Vegetarian / GF meals in CW

Old Nov 13, 22, 1:41 pm
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Vegetarian / GF meals in CW

Hi all,

Flying LHR-CPT and then JNB-LHR in CW in Jan with my husband. Done a couple of other longhauls in CW but before Covid and canít remember the details. I am vegetarian and my husband is gluten intolerant. I seem to remember that the second main course option is ostensibly vegetarian, so previously I think I just chose that. For the upcoming flights I wondered whether itís worth not ordering a special meal (is there a chance Iíll get less good meal e.g. the economy vegetarian one which is in fact often vegan and not nice!) But I have noticed looking at menus on here that sometimes the second CW main would for example include Parmesan which is never vegetarian as it contains animal rennet, and similarly for desserts things may contain gelatine and with the cheeses itís hard to know without being able to go off andGoogle whether they contain animal rennet. Would the crew have this level of information? Should I just order a veggie meal (what if the second main runs out?!) And what about my husband?

Theyíre both night flights departing around 10pm so do I assume itíll be dinner and breakfast?

thanks in advance!
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Old Nov 13, 22, 1:44 pm
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Welcome to FT! There is always a vegetarian option for each meal, although there is no guarantee that enough will have been loaded for everyone who wants one to have it. In this case, you should order a special meal to be sure of getting a meal that suits your dietary requirements.
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Old Nov 13, 22, 2:56 pm
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Thanks for the speedy response! Will it be the same / same standard as the other CW food or is there a danger of getting something substandard while thereís actually a veggie CW option for all?
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Old Nov 13, 22, 2:58 pm
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A VLML will probably be the same as on the menu, VGML and AVML will be different, the standard should be the same.
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Old Nov 13, 22, 3:26 pm
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Originally Posted by Can I help you
A VLML will probably be the same as on the menu, VGML and AVML will be different, the standard should be the same.
Thanks. Sounds like the only way to avoid a not completely veggie veggie option (e.g. the Parmesan and dessert issues) would be to order a vegan meal. (also have these issues in lots of high-end restaurants, but usually they can be adapted or there are other things on the menu, unlike on a plane!)
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Old Nov 13, 22, 3:31 pm
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If you are looking to have some dairy elements you need a VLML and not a vegan meal.
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Old Nov 13, 22, 3:59 pm
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Originally Posted by Can I help you
If you are looking to have some dairy elements you need a VLML and not a vegan meal.
yeah, thanks - I know thereís a difference between VLML and VGML but lots of times in economy in the past (on numerous airlines) I get a vegan or mostly vegan meal even if I order lacto-ovo (marg instead of the butter that comes with the normal meal, dairy elements missing etc). Guess maybe sometimes itís just easier for them to go to the lowest common denominator?!
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Old Nov 13, 22, 4:12 pm
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I've posted some photos of CW veggie and asian-veggie meals in the last week on the long running Vegetarian/ Vegan thread (can find via the dashboard)

Mine were catered from LGW rather than LHR, so it's possible the different catering companies handle it differently.

however, our AVML and VLML mains were different from the "veggie" option on the main menu. We got non dairy marg ex-Gatwick and weren't given the onboatd veggie afternoon tea. Got a plate of grains instead and no clotted cream!
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Old Nov 14, 22, 2:39 am
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dinkymints I'm a longtime vegetarian and in the last few years I've avoided preordering my (economy) meal because inevitably there would be no protein. Most of the time you'd get a salad to start, rice and veg as a main and then a fruit salad for dessert. Many times I've left the plane starving. As you said, I suspect the VLML is often also a VGML, AVML, GFML... etc.
When I travel in Club, I haven't ever ordered a meal in advance. I do suspect that, when travelling from outside Europe at least, whenever they say "parmesan" they actually mean a hard cheese that's most likely made with microbial rennet. I generally avoid desserts as I'm not much of a sweet tooth. It's worth asking the cabin crew because their allergy info might also say if the dish has gelatin since many avoid it for religious reasons.
A friendly word with cabin crew right when you first get the menu to say that you need a vegetarian meal and I'm sure they'd oblige. I've done it before and always had one kept for me. That said, I don't remember being on any flights where it ran out!
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Old Nov 14, 22, 2:46 am
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Originally Posted by Can I help you
A VLML will probably be the same as on the menu, VGML and AVML will be different, the standard should be the same.
Sadly this doesn't correspond to Mrs. stifle's experience; she orders a VLML and usually ends up with some horrific mound of genericness. Indeed, a few trips ago she got served up something purporting to be cauliflower curry which didn't have all the labels removed and a label said "VLML AVML KSML MOML" Ė in other words, they were making one meal cover multiple dietary types as somewhat of a lowest common denominator. She would have been delighted with the main menu vegetarian option had she been offered it.

Most recent trip there was a slab of fish on her purported VLML; CC couldn't have been more apologetic and it was replaced very promptly... with the main menu vegetarian option
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Old Nov 14, 22, 3:10 am
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My husband’s gluten free meal (when they remembered to load it) was invariably dairy free as well. We haven’t travelled for a while but I suspect it’s the same. Margarine instead of butter and no cheese. On CW a good crew will substitute bits and bobs they can find so he’s had the cheese from the general menu but with no crackers. He’s also chosen a main course from the main menu when the crew can check ingredients and it’s safe for him. Obviously he accepts he’s got the last choice in that circumstance and may be stuck with his pre ordered meal.
To sum up, order a special meal to be certain of dietary restrictions being followed (so long as it’s loaded) but there may be options on the main menu once everyone else who has no special order has chosen.
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Old Nov 14, 22, 4:48 am
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Even BA is not stupid enough to have meat in their VLML cheeses, they would use a vegetarian-friendly version. Iím sure some airlines from countries that donít understand vegetarianism may do differently, but BA is careful enough to avoid it.

Two other thoughts about veggie mealsÖ
  • if you donít want a vegan meal, order VL not VG. Many people make this mistake!
  • out of London, AVML is always by far the best special meal option. I often order one even though Iím not veggie!
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Old Nov 14, 22, 6:37 am
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Have given up ordering VLML now as more often than not this excludes me from getting proper butter, cheese or any of the other delightful products derived from a cow.

I'd rather take my chances with the main menu. The final straw for me was not getting scones and clotted cream for afternoon tea. That was a sad day!

Sadly if you order a VLML, expect at least elements of a VGML. I guess it saves airlines money and/or having to think too hard!
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Old Nov 14, 22, 6:57 am
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Originally Posted by Ladyfliestheredwhiteandblues
My husbandís gluten free meal (when they remembered to load it) was invariably dairy free as well. We havenít travelled for a while but I suspect itís the same.. .
Same experience CE and CW in late August 2022 so yes still the same
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Old Nov 14, 22, 7:34 am
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There is sometimes confusion around special meals, especially vegetarian. British Airways' drop-down menu specifically asks if people are Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian, Vegan, or Asian Vegetarian. Cabin Crew use specific abbreviations (VGML, VLML, AVML) as detailed above.

BA often ignores specific orders and serves the 'lowest common denominator' meal - resulting in disappointment. For example, vegetarians that eat eggs and dairy products are often given meals that have no eggs or dairy (despite requesting Lacto-Ovo from BA's drop-down choice list). As posters above have described, the 'normal' menu choices now usually include a vegetable-based main. This often looks more attractive and tastes far better than special meal orders.

The problem is that unless it is stated that a meal from the main menu is vegetarian, it might contain rennet in the cheese or gelatin in a dessert. British Airways offers an Italian hard cheese substitute ( for Parmigiano Reggiano) in Lacto-Ovo vegetarian special meals. I've even seen this in the CCR. I try to avoid ordering special meals as they have been dreadful in the past in all cabins. Doing so is a gamble. One I am prepared to take.
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