Air Travel: How to get the veggies

Most airlines - including all major US, European and Asian-Pacific airlines - offer a wide variety of special request meals for long-distance flights. As a rule of thumb, a standard vegan meal is called Vegetarian (non-dairy). These meals will be available on most flights with free meal service and can be requested as a substitute for the regular meal in advance. There are exceptions listed below.

When To Book Your Special Meal

When planning to travel by plane, we recommend that you select your special meal while booking, or immediately afterward. This way you are certain not to forget it. In case you don’t add it while booking, most airlines allow special meal selections up to 48 hours prior to departure of the first flight on your ticket. This can usually be done via the “Manage Booking” page on airline websites. Take a screenshot so that you have proof of your selection if the airline forgets to load your vegan meal (this is rare). If online selection is not available, call the airline, but keep in mind that this is more prone to issues than selecting your meal online.

Confirming Your Meal

To be sure your meal is confirmed, you might want to check your booking 5-7 days before departure. There should be a note on your “Manage Booking” page that states your special meal order, even if you requested it by calling. If there is no indication of your meal, call the airline, and confirm.

Ask the check-in agent to confirm that your special meal is in the system once you arrive at the airport as well. Their computers should have special meal requests listed, so if they don’t see a request, you may want to buy some food at the airport just in case.

What If I Forget?

If you have a connecting flight, tell the customer service agents at the airport that you’d like to request a special meal for your connection. There is no guarantee that you will get it, but they will usually submit a request. If you still have a return portion of your ticket, you can call or request your meal online up to 48 hours prior to those flights.

It is recommended that you bring a small veggie snack when traveling by plane, just in case.

If you forget to plan ahead, just download the HappyCow App to find veg-friendly options in the airport! (Android | iOS)

A summary of Airline Meal Descriptive terms*:

Vegetarian Meal (VGML) - Also known as Vegan, this meal is totally free of any animal products or by-products such as eggs or dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables and fresh fruit. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish, or animal products or by-products. Note: sometimes this meal is called Vegetarian (non-dairy).

Vegetarian Lacto-Ovo Meal (VLML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal that may also contain eggs and dairy products. It contains one or more of these ingredients: vegetables, fresh fruit, eggs, dairy products, and pulses. It does NOT contain any type of fish or meat.

Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal (VGML) that is prepared Chinese or Oriental-style. It contains no animal products or by-products. Most Middle Eastern and Asian-Pacific airlines offer this meal option.

Asian Vegetarian Meal (AVML) - This is a Vegetarian Meal that may also contain dairy products. It is usually aromatic and spicy, and incorporates flavors from the Indian subcontinent. It contains one or more of these ingredients: all types of vegetables, fresh fruit, and milk products. It does NOT contain any type of meat, fish, or eggs.

Vegetarian Jain Meal (VJML) - This meal is for members of the Jain community who are pure vegetarians. It is prepared with a selection of Indian condiments. It contains one or more of these ingredients: fresh fruit and stem vegetables that grow above the ground. It does NOT contain: animal products and by-products, and any root vegetables such as onions, mushrooms, ginger, garlic, potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes, etc.

Raw Vegetable Meal (RVML) - This meal consists exclusively of raw vegetables and salads.

Fruit Platter (FPML) - This meal may be ordered for dietary reasons. It may also be ordered by members of certain communities who eat only fruit while fasting. It contains one or more of these ingredients: seasonal fresh fruit.

Hindu Meal (HNML) - This meal is available for members of the Hindu community who are not strictly vegetarian and eat meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It may contain one or more of these ingredients: lamb, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, and dairy products. It does NOT contain beef.

*(these terms may be used differently by various airlines so please confirm for yourself when reserving a meal)

Best Airlines for Vegans, updated December 2020

Some airlines have made greater investments in vegan food and offer superior quality and creativity than other airlines. Some of the top choices for vegans include:

Cathay Pacific: (1-800-233-2742) - This Hong Kong-based airline has started offering Beyond Meat and Omnipork products onboard and in their lounges. Pre-order a Vegetarian Vegan Meal or Vegetarian Oriental Meal.

China Airlines: (1-800-227-5118) - A Taiwanese company offering excellent Chinese-style Vegetarian Oriental Meals with vegan desserts and mock-meats. With 7 types of veg menus, during Covid-19 they offer VOML (vegan) only.

Emirates: (1-800-777-3999) - Offers a variety of vegan desserts and unique dishes such as chia pudding and UAE-made vegan cheese. Good options in all cabins, but you need to pre-order a vegan meal.

EVA Air: (1-800-695-1188) - Creative Chinese-style Vegetarian Oriental Meals with vegan desserts and mock-meats.

Qantas Airways: (1-800-227-4500) - One of the few airlines to offer a large variety of vegan desserts with special meal orders in all cabin classes. Except catering to be best on flights from Australia.

Qatar Airways: (1-877-777-2827) - On business class flights originating in Doha, Qatar Airways offers at least one vegan meal option on the menu, along with vegan Arabic mezze on most flights. The vegan menu options include Asian barbeque tofu, chickpea flour omelet, and tofu and spinach tortellini. We suggest pre-ordering a vegan meal in case.

Singapore Airlines: (1-800-742-3333) - On flights out of Singapore, you can expect high-quality vegan meals on SQ. Their premium cabin classes allow passengers to "Book The Cook" and select their meal in advance, with a variety of vegetarian and vegan options. This way you can see exactly which choices are available with detailed descriptions of the meals. Book The Cook is available on flights to and from Singapore. Note that you can select a special meal instead if Book The Cook does not have vegan options from your departure city.

Virgin Atlantic: (1-800-862-8621) - Offers Beyond Burgers in lounges and onboard flights. Good vegan options overall - just don’t forget to pre-order your vegan meal.

Here are some of the larger carriers’ choices, updated December 2020

Aer Lingus: (1-800-474-7424) - (Long haul only) Vegan Vegetarian Meal*, Non-Lactose Vegetarian, Lacto/Ovo Vegetarian Meal, Hindu Vegetarian Non-dairy, Asian Vegetarian (may contain dairy) *Needs to be booked after you buy your ticket, login to their website and make a Special Meal request under Preflight/Upcoming travel forms.

Air Canada: (1-888-247-2262) - Asian Vegetarian Meal, Fruit Platter Meal, Vegetarian Meal (non-dairy), Vegetarian meal (lacto-ovo).

Air France: (1-800-237-2747) - (International flights) Vegetarian Non-Dairy, Lacto Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian.

Air New Zealand: (1-800-262-1234) - (Long haul only) Lacto Ovo Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian (Indian style vegetarian meal which may contain eggs and dairy products), Vegan, Fruit Platter, Raw Vegetarian.

Alaska Airlines: (1-800-252-7522) - Vegetarian/vegan options with picnic packs in coach, also some of the for-purchase meals appear Lacto-Ovo.

Alitalia: (1-800-223-5730) - (International flights) Vegetarian, Asian Vegetarian Meals.

All Nippon Airways: (1-800-235-9262) - (International flights) Offer vegetarian meal for International flights.

American Airlines: (1-800-433-7300) - (International flights) Vegetarian (Non dairy) / Vegan

From Mbonett04, June 2016: I flew American Airlines internationally, I asked for a vegan meal. The meal I received was marked vegan, but they had added cheese on top of the main dish. The rest however, was in fact vegan.

Austrian Airlines: (1-800-843-0002) - Raw Vegetarian Meal - RVML (fresh, raw vegetables), Non Dairy Vegetarian Meal - VGML (purely vegetarian menu, no milk and egg products), Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Meal - VLML (vegetarian menu with milk and egg products), Asian Vegetarian Meal - AVML (without fish, poultry or meat; main milk product is "Shahinpaneer", an Indian soft cheese), Jain Menu – JAIN (very strict vegetarian Asian Meal; products that grow beneath the soil are strictly forbidden), Fruit Platter - FPMO (selection of fresh fruit).

Avianca: (1-890-100-577) - offers a wide spectrum of veg*n menu options, including raw, Jain, Asian, etc.

British Airways: (1-800-247-9297) - Asian Vegetarian (may be not vegan), Lacto Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan Vegetarian.

Cathay Pacific: (1-800-233-2742) - Western Vegetarian (ovo-lacto vegetarian), Strict Western Vegetarian (vegan), Oriental Vegetarian (Buddhist- probably vegan but may contain honey), Indian Vegetarian (limited dairy products), Strict Indian Vegetarian (maybe vegan but may contain honey).

China Airlines: (1-800-227-5118) - Western Vegetarian with Dairy, Western Vegetarian without Dairy, Fruit Plate, Hindu (may contain dairy), Asian (may contain dairy).

Condor Airlines: Offers some vegan options, but unless you're sitting in premium economy or business class you have to pay extra for these. Must pre-book the meals online.

Copa Airlines: (1-800-FLY-COPA) - Vegetarian Meals (strict and lacto-ovo), Fruit plate

Delta Air Lines: (1-800-221-12120) - (Some routes) Vegetarian (pure), may now have a labelled vegan option, but some reports state that you must double check their packaged items.

EasyJet: Offer a couple labelled vegan options available for purchase on short-haul flights.

Emirates: (1-800-777-3999) - Offers lacto-vegetarian, ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and "vegetarian" (which is vegan). They also have a vegetarian Jain meal which is vegan.

Finnair: (1-800-950-5000) - (AVML) Indian-Style, strongly spiced Vegetarian Meal (may contain dairy), (FPML) Fruit Plate (available only in business class), (RVML) Raw Vegetarian Meal, (VGML) (lacto) Vegetable Meal, (VLML) Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Meal.

Hawaiian Airlines: (1-800-367-5320) - Reported to have a vegan option as of 2018.

Iberia Airlines: (1-800-772-4642) - Lacto/Ovo Vegetarian Meal, Vegetarian Non-Dairy, Asian Vegetarian (maybe contains dairy), Fruit Plate.

Japan Airlines (JAL): (1-800-525-3663) - Vegetarian without Dairy (likely vegan but confirm), Vegetarian with Dairy and Eggs, Asian Vegetarian (may contain dairy).

jetBlue Airways: No meals served.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines: (1-800-225-2525) - (Varies by destination) Vegetarian (maybe contains lacto-ovo), Fruit (may contain cheese), Asian Vegetarian (may contain Lacto-ovo), Strict Vegetarian (vegan).

From Sabi, Dec 2013: "I recently flew with KLM, and they gave me a sandwich that had the VGML writing on it, but it was an egg and cheese sandwich. They also told me that all bread on the plan contained butter or milk. The flight attendant told me that VGML means western vegetarian, not vegan."

From Liz, April 2008: "Depending on which customer service rep you speak to at KLM, they may tell you that their Hindu meal is in fact a Hindu Vegetarian meal. Two different reps on two different days read the ingredients to me over the phone, and it sounded not only vegetarian but completely vegan. They each claimed that KLM had condensed their special meals for convenience and savings, so there were no longer two different Hindu choices: everyone who ordered Hindu gets the vegetarian version. Lo and behold, once you get on the plane, it's not. Chicken AND fish. Don't get caught like we did on a trans-Atlantic flight with no food but about 2 oz of pineapple for 8 hours!"

Korean Air: (1-800-438-5000) - Western Vegetarian Meal (lacto-ovo), Strict Vegetarian Meal (vegan), Asian Vegetarian Meal (lacto), Strict Asian Vegetarian Meal (vegan), (from Seoul only) Oriental Vegetarian Meal.

Lufthansa: (1-800-645-3880) - Vegetarian Meal (western, vegan), Vegetarian Meal (lacto-ovo), Vegetarian Meal (Indian- lacto) Meal, Fruit Meal.

Malaysia Airlines: (1-800-552-9264) - Fruit Platter, Raw Vegetarian Meal, Vegetarian Meals (VGML- vegan), Western Vegetarian (VLML- lacto-ovo), Asian Indian vegetarian (AVML).

Philippine Airlines: (1-800-435-9725) - Western Vegetarian Meal, Asian Vegetarian Meal, Fruit Platter Meal.

Qantas Airways: (1-800-227-4500) - (Other options may be available, call to check) Asian Vegetarian (Indian style- contains eggs and dairy products), Western Style Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian, Vegan Vegetarian. Note: Their supplier may not have a clear idea about what is vegan/vegetarian, so be careful.

Qatar Airways: (1-877-777-2827) - Offer many vegetarian options including Vegetarian-Jain meal (VJML), Fruit platter meal (FPML), Vegetarian-non-dairy meal (VGML), Vegetarian-oriental meal (VOML), Vegetarian-raw meal (RVML).

Singapore Airlines: (1-800-742-3333) - Raw Vegetarian Meal, Vegetarian Oriental Meal - Chinese-style (strict; no dairy products), Asian Vegetarian - Indian (can contain dairy products), Indian Vegetarian: (strict; suitable for Jain, no meat of any sort; no onion/garlic/ginger/all root vegetables), Western Vegetarian (non-strict; ovo-lacto), Vegetarian Vegan Meal (strict; no dairy products).

Swiss International: (1-877-359-7947) - (Economy class has one vegetarian option - standard w/o pre-ordering). These choices are offered to business class: Asiatic Vegetarian Meal (non-dairy meal. Asian style, coconut milk or dairy milk may be used), Vegetarian Meal no ingredients containing meat or fish, are used. Dairy produce and eggs are allowed.), Western Vegetarian Meal (same as vegetarian, but milk and eggs are not allowed).

Turkish Airlines: (1-800-874 8875) - Offer Strict Vegetarian Meal (VGML), Jain meal (VjML), and Fruit Platter Meal (FPML), but only on International flights.

United Airlines: (1-800-241-6522) - Vegan Meal, Asian Vegetarian Meal, Hindu (vegan), Fruit Plate. United is offering vegan stir fry noodles with veggies on some International flights in Y/C economy but does not usually offer a vegan option in Polaris Business First.

Virgin Atlantic: (1-800-862-8621) - Lacto Vegetarian, Vegan, Jain Meal (strict vegan meal with no root vegetables), Asian Vegetarian Meal (spicy). NOTE: Vegan meals vegetable spread containing 'non-dairy creamer' is not vegan as reported to HappyCow.

Any more questions about airline vegan food? HappyCow's Vegan Airline Ambassador Nonstop Dan will gladly answer questions on YouTube or Instagram.

The above information has been collected from airline websites and from calls made to the individual air carriers. There are many conditions that affect meal availability, and the information on this page is provided as a reference only. All information is subject to change. HappyCow is not responsible for any inaccurate or out-of-date information. Please see web links or call the airlines yourself for the most updated details. If you find any inaccuracy please email us with your updates - thank you.