NEW DELHI: Air India on Saturday found itself in midst of a controversy over reports that it had decided to discontinue non-vegetarian food in economy class on short-haul flights. CMD Ashwini Lohani, however, says non-veg was never served on such flights.
Lohani said they had decided to serve hot veg meals in place of snacks for flights up to 90 minutes’ duration and said an internal circular of the airline was misinterpreted. “Air India presently provides cold veg snacks on 60-90 minute flights. But from now on it will serve proper hot veg meals in place of only sandwiches and cakes,” he told Express.
A statement issued by Air India said the existing policy of serving veg and non-veg food in flights exceeding 90 minutes would continue to remain as it is. It added that there will also be a review of the decision after obtaining passenger feedback.
Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma asserted ,“There is no change in the previous system, only upgradation. Apart from snacks, some hot food has been started. There is no controversy of vegetarian and non-vegetarian. We have started offering hot food considering it is winter.”
The circular issued on December 23 had said that the airline has decided to provide “All Indian hot veg meals” in economy class on domestic flights between 60-90 minute duration from January 1, 2016. It also added no tea or coffee will be served with lunch and dinner.
Asked why passengers should not be given the non-veg option too, Lohani said, “At times it becomes difficult to cater to passenger’s choices on such short-duration flights when there are over 150 people onboard.”
According to travel industry expert Rajji Rai, the state-owned airline should have first carried out a passenger survey before effecting any change in the menu. “Airlines world over carry out customer surveys before taking such decisions. Unfortunately, Air India is poor in such practices. This menu change is a unilateral decision,” he said.
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Air India’s circular on its changed menu for flights of 90 minutes’ duration or less set off a discussion on social media that went viral. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah lodged his protest on Twitter, saying he was trying to “understand the logic” of the state-owned airline’s decision. Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah today questioned the decision of Air India to serve only vegetarian meals on short duration flights. “Pray tell why? I’m trying hard to understand the logic of this decision but I’m really struggling @airindiain,” he tweeted.