally fairly regularly. He said he hated the fact that he always had to bring his own vegan food on long-haul flights because airlines usually only offer the standard chicken or beef.  

He was shocked when I told him that I had never brought my own food on any of the long-haul flights I had been on since going vegan because virtually every major airline offers special meal options that include vegan meals. 

With that in mind, I decided to write this short guide on ordering vegan airplane food because I’m sure that somewhere out there are some other vegans who have no clue that vegan options are available on long-haul flights.

But you can’t just show up on board and ask for your vegan meal; there is a short process that will be explained in this article.

Why Airlines Offer Special Meals

International travelers have such varied diets that airlines don’t have much of an option but to offer special meals. There are a number of travelers with religious dietary restrictions, allergies, ethical dietary restrictions and restrictions due to health problems.  

While there are a few airlines that, for some reason, have not started providing special meals, pretty much every full-service carrier will have a vegan option on long-haul flights. 

How to Check If an Airline Offers Vegan Options

The simple method I like to use is to just google {Airline name} + “Special Meal.” So, for example, if I am thinking of flying Air New Zealand, I would type in “Air New Zealand Special Meals.”

The results on Air New Zealand’s website show that the airline does offer vegan meals. You know this by searching for the vegan meal codes. 

Vegan Meal Codes

Vegetarian Vegan Meal (VGML)– This is the code for the “pure vegetarian meal” aka vegan meal. This meal is totally free of meat, eggs, dairy or any animal products or by-products. It may contain nuts and fruit. 

Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML)– This is a vegan meal that is prepared “oriental or Chinese” style. It does not contain any meat, eggs, dairy, other animal products or by-products. 

Raw Vegetable Meal (RVML)– This meal consists entirely of raw vegetables. 

Fruit Platter Meal (FPML)- Only fresh fruits are served with this meal. 

How to Order

Now that you know for sure the airline you are planning to travel on serves vegan food, there are a two ways to order: by phone or (sometimes) online. 

Some airlines have made the special meal order process simple. You can reserve your special meal online at the time of booking. 

If your chosen airline does not give you that option, you will have to call in to place an order. Most airlines require you to reserve your special meal at least 24 hours before your flight is scheduled to depart. However, there are some airlines that require you to place an order as much as 72 hours in advance. 

So if you’re a spontaneous, last-minute traveler, you can probably forget about that vegan meal.

Cost

There is no additional cost to order a special meal on full-service airlines. Note that budget airlines may not provide any vegan options, and if they do, it will probably be an additional charge. 

A Few Things to Note

These meal codes are universal and stand for the same thing on airlines worldwide, and, more importantly, to the caterers on the ground who make the food. 

Also, it’s important not to assume that everything put on your tray is vegan, even if you have ordered a vegan meal. A flight attendant might feel like you are being deprived and add something extra that doesn’t belong there. This was the case when a flight attendant gave me ice cream, like everyone else, even though my meal did not come with that. 

Getting Served First

One of the best parts about ordering a special meal is that you get served first. Most of the time, I’m done eating before the passenger next to me even gets their food. You can almost hear them salivating over your food while they await theirs.

So to conclude, if you want to order a vegan meal, simply search if your airline of choice offers vegan food, book your flight, reserve your meal, and enjoy vegan food in the air. 

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Paul Ibirogba

Written by Paul Ibirogba

Paul is a former writing teacher turned writer. He loves to travel the world (the southeast Asia region in particular), meet people from a variety of cultures and learn about various lifestyles. When he's not doing one of those things, he's probably reading non-fiction or watching YouTube videos.

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