Air India Stops Serving Meat on Domestic Flights. Is It a Cost-Saving Measure or a Political Move?

An Air India Boeing 747-400 plane. Image from Flickr by Andrew E. Cohen. CC: BY-NC-ND 2.0

India's national flag carrier and the third largest domestic airline Air India has once again made headlines as it announced last week that it will no longer serve non-vegetarian foods on its domestic flights.

The move is reported to be one of the many cost-cutting measures taken by Air India, which is facing debt of around Rs 550 billion (US$8.5 billion). It extends a December 2015 decision that removed non-vegetarian food from short-haul (under 90 minutes) flights.

While people assume that the approximately 1 billion Hindu population in India must be vegetarians, that's actually not the case. According to the sample registration system (SRS) baseline survey 2014 by the registrar general of India, 71 percent of Indians over the age of 15 are non-vegetarian.

The announcement also comes at a time when Hindu nationalism is on the rise in India, putting pressure on minority groups. No wonder, then, that while some welcomed Air India's decision, others were outraged.

Madhu Menon, a Bangalore-based chef and food writer, reacted on Twitter:

And others said:

Some like Krish Ashok, Namrata, and Dr. Sangeeta defended Air India:

While poet and journalist Pritish Nandy offered a nuanced perspective:

Bhargav Thantry made a comparison on Facebook:

Air India serves a square meal on short domestic flights but in the United States one doesn't even get a decent buy on board option, leave alone a meal which is something unheard of in the states.

Others were not that amused:

According to an Air India official, the carrier now spends Rs 4 billion (US$62 million) on catering on its domestic and international flights every year. This step will save Rs 80 million (US$1.24 million) in annual savings for the debt-ridden airline.

It remains to be seen whether moves like this can make this airline turn their losses around.

1 comment

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.