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Order a Special Meal on a Flight – Find Out You are Not Special!!!

By Lakshmi:

The team at aglobalaffair.com is vegetarian.  Raised vegetarian and continue to be vegetarians by choice.  And since we are on airplanes a lot, we are well acclimated to the world of special meals….AVML (Asian Vegetarian Meal), HNML (Hindu Meal), FPML (Fruit Plate Meal), the codes are encoded in our brains.  And the airline we have flown most frequently (United) has educated us repeatedly on the method to the madness of requesting a special meal.  Request it at the time of reservation, confirm that it is in your record a week before departure and then confirm again 48 hours prior to departure.  This is a mantra we follow religiously.  So, why then have we had such terrible luck with our special meals?  We can’t answer that, but let me share our mishaps.

Our meals don’t arrive.  This has happened a multitude of times, and it is a real blessing (NOT) when it happens on a 15 hour non-stop!  You know this early on, since special meals are served first and if you don’t get your food in that round, then you know you are hosed.  So here’s how a conversation goes.

Me:  “Excuse me, but we had ordered special meals for all of us.”

Flight Attendant (FA): “If you ordered a special meal, we would have served it.  Would you like chicken or beef?”

Me: “Sorry, we are vegetarians, so we can’t eat this.  Are you able to provide us with some salad or bread if there is no special meal?”

FA: “You know, you really need to order special meals ahead of time for it to make it.” Or we hear, “Can you show me if your boarding pass shows you ordered a special meal?” Or better yet, “This is all we have, do you want it?”

Me:  “Yes, we did order it, we fly all the time and always order it.”

FA: Mumbling to another attendant, “It’s going to be a long flight.” Turning over to me, she goes, “Let me see if we can find some food for you after we have completed service.”

Me:  “Thanks.  We appreciate your help.”

And the outcome?  We either never hear back or are served a few packs of pretzels or crackers.  On a rare occasion when we have had a really sensitive soul, the person has apologized for the error, brought us something like a salad and rolls and given us a customer service card to complain.

On the few occasions that we have got a vegetarian meal, it has been rarely lovely.  More often than not vegetarian seems to be equivalent to inedible….hard crackers or bread that you can’t sink your teeth into, grains that have an overpowering smell that it is hard to eat, and occasionally, a piece or two of fruit or veggies.

Now, this is in economy class.  Fast forward to my business class travels and yes, you’ve guessed the outcome.  There is plenty to cater to my every dietary whim and apologies are offered for me not having enough of a selection when I’ve eaten for two.

Complaining about our meals has never got us a response.  So while I continue to request special meals, viewing it now as a statistical game, we buy food and snacks to last us for the journey.  The kids have declared that they will not eat the food served.

Have you requested a special meal?  Have you had better luck?  We’d love to hear back.

2 Comments »

    • Thanks for writing. Sorry to hear you’ve had the same experience. And you know what is sad? In today’s age with all the technology, it should be easy and seamless!

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