Vegan Food When Flying First and Business Class (British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Delta)

I haven’t written a blog update in quite some time and this is going to be very different to the bulk of my content.  Nonetheless I thought it was worth writing in case anybody is trying to find information on this.  Instead of geeky tech stuff today I’ll be covering eating vegan in business and first class.

I used to fly lots, I used to drink a lot and I used to eat a lot of meat.  Over the last few years my life has changed a lot.  I spent a few years not really travelling by myself, I no longer drink alcohol and I became a vegan.  Recently my work has taken me back to flying.  I am lucky enough to always fly either first class or business.  In days gone by this was always the best bit of a trip for me – 12 hours plus a lounge to isolate with food and alcohol.

As a non-alcohol drinking vegan though, what’s the experience like?  Over the last few months I’ve flown Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class, Delta One and British Airways First.  I couldn’t find much information on any of these before I flew so thought I’d compile it here just in case any other flight-loving vegans are curious what they may expect.

 Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse – LHR

I arrived at the lounge just in time for the end of breakfast.  The Clubhouse lounge menu at LHR had everything that was vegan labelled although there wasn’t much choice.  Just one option for breakfast – porridge.  However, it was one of the creamiest bowls of porridge I’d ever had and absolutely delicious.  The recent menu sadly suggests this is no longer available but a fruit salad or grapefruit is available.  For a pre-flight snack I had a curry and a bowl of chips.  Since I flew in November 2017 it appears the menu has added some steamed edamame and warm potato salad as options.  There was also fruit available.  I mainly drank tea with soya milk which was available in the lounge.

I checked in the lounge whether there would be any soya milk on the plane (VGML had been requested) and was told no.  I asked if they could give me some from the lounge and was surprised that they refused with no further explanation.

Virgin Atlantic 787 LHR to LAX (Upper Class)

On board the food was good – I had another curry which was really tasty a fruit salad and some kind of berry compote which was actually incredibly tasty.  I had no choice with regards to what the food was but was pleasantly surprised that in a cabin of around 25 people there were at least 3 other vegans.

For snacks during the flight I mostly had bags of crisps and self-serve fruit from the bar area.  I think I single handily ate every piece of fruit that was available – so you may be stuck to crisps if you’re flying with a lot of fruit eaters.

When the afternoon snack was offered I was pleasantly surprised that there was a vegan option for me – it was an enjoyable aubergine wrap with crisps.  I wasn’t hungry by this point but enjoyed it anyway.

vs

There was no soya milk on-board but they did have a non-alcoholic cocktail which I drank plenty of.

The staff were aware I was vegan and I wasn’t offered anything that was non-vegan.  I was actually amazingly impressed and had one of the best VS food offerings I’ve ever had with them on this flight (soya milk aside for tea).

Delta Sky Club LAX T3

Worst lounge I’ve ever used after Cancun and that’s saying something.  From a food perspective there was a self-serve salad area where you could construct something vegan and some pre-packaged options (I had tiny tortilla chips and salsa).  Nothing was labelled vegan but a scan of the ingredients made it easy enough to check.  Drinks were from a bar with standard juices and carbonated drinks available as well as tea/coffee (but no soya milk).  This lounge was an overcrowded dump that I left with an hour to spare.

delta

Delta Domestic Flights USA – First

I flew a couple of legs on Delta – both a short-haul (<90 minute) and a medium-haul (trans-con 757).  Both had a drinks service where I mainly just drank carbonated drinks and water.  No real food options apart from crisps and some kind of wheat-based snack.  I would say the cabin crew on the 757 trans-con were amazingly good and when I mentioned I was vegan told me straight away what was and was not vegan.  Considering I hadn’t requested VGML (not an option as I was connecting) I was happy to have anything.

Delta Lounge ATL

I only had 20 minutes here before my connection but was happy to get some bread and a soup that was labelled as “Vegan Soup” (no other description).  It turned out to be a medium-spiced tomato-based soup and was pretty good.  Nothing else was labelled and it didn’t look like any other options to eat something so I crammed bread into my mouth and ate as much soup as I could.  I mainly drank carbonated drinks and water again.

Delta 747 ATL to LHR (Delta One)

Worst business class flight ever.  They didn’t load my VGML despite checking both at the lounge and at the check-in desk.  After being asked which meal I’d like and was told mine wasn’t on-board the cabin crew really weren’t helpful.  They did nothing to try to resolve it.  They continually kept offering me things and insisting it would be vegan.  Luckily we were still on the ground and as lots of it was “branded” I was able to check allergens.  Everything they proposed to me was non-vegan.  The chief purser refused to believe pesto had cheese in it.  In the end I had some fruit that was left over (but not enough to impact anybody else’s meal even if they had six courses as well), a bag of crisps and I got a few vegetables from one of the meals.  Some potatoes turned up (one mouthful proved them to also be non-vegan) and some honey-glazed veg that I couldn’t eat.

I was mainly frustrated at the absolute lack of service here.  The lady behind me was GF from allergy and couldn’t eat anything as they hadn’t got her meal.  No knowledge of what went into their food, no allergen menu on-board.  I asked and was given the “detailed” piece of paper which was utter rubbish with no detail on individual ingredients or allergens.

No breakfast option whatsoever.  I literally ate a handful of vegetables, some fruit and a bag of crisps.  At least this was a red-eye.

I got moved onto this flight (7 days earlier, so not as if no notice) from a VS flight.  I complained to VS when I got home who didn’t seem to care about either the customer service or the lack of any food options (or the late flight, the broken bag, missed connection or the other cacophony of problems).

This flight was so bad and VS’ response that I decided not to fly VS at all again for risk of this happening.  As airline I’ve used most for transatlantic flights since 2007 that’s a big step.  I found the VS outbound really good but risk of ending up on their partner airline and service like this is not something I wanted to happen again.

Avoid Delta if you’re vegan was my takeaway.

 British Airways Galleries First LHR T3

The LHR T3 First lounge isn’t the Concorde room but it’s pretty reasonable.  I arrived around breakfast time and ate a lot of hash browns, baked beans and bread for breakfast thinking that’s all I’d manage.  I contacted BA’s You First before who advised I would have bad luck in the lounge (I’m fine with that so long as I know).  I was then genuinely surprised to find 3 or 4 lunch options that were vegan (curry, tater tots and a few other pieces).  Everything was labelled for allergens as vegan.

I asked in the lounge if they could fill my bottle up with soya milk and they vanished for 10 minutes.  Turns out they’d been peeling individual servings open and pouring them in one at a time for me.  I was so grateful.

Not as swanky as the VS clubhouse but 600ml soya milk for my flight and a very full belly and I was happy.  Plenty of fruit, crisps and other nibbles available as well.  The nuts were not labelled vegan so I didn’t try them assuming them to have honey on.

British Airways First 747 LHR – PHX

I had a choice of two meals for my main meal and five courses.  I went for a curry and really enjoyed the asparagus and aubergine steak main but found a fruit platter (the second fruit course of five) a bit of a let down for desert.  The bread came with vegan spread but staff couldn’t advise which breads were vegan.  I was also given pre-flight nuts which looked as though they had honey on – again staff couldn’t confirm if vegan.  I was surprised to actually be offered soya milk on-board (only 3 single servings though in whole cabin).  The second meal was equally as good and I was ready to burst when I landed.

Overall staff were excellent with catering options here.  No non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu though so either figure out some options yourself or stick which juice, water and tea which is what I did.

 

British Airways First Lounge PHX

Well there are 14 seats on board and about 20 seats in the lounge.  It was certainly cosy.  Nothing was labelled for allergens and most stuff was put out so I couldn’t even look at lists.  I ate a bag of crisps and left it at that and had a couple of diet coke’s.  It was a nice environment but I’m really glad I went to a delicious vegan junk-food restaurant 10 minutes away from the airport before coming.

Nice place to sit, not great for food.

British Airways First 747 PHX – LHR

On-board I had another good selection of food including stuffed peppers and mushroom steaks.  Sadly, the carrots and veggies on the main were inedible but the pudding with raspberries, blueberries and a dark chocolate bowl of noms was delicious.  No second option this time just what was given to me and only four courses.  Not as good as the way out by a long shot but I wasn’t left hungry.  Frankly the desert (and I’m not even a desert fan) meant I didn’t really care about the other courses.

Breakfast was a bit of a let-down – no opportunity to have something like toast, mushroom, tomato, beans and hash browns from the menu but instead I got a fruit bowl and then a fruit-compote and oat mix (kind of like warmed overnight oats).  It was alright, but I fancied a bit of a fry-up.

I was offered a lot more non-vegan food on this flight and the crew didn’t seem as good dealing with it.  I suspect (based on my interactions with crew) I was just unlucky with the person allocated to serve me as other cabin crew seemed much better… nonetheless it wasn’t as good as the outbound journey.

Overall

Well my Delta experience was so bad I won’t even touch VS now – but overall I was surprised across the board.  Plane food can be hit or miss at the best of times, let alone when you’re vegan.  I’ve been really impressed with BA who have sent me information before the flight and when I contacted them afterwards seemed genuinely thankful for the feedback.  VS just didn’t seem to care and that made it easy for me to change who I flew with.  As a revenue customer I don’t fancy sinking thousands of pounds every flight to not even know if I’ll get a meal or an apology from it.

I’d definitely recommend packing a snack just incase you don’t get a meal and eat as much as you can at the lounge but even flying out of USA proved to have some pretty decent vegan options.  The allergen requirements are not as strong ex-USA so it’s a little more risky but it seemed to be a decent selection regardless.

I’ve actually got another VS UC flight later this year that I’d already booked before making my switch for future bookings.  It’s on one of their leisure routes from LGW so lounge and service will be slightly different, it it’s significantly different I’ll update this post accordingly.  I’ve also got further BA First flights later in the year – if they’re any better or worse I’ll update as well.

The good news though – if you’re vegan and even if you don’t drink turning left is still a very nice place to be (as long as you’re not on Delta).  It’s not quite up to standard with normal meal options but the range of food is as good as any other special request meal.

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