Most airlines - such as American Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Continental Airlines - offer a wide variety of special request meals for long distance flights included in the airfare price (see list below). These meals may range from Western Vegetarian which may contain eggs and/or dairy, though usually means vegan, Vegan, Asian Vegetarian, to a Fruit Plate meal (see list below). However, due to budget cutbacks, some air carriers have discontinued their special in-flight food service.
When planning to travel by plane, be sure to ask your travel agent or airline representative upon booking your flight ticket what your options are! Also note that you will likely need to request a special meal at least 72 hours before your flight, and then confirm that again when you check in at the airport.
Once aboard the airplane, a flight attendant will come to you to confirm your special request. If no one comes to you, do ask an attendant to check on it for you. If your request was not entered into the computer system and was forgotten, an attendant may offer you something else, but the selection will be limited.
It is recommended that you bring a small veggie snack when traveling by plane, just in case.
A summary of Airline Meal Descriptive terms*:
Vegetarian Meal (VGML) - Also known as Vegan, this meal is totally free of any animal products or by-products such as eggs or dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables and fresh fruit. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish, or animal products or by-products.
Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal (VLML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal that may also contain eggs and dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, dairy products, and pulses. It does NOT contain any type of fish or meat.
Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal (VGML) [presumably therefore vegan] that is also prepared Chinese or Oriental-style.
Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVML) - This meal is available for vegetarian passengers. It is usually aromatic and spicy, and incorporates flavors from the Indian sub-continent. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables, fresh fruit and milk products. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish or eggs.
Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML) - This meal is for members of the Jain community who are pure vegetarians. It is prepared with a selection of Indian condiments. It contains one or more of these ingredients: fresh fruit and stem vegetables that grow above the ground. It does NOT contain: animal products and by-products, and any root vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, etc.
Raw Vegetable Meal (RVML) - This meal consists exclusively of raw vegetables and salads.
Fruit Platter (FPML) - This meal may be ordered for dietary reasons. It may also be ordered by members of certain communities who eat only fruit while fasting. It contains one or more of these ingredients: seasonal fresh fruit.
Hindu Meal (HNML) - This meal is available for members of the Hindu community who are not strictly vegetarian and eat meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It may contain one or more of these ingredients: lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products. It does NOT contain beef.
*(these terms may be used differently by various airlines so please confirm for yourself when reserving a meal)
Aer Lingus: (1-800-474-7424) - (Long haul only) Vegan Vegetarian Meal*, Non-Lactose Vegetarian, Lacto/Ovo Vegetarian Meal, Hindu Vegetarian Non-dairy, Asian Vegetarian (may contain dairy) *Possibly nonexistent as of Aug 2015.
From Susan, Aug 2015: After booking a vegetarian meal for a Dublin-JFK flight and not getting it then making 3 phone calls, 6 emails, 1 check in request and 1 on board request I still did not get it. 3 emails and 10 twitter messages later I'm still getting rubbish about my 'disappointment'! A joke!
Air Canada: (1-888-247-2262) - Asian Vegetarian Meal, Fruit Platter Meal, Vegetarian Meal (non-dairy), Vegetarian meal (lacto-ovo)
Air France: (1-800-237-2747) - (International flights) Vegetarian Non-Dairy, Lacto Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian
Air New Zealand: (1-800-262-1234) - (Long haul only) Lacto Ovo Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian (Indian style vegetarian meal which may contain eggs and dairy products), Vegan, Fruit Platter, Raw Vegetarian
Alaska Airlines: (1-800-252-7522) - Vegetarian/vegan options with picnic packs in coach, also some of the for purchase meals appear Lacto-Ovo.
Alitalia: (1-800-223-5730) - (International flights) Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian Meals
All Nippon Airways: (1-800-235-9262) - (International flights) Offer vegetarian meal for International flights
American Airlines: (1-800-433-7300) - (International flights) Vegetarian (Non dairy) / Vegan
From Mbonett04, June 2016: I flew American Airlines internationally, I asked for a vegan meal. The meal I received was marked vegan, but they had added cheese on top of the main dish. The rest however, was in fact vegan.
Austrian Airlines: (1-800-843-0002) - Raw Vegetarian Meal – RVML (fresh, raw vegetables), Non Dairy Vegetarian Meal - VGML (purely vegetarian menu, no milk and egg products), Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Meal - VLML (vegetarian menu with milk and egg products), Asian Vegetarian Meal – AVML (without fish, poultry or meat; main milk product is Shahinpaneer“, an Indian soft cheese), Jain Menu – JAIN (very strict vegetarian Asian Meal; products that grow beneath the soil are strictly forbidden), Fruit Platter - FPMO (selection of fresh fruit)
Avianca: (1-890-100-577) - offers a wide spectrum of veg*n menu options, including raw, Jain, Asian, etc.
British Airways: (1-800-247-9297) - Asian Vegetarian (may be not vegan), Lacto Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan Vegetarian
Cathay Pacific: (1-800-233-2742) - Western Vegetarian (ovo-lacto vegetarian), Strict Western Vegetarian (vegan), Oriental Vegetarian (Buddhist- probably vegan but may contain honey), Indian Vegetarian (limited dairy products), Strict Indian Vegetarian (maybe vegan but may contain honey)
China Airlines: (1-800-227-5118) - Western Vegetarian with Dairy, Western Vegetarian without Dairy, Fruit Plate, Hindu (may contain dairy), Asian (may contain dairy)
Condor Airlines: Offers some vegan options, but unless you're sitting in premium economy or business class you have to pay extra for these. Must pre-book the meals online.
Copa Airlines: (1-800-FLY-COPA) - Vegetarian Meals (strict and lacto-ovo), Fruit plate
Delta Air Lines: (1-800-221-12120) - (Some routes) Vegetarian (pure)
Emirates: (1-800-777-3999) - Offers lacto-vegetarian, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and "vegetarian" (which is vegan). They also have a vegetarian Jain meal which is vegan.
Finnair: (1-800-950-5000) - (AVML) Indian-Style, strongly spiced Vegetarian Meal (may contain dairy), (FPML) Fruit Plate (available only in business class), (RVML) Raw Vegetarian Meal, (VGML) (lacto) Vegetable Meal, (VLML) Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Meal
Hawaiian Airlines: (1-800-367-5320) - No special meals offered.
Iberia Airlines: (1-800-772-4642) - Lacto/Ovo Vegetarian Meal, Vegetarian Non-Dairy, Asian Vegetarian (maybe contains dairy), Fruit Plate
Japan Airlines (JAL): (1-800-525-3663) - Vegetarian without Dairy, Vegetarian with Dairy and Eggs, Asian Vegetarian (may contain dairy)
jet Blue Airways: (1-800-538-2583) - No meals served.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines: (1-800-225-2525) - (Varies by destination) Vegetarian (maybe contains lacto-ovo), Fruit (may contain cheese), Asian Vegetarian (may contain Lacto-ovo), Strict Vegetarian (vegan)
From Sabi, Dec 2013: "I recently flew with KLM, and they gave me a sandwich that had the VGML writing on it, but it was an egg and cheese sandwich. They also told me that all bread on the plan contained butter or milk. The flight attendant told me that VGML means western vegetarian, not vegan."
From Liz, April 2008: "Depending on which customer service rep you speak to at KLM, they may tell you that their Hindu meal is in fact a Hindu Vegetarian meal. Two different reps on two different days read the ingredients to me over the phone, and it sounded not only vegetarian but completely vegan. They each claimed that KLM had condensed their special meals for convenience and savings, so there were no longer two different Hindu choices: everyone who ordered Hindu gets the vegetarian version. Lo and behold, once you get on the plane, it's not. Chicken AND fish. Don't get caught like we did on a trans-Atlantic flight with no food but about 2 oz of pineapple for 8 hours!"
Korean Air: (1-800-438-5000) - Western Vegetarian Meal (lacto-ovo), Strict Vegetarian Meal (vegan), Asian Vegetarian Meal (lacto), Strict Asian Vegetarian Meal (vegan), (from Seoul only) Oriental Vegetarian Meal
Lufthansa: (1-800-645-3880) - Vegetarian Meal (western, vegan), Vegetarian Meal (lacto-ovo), Vegetarian Meal (Indian- lacto) Meal, Fruit Meal
Malaysia Airlines: (1-800-552-9264) - Fruit Platter, Raw Vegetarian Meal, Vegetarian Meals (VGML- vegan), Western Vegetarian (VLML- lacto-ovo), Asian Indian vegetarian (AVML)
Oman Airlines: (968-24519284) - Many Option: Vegan (VGML), Vegetarian (AVML, VLML, VOML, VJML), Raw (RVML), Fruit (FPML)
Philippine Airlines: (1-800-435-9725) - Western Vegetarian Meal, Asian Vegetarian Meal, Fruit Platter Meal
Qantas Airways: (1-800-227-4500) - (Other options may be available, call to check) Asian Vegetarian (Indian style- contains eggs and dairy products), Western Style Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian, Vegan Vegetarian. Note: Their supplier may not have a clear idea about what is vegan/vegetarian, so be careful.
Qatar Airways: (1-877-777-2827) - Offer many vegetarian options including Vegetarian-Jain meal (VJML), Fruit platter meal (FPML), Vegetarian-non-dairy meal (VGML), Vegetarian-oriental meal (VOML), Vegetarian-raw meal (RVML).
Singapore Airlines: (1-800-742-3333) - Raw Vegetarian Meal, Asian Vegetarian – Oriental (can contain dairy products), Asian Vegetarian - Indian (can contain dairy products), Indian Vegetarian: (strict; suitable for Jain, no meat of any sort; no onion/garlic/ginger/all root vegetables), Western Vegetarian (non-strict; ovo-lacto), Western Vegetarian (strict; no dairy products)
Swiss International: (1-877-359-7947) - (Economy class has one vegetarian option - standard w/o pre-ordering). These choices are offered to business class: Asiatic Vegetarian Meal (non-dairy meal. Asian style, coconut milk or dairy milk may be used), Vegetarian Meal no ingredients containing meat or fish, are used. Dairy produce and eggs are allowed.), Western Vegetarian Meal (same as vegetarian, but milk and eggs are not allowed)
Turkish Airlines: (1-800-874 8875) - Offer Strict Vegetarian Meal (VGML), Jain meal (VjML), and Fruit Platter Meal (FPML), but only on International flights.
United Airlines: (1-800-241-6522) - Vegan Meal, Asian Vegetarian Meal, Hindu (vegan), Fruit Plate.
US Airways: (1-800-428-4322) - (Longer flights only) Hindu, Vegan, Lacto Ovo, Asian Vegetarian
Virgin Atlantic: (1-800-862-8621) - Lacto Vegetarian, Vegan, Jain Meal (strict vegan meal with no root vegetables), Asian Vegetarian Meal (spicy). NOTE: Vegan meals vegetable spread containing 'non-dairy creamer' is not vegan as reported to HappyCow.
The above information has been collected from airline websites and from calls made to the individual air carriers. There are many conditions that affect meal availability, and the information on this page is provided as a reference only. All information is subject to change. HappyCow is not responsible for any accurate or out-of-date information. Please see web links or call the airlines yourself for the most updated details. If you find any inaccuracy please email us with your updates - thank you.