Earlier this week, the Australian airline QANTAS announced it would remove vegetarian meals from its domestic in-flight menu. Passengers who needed a vegetarian meal would only be offered a vegetarian snack. Overnight, QANTAS reversed its decision due to public pressure.
When I heard the news earlier this week, I was crushed. As an Australian vegan gluten-free traveller, I received this news like a kick in the guts. When the ABC — Australia’s national broadcaster — reported on the news earlier this week, they used the headline: “are Qantas vegetarian meals a thing of the past?” In my view, it felt like travel was returning to the past for a brief moment.
In 2022 when dietary options are so extensive, it makes you wonder why an airline would entertain this idea let alone do it. The news also illustrated that advocacy is still needed and travel companies must listen to their customers.
So, why should travel companies offer vegan meals? Let’s explore this question.
Being vegan is a personal choice of expression for many
People choose to be vegan and each vegan made the decision based on a personal experience. Personal choice can even be a human right. According to the United Nations, human rights include a “right to…freedom of opinion and expression…”
If a travel company decides to remove vegan meals from its menu, it potentially gives a message to its vegan customers that they cannot express themselves.
Travellers choose veganism for many reasons including:
- Animal rights
- Health reasons
- Environmental concerns
- Cultural or religious observances
Not having access to vegan meals may then be perceived that someone’s self-expression is being compromised in some way.
I’m glad QANTAS reversed its decision.
Allergies and chronic illnesses are not a choice
Lots of vegan travellers may also have an allergy or chronic illness. When someone travels for any period of time, they need access to food that will not harm them. Vegan meals provide many travellers with a safe food option.
As a vegan traveller with Coeliac Disease (a genetic auto-immune disease that is a chronic illness), I am grateful for vegan gluten-free meals. Access to vegan GF meals means I won’t suffer from starvation and I won’t experience vomiting and chronic fatigue during transit.
Packing your own food isn’t always practical
I always pack vegan gluten-free snacks wherever I travel, just in case I can’t access a vegan gluten-free meal.
When you travel by air, you’re limited by what you can take on-board. You can only take an empty water bottle on-board, you can take pre-packaged food that doesn’t need to be heated or refrigerated, but you can’t take hot food, liquids, salads, etc.
If a travel company decides to remove vegan meals from its menu, then the company will need to let travellers bring their own food. I doubt this would happen, due to security reasons among others.
Veganism is now in the mainstream
If you go grocery shopping, you’ll find an explosion of new vegan products hitting the shelves. Veganism is becoming more accepted, more available and more accessible. This is the perfect opportunity for travel companies to represent the wider community and its increasing demand for vegan meals.
Vegan meals can be cheaper to make
In Australia, the cost of basic essentials is increasing. Meat products are included under this umbrella.
Still, some of the cheapest meals you can make are vegan ones. Vegan cooking uses cheap ingredients like grains, pulses, plus fruit and vegetables that are in-season. Imagine if travel companies provided more vegan meals? I’m sure they’d see a decrease in their overheads.