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Airline special meals?

My mom used to work for an airline, so growing up we would fly standby. I got to fly first class a lot because of it (and got spoiled) but we were always at the bottom of the list when it came to meals (although, we always got one and first class is always tasty).

Anyway, now that I have to purchase tickets, we always fly coach. The last few years of flying have been short enough flights that no meals were served, so I'm out of touch with airplane food. We're flying United to London in a couple of months and since we're full-fare passengers I thought I'd switch up the meal options and go with a "special meal request". When we booked the tickets, I chose Asian Vegetarian, as opposed to Vegetarian, but I do eat meat. I never realized there were so many choices! Kosher, low-fat, low-sodium, vegan, etc.

Does anyone have any experience with a veggie (or asian veggie?) special meal on an airplane? Do you think it's a good idea? Should I just go with a regular veggie and not the asian veggie?

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  1. I fly a lot to Central America and never really ask for special meals because they aren't so bad to begin with from that region.

    However, the BEST site in the world to peruse for such things is: http://www.airlinemeals.net/
    They have a link on Special Meals that might help your decision!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Carrie 218

      I can't believe that's a web site!
      funny stuff!

      1. re: Carrie 218

        That is a great site! I wish you could also search by destination, since I know a lot of the international flight meals depend on where you're going (or coming from).

      2. I haven't tried the Asian veggie option but I always get regular veggie, and they have ranged from great (Amy's veggie loaf dinner) to abysmal and inedible (canned fruit surrounding a mountain of cottage cheese- I nearly threw up).

        5 Replies
        1. re: marmite

          it is clear to me if you think that canned fruit and cottage cheese is inedible and abysmal that you do indeed always get veggie options and have never tasted some of the meat or (shudder) omelet breakfast options...they'd make that cottage cheese look great.

          1. re: susancinsf

            Heh. I wouldn't have minded the canned fruit at all, in fact I would have welcomed it had it not been contaminated by the horrible cottage cheese. I cannot tolerate cottage cheese, never could, so that part isn't the airline's fault. I tried to give it back, and asked for a dinner roll, crackers, or anything else in its place. No dice.

            1. re: marmite

              I feel the same way when I get bananas with my meal, or even (shudder) yogurt that has bananas in it....

              1. re: susancinsf

                Is it weird that I take it personally when people say they don't like bananas?...Probably.
                I guess I just get protective of my favorites =).

                1. re: ArikaDawn

                  Nah, I feel the same way every time I remember my friend doesn't like avocados or mushrooms, ha ha!

        2. I've found the vegetarian (ovo-lacto veg) meals on international flights to be pretty good, particularly on the way back to the states. The vegetarian meals I've gotten on domestic flights have often actually been fresh-made salads, veggies, etc as opposed to the frozen stuff the regular meals are. Kosher meals so scarcely arrived when ordered, and occassional were handed to me frozen, so I gave up on them and started ordering veggie. I still assume they may not have anything for me and bring my own food. Thank you.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Bride of the Juggler

            I'm thinking that I may switch my meal to a regular veggie instead of the asian veggie. I looked it up and the asian veggie is non-dairy and had a couple other restrictions I wasn't too keen on. We'll see how the veggie turns out. My bf says he'll take his chances with the regular meal!

            1. re: leanneabe

              I ordered a vegetarian meal on NWA on my last flight to Japan. It was absolutely disgusting. Everything had oversteamed itself in the foil packaging. I'm sure that every single cell in the fiber of my broccoli had been broken long before it was slammed down on my little table... As a general practice, I never eat airline food anyway, but it comes with the ticket. I usually refuse the disgusting entre on the non-veg meal, so I just clicked a Veg Meal checkbox when I booked my ticket. Anyway, do the smart, chowhound thing, and pack you're own decent food or plan a feast when you get to Londontown.

              1. re: Silverjay

                Ah, you've reminded me that I need to start asking for recommendations on where to eat in London and throughout Scotland! My only few requirements for this trip were Loch Ness, some pretty mountain views and castles, Buckingham Palace (maybe Big Ben, too) and, of course, good food.

                1. re: leanneabe

                  Sounds like a good trip. Visit Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland if you can fit them in.

          2. If you like Indian food, try to order a Hindu Vegetarian or Hindu Kosher meal. Usually no meat (bummer) but the food is usually decent indian food which beats airline food by miles! Since you're flying to London (huge Indian population). They might have these options on the menu.

            1 Reply
            1. re: caliking

              I'll second that ... at some point in online ticket booking I'd checked a box for either 'asian vegetarian' or 'hindu vegetarian' or something like that and promptly forgot about it. But when I got on the plane, to my surprise I got one of the best airplane meals ever - a really spicy dal, a sprout salad, some sort of patty with a great sauce. This was en route to San Francisco from New York on some airline I usually never fly (us airways, perhaps?). The food was from a small local company in Queens somewhere ... I even emailed them to let them know how good it was.

            2. My husband who used to travel a great deal regularly ordered kosher meals. He doesn't eat kosher meals normally, but he claimed that the airline kosher meals were better than the regular food. I've been told that because the demand for kosher meals is so low, it goes to a different caterer and gets more careful preparation.

              1 Reply
              1. re: cheryl_h

                Ye someone I know travels a lot and he is always insisting to me that Kosher meals are the way to go to get something vaguley edible.

              2. I find the Asian veggie meals are usually a notch above the regular veggie meals, which usually involve some kind of overcooked pasta or rubbery egg substitute. That said, they usually attempt stir-fried foods - inevitably too mushy, but overall not bad.

                1. In November, I flew to London (BA) and ordered the Asian Vegie meal. The saag paneer, rice, naan and little crispy snacks were yummy, and well spiced, not greasy... way better than what other passengers were eating. That said, the special meals came early and so we were uncomfortable having to manuever trays when no one else was, and then they left the trays on us until all in the row were done. Ugh!

                  1. You may want to find out first what they mean by "Asian". In England Asian means south Asians, e.g. Indians and Pakistanis. So Asian vegetarian may refer to Indians rather than east Asians.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: PeterL

                      That's a good point, something I didn't really consider!

                    2. if you're flying united you should bring your own food. the meals i've had on their transatlantic flights have represented the ultimate in airline dinner nastiness, and the vegetarian meal i remember being particularly offensive (lots of lima beans were involved). you might be marginally better off with asian vegetarian, but i wouldn't take any chances.