Airline Starts Serving Hot Meals on Flights Over 1 Hour, Passengers Complain

Air India will offer only hot vegetarian meals on domestic flights 61 to 90 minutes long.

  • They used to serve cold sandwiches
  • Then introduced hot meals

But received many complaints about the hot items not being vegetarian so they will serve only vegetarian. Because the flights aren’t long enough to offer a choice of meal options. Air India explains, “As a non-vegetarian can have a vegetarian meal but not the other way round, the decision was logical” This is highly controversial.

India’s national airline Air India stirred up a controversy when it announced that it would be serving hot vegetarian meals on flights 61-90 minutes long on the domestic sector.

The move met with a lot of criticism on social media, with frequent flyers blaming the airline for appeasing “political masters”.

“I Am veg. But #AirIndia decision to serve only veg food unfair, smacks of appeasing political masters,” tweeted one Girish Kuber.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Air India serves food on one hour flights. Hot food. And passengers are complaining.

Last year I flew Emirates first class Male – Colombo, a flight scheduled at 90 minutes. We had no hot food. The champagne was nice.

And I had no complaints about the meal (though three rolls on a single tray was excessive).

Here’s what Vietnam Airlines serves in business class on the scheduled 1 hour 20 minute Ho Chi Minh City – Danang route. Again, no hot food.

I did get a warm pot pie on Malaysia Airlines between Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi in both directions.

I don’t think I’ve ever received anything as extensive as flying business class on Bangkok Airways’ 1 hour 5 minute Bangkok – Koh Samui flight.

First Course
Chicken Pastrami Salad

Main Course
Roasted Duck Breast with Blue Cheese Sauce served with Has Brown Potatoes, Broccoli, Pumpkins and Carrots

Assorted Bread

Apple Strudel


And plenty of utensils to go along.

Of course, criticizing Air India is a national pastime in the country, usually on point, and never gets old.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. @Gary – all the counter-examples you provided are of premium cabins. This Air India controversy is about hot meals in Economy Class on 1 hour flights. Air India’s Business Class cabin continues to offer multiple choices of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian hot meals on these flights.

  2. You’re missing the point. The current PM is doing lots of small things to stir up Hindu nationalist sentiment, e.g. beef was just taken off the menu in Mumbai. This is a piece of that.

  3. @Sean I intended to one how even in international first from a much better carrier like Emirates you aren’t getting hot meals… so the complaint rings even more hallow…

    @Corky sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and stirring the pot or not hot meals on 61 minute flights is hardly the reasonable thing to get hot under the collar over.

  4. @Corky – While I am no sycophant of Mr. Modi, the beef ban in Maharashtra is a state government law and has absolutely nothing to do with the Prime Minister’s office or the central government. The bill was also passed by the legislature many years ago and only received Presidential assent recently – and in case you didn’t realise it, the President is from the “opposition” party to Mr. Modi’s BJP. Suggest you get your facts straight before making assertions like that because you are the one missing the point.

  5. You missed the point. Air India loses about $1 billion a year. The point is to maximize corruption dollars. Veg meals are cheaper to source and cost lower to deliver but the costs to AI will remain same. More money for bribes is the end result.

    In India always follow the money ( amount available for bribes)

    Incidentally anyone choosing to fly AND eat on an AI flight is quite simply asking for it…….

  6. Gary, you ARE missing the point, it isn’t the meal itself, but the perception that Air India is capitulating to political/societal pressure with regards to religion.

    The best analogy is the whole “Merry Christmas” vs “Happy Holidays” greetings in stores. To some people in the U.S. (Fox News) there is a serious issue.

    To the rest of the world it probably seems silly as there is no big difference and it is just a greeting after all…

    My point being that as an outsider/foreigner, it is not your place to pass judgement on either Air India or those complaining. Again it isn’t about the meal itself…

  7. If the United states was truly secular we would be getting holidays for Hindu, Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist religions instead of just Christmas.

    But we have to listen to hypocritical, self righteous jerks about how some other country should run itself.

  8. I love flying airlines and staying in hotels in Asia. Service is always better, even at cheaper international hotel brands. What is it about Asians and valuing proper service?

  9. I guess its all matter of ‘Perspective’.
    When we get nothing other than mighty peanuts/soda on a 5 hr transcontinental flight, rather than just only a 1 to 1.5 hr flight; we sit tight on a US domestic flight and enjoy. But when one starts getting hot food on such small flights on Air-India, people start looking for issues like veg or non-veg.
    Keeping an optimistic view- one should enjoy the whatever hot veg food is being served on such a short trip rather than looking for a tangdi-kabab at a 30000 ft height.

  10. Can anyone recommend some good reading on Indian politics and culture for a u.s.-based person? Not the obvious stuff but still accessible to someone who didn’t grow up in India?

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