Air India stopped serving non-vegetarian meals to economy class passengers on all domestic flights from mid-June 2017.
“We have decided to serve vegetarian meals in our economy class seats on domestic flights,” Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told
The national carrier took the decision to cut wastage and cost, and to avoid mix-up of vegetarian with non-vegetarian meals. “It also eliminates the possibility of mix-up: a non-veg meal getting served to a vegetarian passenger, as it had happened a few times in the past.”
“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,” said Mahesh Y Reddy, secretary-general, Air Passengers Association of India.
Last year, a ruckus occurred on a Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai flight of Air India after some passengers complained that they were served with non-vegetarian fare instead of their preferred choice of vegetarian food.
A senior official of Air India said the decision should lead to ₹8 crore in annual savings for the ailing airline.
Air India now spends ₹400 crore on catering on its domestic and international flights every year, an Air India executive said.
Another executive said there was an increasing preference among passengers for vegetarian food. “The number of vegetarian passengers is increasing. Generally, we uplift 70% vegetarian meals and 30% non-vegetarian meals. 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,” he said.
The official said half the number of passengers did not specify their meal preference at the time of booking. As a result, he said, the airline was “kept in the dark” about their choice.
Last year, Air India stopped serving non-vegetarian food to its economy-class passengers on flights lasting up to 90 minutes. It also took tea and coffee off the lunch and dinner menus as a cost-cutting measure. But it allowed the passengers to opt for either vegetarian or non-vegetarian meals on all domestic flights exceeding 90 minutes.