Flying Vegan - Domestic First Dining

In an earlier article on my upgrade to first class, I spoke a little about dining first class from Phoenix to Portland on US Airways (American Airlines). During that flight, their standard vegetarian option was really easy to eat as a vegan… granted it lacked a protein, but it was at least something I could eat. My return flight in first class from Portland back to Phoenix was a different story. 

Now I bring this up not because this is a vegan focus, but because this applies to many different people who have many different dietary restrictions. My experience on the way out to Portland went as such. I checked in early the day before leaving for my trip, as soon as I found out that my ticket was now partially a first class ticket, the phone came out to contact the Gold AAdvantage desk. When the person came on the line, I put in the request to make sure the meal that was offered from Phoenix to Portland was vegan. To my dismay, they responded by telling me that special meal requests are not allowed on domestic flights. This was a bit weird, but I accepted it, partially because I had already known this and just forgotten. This seems like a very weird policy to me. When paying for first class (granted I didn't pay for first here, but it is a paid seat for many people) there are a few perks that you get.  

First is a big seat, lots of room is a big selling point. Second is the dining, you get better food, better service, many drinks and so forth. There really isn't anything more to domestic first class. Since those are really your only extra selling points, and first class is a huge profit area for airlines, you would think that catering to the first class would be something the airlines would want to do. Keep in mind this is my experience with American, this may not be the same across all domestic carriers.

There must be many people who have dietary restrictions. Medical conditions, religious considerations, and lifestyle choices mean there are plenty of people who eat differently that the standard meal preferences of the average American. 

Now I don't mention standard vegetarians in this because the way the airline offers meals is to make one meal with meat and one without that is more along a vegetarian line. So when I was booked on first class for one of my two flights back to Philadelphia, I was hopeful for the one breakfast option that I can eat… this was not to be the case. Either I eat the eggs… not vegan, or I eat the crepes. So I asked what was on the crepes, well there are apples and ricotta cheese. Well that option was out as well. This wouldn't be a big deal other than I am aware of some of the standard American meals in first. Lately, oatmeal has been an option, and that's what I was hoping to see on the menu. Knowing that this was a likely meal, I didn't eat prior to leaving the airport… that was a mistake. 

There are many options for me here, domestic flights are not exceedingly long, so I can just wait, no big deal. If the airline would have informed me of the options prior to takeoff, I could have eaten before I left and maybe I should have expected this and just did so anyways. 

While this is a unique problem that most people probably do not have, it is one that is worth bringing up in my opinion since first class is an expensive ticket. If I had paid for that and then there was no meal options I could eat, likely I would have had a serious problem with this. Lesson learned here for myself, hopefully you are now aware of the restrictions and will adjust accordingly. Personally I would like to see some changes from the airlines.  

Does anyone else out there have dietary restrictions that have been an issue on a flight?