Air India, the national carrier of the country, has decided to stop the service of non-vegetarian meals to all passengers flying economy class on domestic flights. The carrier had, last year, stopped serving non-vegetarian food to its economy class passengers on flights that lasted up to 90 minutes.
Air India took this decision to cut down on food wastage and costs and also to avoid the mistake of mixing up vegetarian meals with non-vegetarian ones. An Air India official told the Hindu that this move could save Rs 8 crore annually for the airline, which currently spends Rs 400 crore on catering on its domestic and international flights every year.
"We have decided to serve vegetarian meals in our economy-class seats on domestic flights... It also eliminates the possibility of a mix-up: a non-veg meal getting served to a vegetarian passenger, as it had happened a few times in the past," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told the Hindu.
In 2016, there was a ruckus on Air India's Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai flight after a few passengers complained about being served non-vegetarian food instead of the vegetarian meal that they had asked for. The official said that half the passengers did not mention their choice of the meal, while making bookings resulting in the airline being "kept in the dark" about their preferences.
"A full-service carrier like Air India should not resort to such a measure. Even a low-cost carrier gives the passengers their food options. Air India should have conducted a passenger survey before taking this drastic step, and it should immediately withdraw the decision," Mahesh Y Reddy, secretary-general of Air Passengers Association of India, told the daily.
The carrier will, however, continue to serve non-vegetarian meals in business and executive class on domestic as well as international flights.
Another Air India executive said that there has been a rise in the number of passengers preferring vegetarian food. "The number of vegetarian passengers is increasing. Generally, we uplift 70 percent vegetarian meals and 30 percent non-vegetarian meals," he told the Hindu.
The executive added: "However, because of the increasing preference for vegetarian meals, wastage of non-vegetarian meals became high. Also, we run short of vegetarian meals, leading to complaints. So we decided to serve only vegetarian meals in certain sectors."
Last year, Air India also stopped serving tea and coffee along with lunch and dinner to cut down on costs. However, passengers could still choose either vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals on all domestic flights exceeding 90 minutes.