When traveling in first class between Portland and Phoenix, I was able to get my first taste of what it is like to fly domestically and eat as a vegan. It was a fairly lackluster experience, with no ability to choose a special dietary meal type for that flight. Flying on a long haul flight from Dallas to Seoul and back, things were a little bit different.
On my flight to and from Seoul, I was able to make a special meal request for these flight, this option is open to anyone on any international flight. You must call the reservation desk and request what type of meal you require for that flight. For me, I requested a vegan/vegetarian meal known as VGML. American Airlines uses the term vegetarian interchangeably with vegan, so ordering a vegetarian meal with them is the same as getting a vegan meal. These flights were taken in economy class, so don't expect any super fancy meals here.
The burning question here though is how was the food? Well it wasn't great, but maybe a bit better than I had anticipated. I had not set the bar very high, since this is an economy meal, and it is a US domestic carrier who are certainly not known for their meals. On my way to Seoul, the first meal started with a curry chickpea meal, this was actually a surprisingly good idea. The curried chickpeas were good, maybe a bit more bland than expected, but good and had some much needed protein. The snack on the way to Seoul was some kind of sliced wrap, it was decent but unimaginative. The meal right before landing in Seoul… unremarkable, so unremarkable, I really don't even remember what it was.
For this flight segment I must say that the meals were more imaginative than I had anticipated them to be. There was some protein to be had, but only 1 of the 3 meals/snack that was served had any protein in it. This was an economy meal, so nothing exciting should ever be expected.
As for the trip from Seoul to Dallas, well I am currently in the middle of that flight and have been served 2 meals so far and I am much more disappointed in the meals in this direction. The service in this direction is much, much better, seeing as I haven't had to remind them of my special meal request every time they come around for service, but the food ruins that good service.
What I experienced in this direction can only be described as food that a typical meat eater thinks that vegans eat. Despite what you may think, every meal does not consist of a pile of steamed vegetables. This is precisely what has been offered so far. The opening meal was a pile of steamed veggies, don't get me wrong, these we very good vegetables, but there was no attempt here at a meal. It was just beans, mushrooms, eggplant, and lentils. My meals rarely look like this at home, I eat chickpea fritters flavored with many great spices. There are so many different options when it comes to eating vegan, this just felt like someone thought to themselves, hmmmm vegan, grab some veggies and cook them.
The sides for the first meal were fairly normal with one exception. A fairly normal salad and fruit salad were great, but the thirsd side was confusing. It was just a small tub of cut veggies, almost like they should be used to top something. I didn't know what they were going for here, was it for a salad? Still can't figure this one out, it was cut up fairly fine too… just a little weird.
The snack seemed to be a continuation of the previous meal theme. I was given a sandwich with a bunch of sliced veggies on it. It may have had some very mild dressing of some sort on it, but it was difficult to taste. Once again, I really love vegetables, so I appreciate the healthy aspect, but it was once again a confused dish. Putting all of this on a bun in advance of the flight is an odd choice and makes the bun soggy. Once again this came across as someone's idea of what a vegan eats and it just isn't true.
I'm still awaiting the third meal at the end of this flight and I don't expect anything ground breaking. While having the choice is great, I would hope that a little effort would be put into making these meals. There could be a little more effort put into this in the future from airlines and it would make for a much better experience, though catering to an economy class passenger probably isn't the top of the airline list of things to do.