All about Airline Special Meals

Just before the main meal service, the crew will be bustling along the aisle discreetly serving what are known in the industry as “special meals”. There are a bewildering range of special meals (IATA lists over 30 different types). Vegetarians and diabetics are usually covered as are those requiring Kosher, Halal or beef free.

Photo 2014-06-09 14 50 41

These can be split amongst five categories:

  1. Baby and Children Meals
  2. Dietary meals –  e.g. Diabetic, Gluten free, Low cholesterol
  3. Occasion meals e.g. Birthday Cake, Champagne
  4. Religious meals- Halal, Hindu, Kosher
  5. Vegetarian and Vegan meals

A few tips on ordering a special meal:

  1. If you need a special diet, order it asap after booking- asking for a special meal at check in or on the plane is generally too late!
  2. Order the meal early – many airlines need 24 or 48 or even 96 hours notice
  3. Choose the right type of meal – if you need a low salt Halal meal, ask for it
  4. Be aware that some airlines do special meals better than others. I once was served a vegetarian meal of a cup of lentils and rice by a US airline. That was it. The person next to me got a main meal and a fruit salad! Apparently, vegetarian did not include fruit salad!
  5. Check that your meal has followed you if you change flights
  6. If you move seats after take off, let a flight attendant know where you have moved to- makes their job a little easier
  7. In Economy/Coach, be aware that special meals are usually served before the main meals
  8. Remember you have ordered one – it annoys a flight attendant when you slow down meal service by looking blankly when they offer you your meal

Photo 2014-09-30 23 19 36Not every airline offers the same range of special meals:

Next week, I will share all the different types of meals and the codes you may need to book them!

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  1. In my experience as a vegetarian, it’s probably worth risking a normal meal instead of getting the special meal, especially in business class. One of the two meal choices is usually vegetarian or mostly vegetarian, while the vegetarian meal is a bowl of rice. It’s ridiculous that they don’t give vegetarians the vegetarian option if that’s one of the main meals being offered.

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