lizabelle: Vegan (Vegan)
I've just returned from the UK (where I celebrated a fantastic Christmas and New Year with many much-missed friends and family), and was once again astounded by the failure of the airline to provide me with food in line with my prebooked request.

Before I go into details, let me say that although I'm talking here about Etihad, I have had similar experiences with Emirates, British Airways, Qantas and Virgin over the past few years. Never once have I travelled between the UK and Australia without being served something that contravened my request for a vegan meal, although this is almost invariably offered as an option.

So yes, this time we flew with Etihad. As always, I was careful to request a special meal with my booking, in this case the "VGML - VEGETARIAN MEAL". Etihad states that this option Does not contain any meat, fish or animal by-products e.g. animal fat in biscuits etc.

My experiences eating Etihad's 'vegan' food, cut for length )

On the way home, I didn't say anything because by this time I was convinced I must have somehow made a mistake and the VGML meal (I carefully checked the label each time I was handed a meal tray) wasn't intended to be vegan. On the way out, I did ask the flight attendants a couple of times about whether something was vegan or whether they had any soy creamer (I was given some once, so surely they had more somewhere, right?), and they were very nice, but clueless. They seemed to have no idea what the VGML description signified or what a vegan meal involved.

All of this was annoying and frustrating, but ultimately not fatal. But what about people with food allergies? If an attendant makes a mistake and hands me some yoghurt (and I'm stupid enough to eat it, which I wasn't), then there's no real harm done. If they do the same to someone with a nut or dairy allergy, the results could be very different.

Conclusion: airlines are increasingly offering a range of special meal options for people with a variety of dietary requirements based on health, ethics and lifestyle choices. If they are going to do this efficiently, they need to do their research and train their staff properly, so that passengers can feel assured that they are actually being fed in accordance with their requirements.

I will be contacting Etihad to let them know how disappointed I was with their service in this respect. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what else I could do to counteract this widespread problem?

ETA May 2012: This post has been hit by spammers, so I am now disabling comments. If you have anything to say to me about the post, please feel free to do so using the contact info listed in my user info.


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June 2014

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