6 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Starve on a Plane (Or in an Airport) with No Vegan Food

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Dry, bland and tasteless.  Typical complaints about airline food, although it may not be entirely justified (flying changes tastebuds and sense of smell and makes everything taste flavourless).  But what if you get no meal at all?

My worst experience with air travel (and sadly, it seems not all that uncommon) was when they forgot to pack my vegan meal on the plane.  I was strapped into a tin bucket for the next 8 hours or so with no dinner in sight.  After rummaging around in my bag for awhile, I pulled out a can of Pringles and a dark chocolate bar and ate that for dinner, while the flight attendants made fun of my ‘poor meal choice’.  Thanks a lot!

Another time they accidentally served my vegan meal to someone a few rows in front of me – by the time I figured it out, it was too late.  Again, this unfortunately seems like a not uncommon experience amongst vegan travellers.  So how to make sure that you don’t starve on your next plane ride?

1. Order your vegan meal well in advance, by contacting the airline at least 72 hours before your flight – and confirm at check-in!  (Most airlines use the code VGML; some also offer Indian Vegetarian and Chinese Vegetarian options but definitions vary wildly and some airlines make these vegan while others don’t.)

2. Carefully inspect (or just avoid) the ‘extras’ that come with your meal on the plane.  While the main components of the meal are usually prepared by a commercial catering company, often the extras like bread, spread and salad dressing are added on the plane.  While some airlines are more clued up than others, often they add butter or dairy-containing margarine, or salad dressing with milk in it.

3. Never come unprepared – bring some snacks, like dried fruit and nuts, energy bars or an apple in your carry-on.  Remember that pastes like peanut butter and hummus will count against your liquid limit.

4. If possible, bring your own meal like a wrap, sandwich or pasta, to have on the plane or in the airport.  (Although be warned that apparently pasta doesn’t fare well on the plane and is one of the worst options for plane food)

5. Find out what vegan options are in the airport in advance, so you know where to go to grab a bite to eat!  I’ve put together a guide (see below) with options in the top 10 airports worldwide.

6. If worst comes to worst and your meal doesn’t arrive, ask nicely and you might find the flight attendants can rustle something up (usually a jacket potato and salad, or fruit plate – not the most exciting dinner, but hey, it’s better than nothing!).  And if that doesn’t work, those nuts will come in handy!


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5 thoughts on “6 Tips to Make Sure You Don’t Starve on a Plane (Or in an Airport) with No Vegan Food”

  1. Ahh that happened to me once too! Stupid American Airlines. First I got stranded in London where my connecting flight was for 2 days, then the flight they finally got me on was stand-by so of course they had no vegan meal for me even though I had ordered it months before. Flight attendants gave me attitude when I nicely turned down both meals (both meat, no vegetarian option even) and when I asked if they had any peanuts or something I could eat instead they gave me attitude and said no. It was a 7 hour flight and I was so angry and hungry! And I got a bad attitude about it the whole way. I will never take American again if I can avoid it!

    • Oh that’s so annoying! Hope you found some vegan food in London at least! That sounds awful, how annoying they gave you attitude, I can see why you want to avoid American now!!

  2. I’ve had some terrible in flight food experiences too! I think they’re inevitable but I learnt early on to always travel with enough snacks to make a meal if needed!

  3. Gah – a situation I know all too well. Along with the ‘we didn’t bother packing it’, my favourite plane food foul up is the bizarrely common practice of offering a vegan meal with non vegan ingredients. I’ve had milk, butter, and chicken (!) in meals marked as vegan before. Agree with you wholeheartedly on the being prepared – I always have a family sized bag of dry roasted peanuts for emergencies!


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Caitlin Galer-Unti

Hi, I’m Caitlin and I’ve been vegan since 2008 and vegetarian my whole life. Since going vegan, I’ve lived in 4 countries and travelled to over 30! I’ve also published two bestselling vegan books (The Essential Vegan Travel Guide and The Barcelona Vegan Guide) and had my work featured in The New York Times, Vegetarian Food & Living and Vegan Life magazine. I’ve veganised my life and I’m here to help you design your life around your vegan values. 


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