Like most airlines, Finnair offer a vegan ‘special meal’ during their international flights. After years of in-flight food frustration, I wanted to share my experience of the Finnair vegan food options and how they fare versus other airlines.
Flying with Finnair
I’d never flown with Finnair before. A lot of people I had spoken with before my flight had scoped them out, but not one of them had ever actually flown with them. I’d decided to take a gamble with the airline for my trip from Scotland to Thailand, a decision partially made on the back of my long standing huff with Emirates (watch out vegans – they didn’t arrange any food for me at all for my flight from Edinburgh to Dubai, and fed me dairy on my connection to India).
Finnair fell at the first hurdle whilst I tried to check-in. Despite pre-ordering a vegan meal (named VGML on the Finnair website), it didn’t show on my ticket and I tried to amend this in the ‘meals’ section of my booking. The website kept coming up with an error and in the end I had to go onto a live chat with their web team to get my meal added. In comparison to all of the other big airlines, their website was clunky.
It’s also worth noting that pre-planing seats for Finnair flights was a bit tougher than usual. My usual go-to-website for this is SeatGuru.com. Seatguru Finnair should have featured a seat map for the aircraft, provided seat reviews, and a colour-coded system to identify the best seats. However, it wasn’t able to find my Finnair flight and could only offer examples of their fleet – something I’ve never come across before.
Extras you have to pay for
I tend not to drink alcohol on long-haul flights as it dehydrates you, and I’m all about a comfortable flight (you can find more of my long-haul flight tips here). However, it’s worth mentioning that Finnair don’t include wine, whisky or beers in their free drinks service. Customers looking for a drink will have to pay for it!
So what vegan food did Finnair serve me on my 9 hour flight from Helsinki to Bangkok? Let me show you …
Finnair’s Vegan Lunch
The first thing I learned on this flight is that Finnair don’t serve up the dietary requirement meals before the standard ones (like most airlines do) – they simply serve them on their normal food service. I sat waiting a little anxiously as the trolleys started working thier way down the aisles before I realised this – don’t worry, your food is (possibly) coming.
The meal was a bit of a mismatch (Thai curry & hummus?), but everything was tasty. The curry came with a couple of pieces of hot chilli on the side for the option to add flavour.
Salad – potato salad with pomegranate seeds and dill
Curry – Thai yellow curry with tofu
Side – hummus sachet and bread roll
Desert – Fruit pastry
Finnair’s Vegan Breakfast
Another day, another airline that messed up my vegan meal. After getting off to a good start, Finnair handed me a box of what looked like egg and hash browns for breakfast. I asked one of the cabin crew to confirm that my meal was supposed to be vegan, to which they were able to check their passenger listing for and agree on. However, they couldn’t confirm what they had served me. Few of them were able to understand the difference between veganism and vegetarianism and none of them knew what the sticker on the front of my meal stood for!
They took away my food, pretty sure that it was egg. Their redeeming quality was that they all seemed concerned that I’d had nothing to eat, so much so that they offered me a free noodle cup from the additional menu customers could buy from. I’ve had many an airline tell me they had nothing to feed me, but very few have showed me the same concern to put this right.
Just as I was slurping up the last of my noodle cup (at 6am), one of the team approached me to let me know that the egg was, in fact, tofu! They’d discovered this after another passenger had been served the same meal and tried it anyway.
Return flight Lunch
My return meal was another hodgepodge of foods from different places. The tofu, rice and veg were tasty and simple. The potato salad came with what looked like a standard mayonnaise. When I asked if this was the case, the Finnair team couldn’t give me an answer as to whether the mayo was vegan or not – though (in their mild defence) still tried to find out.
Meal – Tofu, rice and veg
Potato salad – with egg/tofu/who knows (not the staff)
Airlines must get better at this! The Finnair website states that special meals they serve are there “for health or religious reasons”. With safety in mind (and a main part of their role), surely their team should be able to identify what is in the food they serve? I don’t like to feign an allergy – it shouldn’t make it more important.
It’s a good job I like rice! My final meal with Finnair was a decent sized rice box with Asian style veg.
Overall, I’d given the Finnair vegan food options 3 out of 5. The team tried really hard to ensure I had enough to eat, but the preparation and training given around their food service is lacking. I was impressed that they’d included a scrambled tofu offering to replace an eggy breakfast – I just wish they’d known they’d done it!
What’s been your favourite airlines for special meals?