Once upon a time a flight meal while never a gourmet offering in economy was at least nicely presented with a smile from a friendly steward or stewardess. Even on domestic and really short flights there was a cooked breakfast and a roll with some jam and butter or something with similar substance. It even used to have proper cutlery
When the meals started to become flight snacks aka finger sandwich or deli snacks aka stick of carrot and celery it went downhill from there on.
I remember ordering all sorts of special meals to please my clients (note the use of the word clients as opposed to passengers) even 5 years ago there was vegan, vegetarian with dairy, diabetic, Hindu, kosher, moslem. low fat, low sodium, gluten free, seafood, fruit platter. If none of these were satisfactory I could put SPML (special meal) and then free format allergic to nuts, tomatoes, spinach, eggs, no red meat etc and airlines were happy to oblige. Lots of people used to order a veggie meal in preference as it was better than a normal meal but that was then and this is now
About 4 years ago I ordered a SPML and in free format allergic to spinach. Unfortunately I lost that client because Air Seychelles managed to pack as much spinach as they possibly could into the poor brides meal. Not the best start to their honeymoon. To this day I’m not sure if Allergic was lost in translation or if a disgruntled catering employee decided to have a last mischievous fling but to be fair they did compensate the clients and apologise
Being a non meat eater (pescetarian) I once ordered a seafood meal which seemed a good idea at the time until I was offered a pot noodle on the way out on a 12 hour flight and squid in sauce at 4am on the way back. Needless to say I have never ordered a seafood meal since
I have, however ordered a VLML (vegetarian with dairy) many times. Dairy includes butter, milk, cheese, eggs, bread and chocolate. You would think I am stating the obvious but I have lost count of how many times I have been given a Vegan meal (VGML) but clearly stickered VLML. Sometimes to add insult to injury it even has a yellow VLML lid instead of a green VGML one. Vegan meals do not include any of the above. I suspect that true vegans bring their own food Except perhaps on Emirates and one or two others that can actually produce a decent meal for special diets
I thought the last straw came last year when I ordered a veggie meal with dairy which included 2 salads and fruit that tasted like plastic, then for breakfast spinach and tomatoes. The rest of the passengers had an omelette (a perfectly acceptable meal for vegetarian with dairy). I remembered not to order a vegetarian meal next time round on Qatar and the meals were excellent, in fact, I can honestly say one of the best I’ve ever had. I simply asked for the vegetable curry on the main meal but I got my wrist slapped for not ordering a proper vegetarian in the first place. I made sure she knew why
I last flew on Virgin who have always given me a nice veggie with dairy meal in the past but I think they have managed to reach the depths of culinary disaster with their latest offering. We were offered a menu with a choice of beef, chicken or vegetarian, bread roll and apple crumble, sounded OK. Instead we were offered a huge rice cake aka polystyrene ceiling and after being woken up after a couple of hours rest (sleep is too strong a word) another huge rice cake for breakfast I asked perhaps a little too sarcastically whether they were getting rid of a job lot of rice cakes. I was told by a very rude stewardess that they usually offer rice cakes from the Caribbean. OK I suppose I asked for it and it’s a sign of the times I guess. I shall make a note not to order a veggie meal on Virgin in future
I have been to 16 Caribbean islands and can honestly say I have never been offered a rice cake either on an aircraft or a restaurant. In fact the last time I bought these was to offer my children in their high chairs as a low sugar and less messy alternative to Farleys rusks. (my youngest is 20) babies don’t have taste buds at teething age so rice cakes kept them amused for ages. They have probably outlawed risks and rice cakes by now but 20 years ago they were fine
The cynical side of me thinks that a rice cake with a side salad does not contain nuts, gluten, sodium, fat, sugar, fish or meat and wouldn’t offend a Hindu, Moslem or Jew at least no more than it would a vegetarian so it is offered as a blanket and frankly very bland and tasteless special meal.
I also suspect that eventually the airines will eventually stop serving special meals altogether as people like myself stop ordering them in the hope that the main menu has an acceptable choice or they will insist on bureacratic rules to prove religious or dietary grounds and they will start charging extra for them like British Airways now charge extra for seats to improve “customer choice” although the ingredients of a vegetarian meal invariably cost less than any meal containing meat
Well done to those airlines that have an interactive choose from the seat menu like Air New Zealand for instance, this is definitely the way forward
Would any cabin crew own up to being asked any of the following? I very much doubt it
1. Excuse me, could I have a rice cake please?
2. I am on a weight watchers diet so I’m only allowed 4 points
3. I really enjoyed that fruit starter, could I have another for dessert please instead of cake?
4. I really enjoyed that salad starter could I have another for my main meal
5. I ordered a veggie meal with dairy but I don’t eat eggs or cheese
6. I really love spinach and tomato mush could I Have it for breakfast please?
As I said I don’t expect a gourmet meal but it would be nice to at least have a meal of an equivalent standard of a normal meal included in the cost of my flight. Is that too much to ask?