Vegan meals as the default airplane meal: who will make it happen?

In my previous post, I wrote about changing the default option as an interesting strategy to create behavior (and attitude) change. I suggested this was an interesting tactic especially where institutional change is concerned. It can be used by governments, businesses, organizations… It creates behavior and (indirectly) attitude change, and it doesn’t take away “freedom of choice.”

Here I want to suggest one concrete space where changing the default option could be implemented: airplanes.

When I want a vegan meal on a flight, I need to remember to specify that during booking, find out where on the site I can request it, or contact a travel agent. It’s not the default option, and it’s a bit of a hassle. And requesting my special meal does not even guarantee that I will get it (as happened on my last flight – I always pack my own meal to be sure).

why not make vegan meals the default meals on airplanes?
Why not make vegan meals the default meals on airplanes?

Now imagine it was the other way around: passengers get served a vegan meal (which doesn’t necessarily need to be called vegan; it could be a “vegetable lasagna” or “mushroom risotto” or whatever). If someone complains that the meal contains no meat, the flight attendant would tell them: “I’m sorry, you should have requested a special meal.”

This scheme has several advantages for airlines:

  • it simplifies things: the number of special meals is greatly reduced. Look at this list of options that came with the special meal I had recently. Many of the allergies and preferences (religious or not) would be covered by a vegan meal (though we should be wary of lumping them all together in order to not end up with an entirely tasteless vegan option).

list of special meals on airplane

  • it cuts costs: vegan meals can be cheaper, and there are economies of scale
  • it’s better for the environment, and the airline can use it in their advertising
  • it’s better for food safety. Plant based meals don’t pose the same health risks as meat meals, for instance, in case of a refrigeration problem.

And on top of that, the first airline to do it could get international media attention. It would also set an example for other companies to follow and could be an important precedent. Ideally, the meals would be so good that no one complains, and the airline actually gets famous for its meals.

As the acceptance of vegan meals grows, and as businesses and governments get more sensitive to climate change and health issues, I believe a vegan meal as the default option on airplanes can be realistic.

Any individual or organization ready to campaign for this? Spread the message!