Qantas reinstates vegetarian option on short flights following backlash

Qantas has reinstated a vegetarian meal for economy passengers on all domestic flights after a decision to remove the option on short-haul trips resulted in a fierce public backlash.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Qantas reduced its meal offerings for economy passengers travelling for less than 3.5 hours to one snack option, often a chicken and leek pie or a vegetarian quiche or corn fritter. The single option meant some vegetarian passengers missed out on a meal during their flights.

The carrier said the decision to reduce the offering came due to “high levels of wastage”, but on Friday it said it would reinstate vegetarian options and fresh fruit on all flights.

A domestic traveller checks into a Qantas flight from Sydney Airport on Thursday’s National Day of Mourning. Credit:Louie Douvis

“Qantas will monitor take up of these options and make any further adjustments to make sure we reflect customer preferences,” a statement from the airline said.

Passengers on all international flights, domestic Business and on domestic Economy cabins on flights over 2.5 hours are provided with a “range of dietary meal options”, the airline continued.

Qantas also said it introduced plant-based options on “almost all” international flights last year and committed to phasing out single used plastics, often used in food packaging, on board and in its lounges.

The airline’s executive manager of product Phil Capps said the airline was forced to make “alterations” to service during COVID-19 and was “in the process” of refreshing its menus.

“We’re in the middle of a broader menu refresh for our domestic network that will roll out from October, which includes new vegetarian options. There’s a lot of work happening to get Qantas back to its best and that includes listening to the feedback from our customers as we keep investing in our product and service,” Capps said.

Regional Express offers a complimentary savoury or sweet snack as well as beverages to all passengers on Rex flights. Virgin Australia does not provide a complimentary snack or meal option for any economy seats on any domestic flights.

Qantas has been under heavy scrutiny in recent months as customers have raised concerns over a continued spate of delayed flights and misplaced bags.

The aviation industry is also struggling with insufficient staff numbers due to the tight labour market and impacted migration levels.

Last week, Qantas said the number of flight cancellations was tracking at 2 per cent for the month so far, which is below pre-COVID levels.

Mishandled bags are at six per 1000 customers overall, down from nine last month when the company was forced to increase connection times to 90 minutes in an effort to reduce the number of lost bags.

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