Special meals are offered by most airlines and cater to passengers with restrictive diets based on religion, diet or medical needs. Special meals have to be pre-ordered, ideally at the time of booking or at least 24-48 hours ahead of the flight. On a recent Cathay Pacific flight, my friend was in for a rude shock when his Hindu meal contained meat. So really, what’s the deal with Hindu meals?

Hindu Meal inflight

As it turns out a ‘Hindu meal’ in Cathay is categorized as a “Non-vegetarian, Indian-style meal prepared according to Hindu customs that contains no beef, veal or pork, but with lamb, domestic fowl, other meats, fish and milk products.”. What my friend was looking for and should have ordered was a ‘Vegetarian Hindu Meal’. And sure enough, a quick research into other airlines’ special meal menus revealed that most airlines describe ‘Hindu meal’  as non-vegetarian.

I am no expert on religion but shouldn’t a Hindu meal by default be vegetarian? All things considered, I am always both amazed and impressed by the extensive meal options airlines cater.

Personally, I order special meals only because my wife is vegan and that a special meal is always served before regular food service begins. In my opinion, the special meals also taste fresher and don’t suffer from “flight food smell” in comparison.

Random thoughts on Special Meals

Special meals are usually categorized as Religious Meals, Medical and Dietary Meals and Other special meals. The usual suspects under religious meals are Hindu Meal, Muslim Meal, Jain Meal and Kosher Meal. Why Kosher? Why not Jewish Meal? Or Why Muslim meal and not Halal meal?

What about other religious groups that are diet specific – Buddhists? Rastafarian?

Take Away

  • Always review your special meals options on the airlines’ website. While similar, special meal descriptions can vary from airline to airline.
  • If you are considering a special meal, make your selection at the time of booking or by calling the airlines well in advance. Special meals** do not incur extra charges.
  • Always have plan B in place incase airlines fail to deliver on the special meal order. Flight changes, weather, logistics  can all lead to your special meal not making it onboard.
  • **If you are celebrating a milestone (or not) some airlines offer Champagne and cake as part of “Special Meal” order (extra charges ofcourse).
  • Last but not least, if you identify as a Hindu and are vegetarian – A Hindu Meal won’t cut it 😉

Do you special order meals when flying? Share your experience with a comment below.