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Flying While Vegan: Your Best Meal Options

best vegan meal options

Are you vegan and wondering which airlines will best adapt to your diet? Many travelers require special dietary needs to be taken into consideration when flying. It can be hard to understand which airline offers the best service, so we compiled a list of some of the most accommodating.

Keep in mind that most airlines require you to request a meal at least 24 hours — and sometimes 48 hours — before takeoff. We recommend you double-check upon arrival at the airport to make ensure your special meal request was properly received. This allows you to eat in the airport or buy something to bring on the flight if the airline doesn’t have the meal you requested.

Before we talk about the airlines, here is a guide to the different meal codes.

Guide to Different Special Meal Codes

  • VGML — Vegetarian Vegan Meal: This meal is completely free from all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. However, this will typically come with the same bread as everyone else, which is often not vegan, as well as butter and a standard cow’s milk for your tea or coffee.
  • VLML — Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal: A traditional vegetarian dish without fish or meat, but it may contain other animal products such as eggs, dairy, and honey.
  • VOML — Vegetarian Oriental Meal: These are typically found on Asian airlines. They are almost always vegan and prepared with vegetables with rice. This option also tends to be gluten-free.
  • AVML — Asian Vegetarian Meal: This is most likely not vegan, as it typically includes spiced vegetables (which may contain ghee), as well as dairy products, like cheese.
  • VJML — Vegetarian Jain Meal: This is a very safe option for vegans as it's in accordance with the Jainism religious principles. It will only contain fruit and vegetables that grow above the ground, and no animal products.
  • RVML — Raw Vegetable Meal: If you’re looking for a vegan dish, you can’t go wrong with this option, as it will exclusively be a selection of raw fruits and vegetables.
  • FPML — Fruit Platter.

You may see some airlines simply offering a “vegetarian meal” as their only vegetarian option. In many instances, these are vegan and designed to cover every type of vegetarian meal request.

Want to know what the experience is like across different airlines? Here is a compilation of some of the best:

Leading Airlines for Vegan Meal Options

Air France

Air France offers a wide range of special meals which can be requested online or even through a Twitter direct message. The website states you must request special meals at least 24 hours in advance. Kosher meals require 48 hours.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand is reliable in providing special meals. The vegetarian meal is suitable for vegans; travelers can request this online at least 24 hours in advance. Find more details here.

Emirates

Emirates has ranked as the best option for vegan travelers for several years now, according to a Veg News poll. In January of 2019, the airline reported that requests for vegan meals increased by more than 40%.

With Emirates, all special meal requests must be booked at least 24 hours in advance of your flight. In addition, the airline says that some special meals may be unavailable in economy on shorter flights. For more details on the airline's full special meals terms, click here.

Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopian Airlines allows you to request special meals online, though the website is prone to errors during this process. The best way to request vegan meals is through Twitter direct message. Requests must be made at least 24 hours in advance.

KLM

KLM says it has vegetarian meals preloaded onto all flights, though there is a limited number available. If you want to guarantee one — or want to ensure it’s vegan — then you should request in advance, which you can do online at least 24 hours in advance.

Qantas

Qantas flights typically offer exceptional vegan food on both intercontinental and domestic routes. The airline indicates that special meals must be requested at least 24 hours prior to departure (36 hours for Kosher meals). Special meals are not available on domestic economy flights of three and a half hours or less; the carrier only serves refreshments on those shorter flights. You can view the airline's full special meals terms here.

Qatar Airways

Whether you’re flying in economy, business or first, Qatar is known for its service. This even includes short flights, where you can still request (and consistently receive) a vegan meal. The airline’s web says you must request special meals at least 24 hours before departure, and you can do this online.

Ryanair

Ryanair offers vegan meal options that can be preordered online in advance. There are also options on the in-flight menu with green indicators for what’s vegan. It’s not guaranteed that your preferred items will be available if you don’t order in advance.

SWISS

SWISS offers several high-quality vegetarian and vegan meal options. You can request special meals up to 24 hours prior to departure, and its website says these are available on all long-haul flights, as well as flights within Europe for business class passengers . There are four types of vegetarian meals available, though only one is vegan.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines offers a “strict vegan meal (VGML),” which you can request online, via the app, or on Twitter. You must do so at least 24 hours in advance. The airline has multiple types of vegetarian meals available, and its Jain meal (VJML) should also be vegan. The VGML option tends to match the culinary traditions of your departure point.

United Airlines

United’s website indicates it offers special meals, including VGML vegan meals, on flights more than 2,000 miles in North America. They're also offered on premium transcontinental flights, flights from the U.S. mainland to Hawaii, and international routes beyond North America. You need to request a special meal at least 24 hours in advance.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin ranks high for both vegan food and healthy dishes. Through its partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association, the airline looks for alternatives to (or sustainably-sourced versions of) beef, seafood, soy, and palm olive products. Virgin says vegan meals are available on all flights.

You must book your meal at least 24 hours before your flight departs (48 hours for Kosher meals). Note that Virgin says that special meal requests only apply to main meal and do not include snacks and condiments. You can view the carrier’s full special meals terms here.

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