Air France as upped it’s vegan food game significantly since I last travelled with them almost 2 years ago. In fact, the Air France vegan meal offering has improved so much that I’d rank it as one of my best vegan plane meals to date.
However, the team at Air France HQ have still got some work to do. Despite the (mostly) pleasant experience on my outward flight, their website failed to save my meal selection on the way home, leaving me with no food for my 15 hour trip back. I’ll discuss this, alongside the other things to watch out for, in this post. You can also find my review for Finnair’s vegan meal service here.
This review is for the vegan Air France meals from an economy flight from Paris (CDG) to Mumbai (BOM). The journey was approx 9 hours long and included a main meal and pre-landing snack. It also looks at the return leg of the same journey.
Air France main vegan meal
Starter – Bulger wheat salad with edamame and cucumber, drizzled with oil. Really tasty! It’s not often that vegan airplane salads in economy come with a light oil dressing, so I was delighted that this had been taken into account. The edamame were really fresh and I could have easily eaten a second helping.
Main – Lentil, sweet potato and vegetable gratin accompanied by a white roll with vegan labelled margarine. This was delicious. It had a coconut-like sweetness. The addition of currents and broccoli gave it a great balance of sweet and savoury.
Dessert – Apple crumble and apple puree. The French really do love a dessert that resembles baby food, don’t they? I feel like there’s a cultural nod that comes with Air France’s repeated service of cartons of apple puree that I must be missing. They’ve been serving this stuff for years! What I was, however, intrigued by was there apple crumble (topped with a crushed, sugared topping). I hadn’t even questioned this before the stewardess sheepishly alerted me to the fact that she couldn’t verify whether this was vegan or vegetarian. “It’s just what they give us with the vegan meal”, she explained. After a bit more back and forth between the steward team, there was still no definite answer.
I truly appreciate that Air France’s team now care about this in the air (this was certainly not the case during my previous experience). However, it’s 2020! Why are the Air France team STILL not including dietary information in their training? (or simply on their packaging?) I can’t help but find it frustrating that they put so much emphasis into how well they train their staff in charge of my safety! Yet this basic element is overlooked. Was the crumble vegan? God only knows!
Eco-friendly Air France actions
Wooden cutlery and paper dessert trays. I appreciate it seems somewhat ironic to be pointing the environmentally friendly additions that Air France have made to their flights and meal service, but here goes anyway. I was really impressed to open up my cutlery to find that plastic pieces have been replaced with wooden ones. With approx 2300 daily flights, that plastic waste adds up quickly, so this is a welcome addition.
Air France vegan snacks
An hour before landing, the air crew served us a snack bag filled with vegan snacks for those who had ordered a vegan meal:
Hot vegetable masala pie
Fruit and nuts bag
Mango soya shake
This time, everything was labelled vegan and I didn’t have to tentatively nibble anything to test for cheese/egg. The hot pie was a refreshing change from the usual cold, butter-less sandwich that some of the other airlines serve and the mango soya shake was a delightful vegan replacement to a yogurt Indian lassi. My only grumble towards this meal is the packaging that it was served in. After such a Eco-positive cutlery swap, it felt like a step backwards for Air France to be serving their snacks with plastic straws and boutique coated bags that can’t be recycled.
The return Air France flight
I’d love to say that my return vegan experience with Air France was as good as my outgoing one. But, alas, it was not. After promptly checking in 30 hours before my flight, I went straight to the ‘My Bookings’ section to make sure my vegan meal had been carried into my flight home. Under ‘Special meals‘, my option read, “vegan meal”. I can’t stress how many times I’ve doubled checked this kind of thing before flights – this was not my first rodeo.
Continuing old habits, I arrived at the desk in Mumbai to drop my bag off and asked the staff member to double confirm my vegan meal. It was at this point that we learned the system had not marked it through. Frustrated, I signed into the Wi-Fi to show her my confirmation. It was gone. So a word of warning dear readers: check your meal reservation. Then check it again. Then screenshot it! Because Air France gave zero f**ks as I stood at their desk asking them what THEY would do if they weren’t getting fed for 15 hours. There are no food vouchers. There’s no back-up plan. You pray you’re in an airport that caters to vegans and go buy something (out of your own pocket) to take onto the plane.
In conclusion, a truly miserable end to what could have been one of my best vegan plane meal reviews. Overall, some great options and steps in the right direction for their ever growing vegan market. However, sorely let down by customer service and systems in place for passenger meal options. If you’re reading this Air France, please up your game and (whilst you’re at it) reply to the complaint I logged.