Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why Air India going vegetarian-only is a sham: Data contradict every logic given by the airline

New Delhi: Why exactly has Air India stopped serving non-vegetarian meals to economy class passengers? Well, the airline’s Chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani had reasoned this controversial move thus: it will cut wastage (single meal type means lesser number of food trays get loaded on to an aircraft), lower catering costs and avoid mix-up of vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals.

But written replies given in Parliament by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation do not quite support Lohani’s reasoning. According to what was said in Parliament, the airline has found only one complaint each year between 2014 and 2016 of a mix-up of vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals in the hundreds of meals it serves up daily. The government has also thrown up its hands, with the minister saying no directive has been given to Air India on whether to cut out non-vegetarian meals from domestic flights. And wonder of wonders, this step was taken after obtaining feedback from fliers. Of course, there is no disclosure by the government on what fliers said on the matter and how many agreed with this decision to cut out non-vegetarian food.

A piece in the Hindu first alerted fliers about the missing chicken soup on board Air India flights.

Here, Lohani said Air India stopped serving non-vegetarian meals to economy class passengers on all domestic flights from mid-June. “We have decided to serve vegetarian meals in our economy class seats on domestic flights,” he said but added non-vegetarian meals would continue to be served in business and executive class. Air India ostensibly took this sanskari decision to cut wastage and cost and to avoid mix-up of vegetarian with non-vegetarian meals. “It also eliminates the possibility of mix-up: a non-veg meal getting served to a vegetarian passenger, as it had happened a few times in the past.”
How many times has a vegetarian passenger been served a non-vegetarian meal? Well, as per a written reply by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha in Lok Sabha on Thursday, this happened exactly once each in 2014, in 2015 and in 2016. Air India has hundreds of daily flights with hundreds of meal servings every single day. And in all 365 days in each of these three years, the incidents of mix-up were only one each. Reason enough for switch to vegetarian?
03/08/17 Sindhu Bhattacharya/First Post