Tag Archives: vgml

Flight Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 DOH to AUH

For remote gates (C20 to C29), you can take an elevator from the first class lounge directly to a premium bus transfer. But you do have to wait for all of the first class passengers before the bus will leave.

Elevator in the lounge

Premium bus transfer

Qatar A320

On the flight, most of the first class cabin was occupied by a woman, her four kids, and her two nannies. I guess that’s why there’s a nanny room in the first class lounge.

First class seat on A320

Menus were distributed along with cold towels and pre-departure beverages. There was also a round of Arabic coffee and dates.

Menu

Drink menu

I’m always impressed by how much service happens on short flights on non-American carriers. On this ~40 minute flight, there was a full meal service, while you might not even get a drink service on an American carrier. There were 2-3 flight attendants working furiously in a tight space to get everything done, and some of the passengers were very demanding.

I had pre-ordered a special meal (VGML), which was some cold chickpeas, cauliflower, peas, tomatoes, and cauliflower puree with some fruit for dessert. It wasn’t great, but it’s pretty impressive for such a short flight.

Special meal VGML

Overall, first class on Qatar within the Middle East is pretty awesome. You get access to the Al Safwa lounge, and it’s an impressive amount of service for such a short flight.

Flight Review: Finnair Business Class A320 HEL to BUD

For my short hop from Helsinki to Budapest, I flew Finnair in business class on an A320. It was European business class, which just meant a blocked off middle seat.

Video screen

Video screen

Seat back

Seat back

Blocked off middle seat

Blocked off middle seat

Even though the seat wasn’t any different from economy, there was a proper meal service on this flight. And they even had printed menus!

Menu

Menu

Menu

Menu

There was no pre-departure beverage offered, but the snack they offered after takeoff were crackers shaped like airplanes! There was also video playing on the in-flight entertainment, but there wasn’t any sound. The video playing, though, was from just for laughs, so I guess you don’t need to hear the sound for that.

Airplane crackers

Airplane crackers

I had pre-ordered a VGML special meal, which was actually quite solid. There were beet patties of sorts with carrots and potatoes. This was served with a side of tofu with mango, as well as a small bowl of fruit. I thought the food was reasonably tasty, and the carrots seemed like they came from an actual farm. It wasn’t fancy, but I was impressed by the actual ingredients in the hot dish.

VGML

VGML

Overall, I’m a fan of Finnair. It’s not a flashy carrier, but I find their product to be solid, and I enjoy the Helsinki airport.

Flight Review: Qatar Airways Business Class A330-200 Berlin Tegel (TXL) to Doha (DOH)

To get from Central Europe to Thailand, I ended up flying on Qatar Airways. This was also partially to visit the relatively new (at the time) Al Mourjan lounge in Doha (the Al Safwa lounge had not yet opened at the time of this trip).

At Berlin Tegel airport, there was passport control and security at each gate. And then we took a bus to the plane (an A330-200).

Walking up to the plane

Walking up to the plane

Business class on these planes is not great. It’s a 2x2x2 configuration, and the seats aren’t lie flat. They’re angled-flat with 165 degrees of recline. On the upside for this flight, the business class cabin was only about half full, so I had two seats to myself on this segment.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Business class seat

The in-flight entertainment system (Oryx) had a pretty good selection of movies, but as might be apparent from the picture, it’s a somewhat older hard product, and it had an inelegant user interface. This is mostly just a function of the age of the plane, though, as I’ve flown Qatar’s A350, which has a much nicer interface.

IFE screen

IFE screen

Side storage

Side storage

Seat + IFE controls

Seat + IFE controls

Waiting at each seat was an amenity kit by Armani. Each kit had a giant bottle of aftershave, a small bit of eau de cologne, some lip balm, ear plugs, an eye shade, and socks. I was a bit surprised to not find a toothbrush and toothpaste in the bag, or at least some mouthwash. In the bathrooms, there were Ritual products, which are also featured in the lounge at Doha.

Amenity kit

Amenity kit

One perk of Qatar Airways business class that you don’t often find in business class is pajamas. They were unwrapped as they were handed to me. I liked these pajamas better than some of the pajamas I’ve received in first class. The bottoms have pockets (very useful), and the material is relatively soft and lightweight. It’s not my beloved PYE pajamas from Cathay Pacific, but I thought these were solid.

Pajamas

Pajamas

Next are pictures of the menu. I had pre-ordered a VGML, so I ate that for my main meal, and then I had some breakfast off of the normal menu prior to arrival.

A la carte menu

A la carte menu

Pre-arrival menu

Pre-arrival menu

Beverage menu

Beverage menu

Champagne menu

Champagne menu

Up first was an amuse bouche of what seemed like make-your-own bruschetta. The topping in the cup was pretty tasty, but the bread could have been a bit better. I am non-ashamedly drinking non-alcoholic champagne in this picture.

Non-alcoholic champagne and make-your-own bruschetta

Non-alcoholic champagne and make-your-own bruschetta

For an appetizer, I had the arabic mezze off of the normal menu. I enjoyed the hummus, and the tabouleh was decent. This was served with two kinds of pita.

Arabic mezze platter

Arabic mezze platter

My pre-ordered VGML was something resembling falafel served on top of rice with a vegetable tomato sauce. On the side (upper right), there was a cup of curried cauliflower and chickpeas which were the best part of the meal.

VGML–something like falafel on top of rice with a tomato vegetable sauce and a side of curried cauliflower and chickpeas

VGML–something like falafel on top of rice with a tomato vegetable sauce and a side of curried cauliflower and chickpeas

After the meal service, I got some sleep. My strategy for sleeping in angled-flat seats is to not actually recline the seat the entire way. I find that if I recline all the way, I slide down the seat, so I recline partway between “flat” and recline, and then I can sleep on my side and not slide down the seat. I will say that if you’re on this configuration, you should aim for a bulkhead seat, as that way your feet don’t have to go underneath a seat in front of you, so it feels a lot more spacious. This isn’t true for Qatar’s Boeing 77Ws, as all of the seats in business class are “lie flat”.

Prior to arrival, I wasn’t super hungry, but I had some bircher muesli with a smoothie. The bircher muesli was very creamy and pretty tasty. And immediately prior to landing, they handed out Valrhona chocolate bars.

Bircher museli

Bircher museli

Flight Review: Japan Airlines (JAL) Economy Class B767 NRT to BKK

To get from Tokyo to Bangkok, I flew Japan Airlines in economy class on a Boeing 767 plane. The first thing I noticed upon entering the plane was that the seats and cabin looked pretty old.

Economy class cabin

Economy class cabin

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

A nice thing was that it was only 2-3-2 seating in economy class, and the load was pretty light, so I was able to get two seats to myself. This flight is about 7 hours long, which is pretty darn long for an intra-Asia flight, but they at least had personal IFE at every seat. It was a little old and janky, but at least it was on demand entertainment, even if the selection was only mediocre.

IFE screen

IFE screen

The flight boarded late, and we ended up departing an hour late for an unknown reason. But what made the flight all the more interesting was that the two people sitting behind me were having a loooong argument about how much they hated each other. From what I gathered, they were traveling together, and one person was essentially crying about how the other was being so mean to her while the other was saying how she deserved being on the receiving end of so much hate. This conversation/crying lasted for the entire delay through the meal service, so about 2 hours of hating on each other.

Now, I’ve traveled a fair amount both by myself and with other people, and what I’ve learned is that I’d much rather travel by myself than travel with someone I dislike. When you’re traveling with another person–particularly when you’re traveling in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language–you’re going to be spending a ton of time with that person in potentially stressful situations. And you also have to navigate the other person’s likes and dislikes and quirks and idiosyncrasies, and it can be hard to find other people to blow off steam with since the people around you don’t speak your language. The moral of this story is make sure you’re compatible traveling with someone before you commit to a trip with them! Just because you’re good friends in daily life does not mean you’ll be good travel companions.

Anyway, onto the flight. I pre-ordered a VGML, and it was not good. The food wasn’t flavorful, the bread was terrible, the rice was mushy, the vegetables were overcooked, etc. This made me sad since JAL has such good food in first class and in their lounges. I also got some frozen fruit for dessert while everyone else got ice cream.

VGML

(Pretty bad) VGML

One nice touch was that there was a card posted in the bathroom, and they had toothbrushes available. Pretty good for economy class!

Card and amenities in bathroom

Card and amenities in bathroom

Special meal sticker

Special meal sticker

Given that it’s a 7-hour flight, there was a pre-arrival snack. The VGML snack was again really disappointing. This was a piece of bread with a slice of fruit and lettuce in it. I really don’t know what the JAL catering was thinking…

Pre-arrival snack

Pre-arrival snack

JAL First Class may be one of my favorite products in the sky, but this flight was a bit of a let-down. The seats were a bit old, the IFE wasn’t great, and the food (or at least my special VGML) was pretty bad. I’d rather fly Cathay Pacific or Dragonair within Asia.

Review: Dragonair A330 Business Class HKG to DPS

From Hong Kong, I made my way to Bali flying Dragonair, the regional subsidiary of Cathay Pacific. This flight was operated by an A330 with a regional business class configuration.

A330 to Bali!

A330 to Bali!

Because this was a regional configuration, the seats were not lie-flat, but the cabin looked great, and it was perfectly comfortable for the 4.5 hour flight from HKG to DPS. Given that this is largely a leisure route, I wasn’t surprised that the load was pretty light in business class. There were only 13 seats taken (out of 42).

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

Regional business class seat

Regional business class seat

Seat-back IFE

Seat-back IFE

Seat controls and side storage

Seat controls and side storage

Seat fully reclined

Seat fully reclined

Seat guide

Seat guide

They didn’t offer any amenity kits on this flight, but they did go around offering a pre-departure beverage of water, juice, or a guava cocktail. They also handed out wet towels, but they were essentially packaged towelettes and not hot towels.

Food menu

Food menu

Drink menu

Drink menu

Given that I was pretty stuffed from eating in the awesome Cathay Pacific lounges during my layover, I asked that they hold my meal for a bit. The IFE selection was identical to the selection on my long-haul flight from the US.

One thing that I haven’t heard many people talking about is the canned Hong Kong style milk tea available on Dragonair. As far as I know, it’s only offered on Dragonair and not on Cathay Pacific, and HOLY MOLY is this stuff good. It was soooo delicious, but also super caloric and sugary and probably terrible for your health. But it’s something that I’ll look forward to whenever I fly Dragonair.

Ridiculously delicious canned milk tea

Ridiculously delicious canned milk tea

When I eventually did get my meal, it was a VGML, as requested. Up first was a pretty gross appetizer of cold mushrooms and vegetables.

VGML appetizer

VGML appetizer

The main course was pretty good. Just some basic vegetables with tomato sauce and rice, but perfectly edible.

VGML entree

VGML entree

One thing that I found a bit odd was that there appeared to be only one bathroom for business class. I can’t imagine that this would be very pleasant with a full business class cabin on a 4.5 hour flight.

Overall, this was an enjoyable flight, and Dragonair has a solid, reliable experience, just like Cathay Pacific. For regional flights, I might actually choose Dragonair over Cathay in the future just for the canned milk tea…

Review: Cathay Pacific First Class ORD to HKG

I know that Cathay Pacific First Class has been reviewed to death, but this flight was one of the best flights I’ve ever had. The flight attendant was absolutely incredible, and I ordered a VGML for this flight, so that will at least be novel. I’ll skip the pictures of the hard product.

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

The 77W taking us to Hong Kong

On this flight, I was pretty sure that the first class cabin was just people who had used miles. There were two youngish American couples in first class plus me. I booked my ticket at the last moment, so unless these couples were rolling in it, I imagine that they had booked their tickets pretty far in advance for their honeymoons or something.

Cathay’s seat is one of my favorite first class hard products. It’s giant and comfortable. It’s not an enclosed seat, but I’ve never felt that privacy was an issue with these seats.

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

One of the most comfortable seats in the sky

I’m also in love with Cathay’s amenities. When I took this flight (a very long time ago), they had just switched amenity kit providers, so the first class amenity kit was made by Aesop. They still have the PYE pajamas, which I love.

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

PYE pajamas and the new(ish) Aesop amenity kit

I asked for a Hong Kong style milk tea, but for some reason, they couldn’t serve that prior to departure (I’m really not sure why since they just make it from a powder). And they also couldn’t serve me sparkling water. So I ended up with some green tea to go with my VGML pre-flight appetizer. At first, I thought it was fruit in a mousse, but it was in fact hummus and vegetables. I enjoy both of those things, so I thought that it was tasty.

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

VGML appetizer of hummus with vegetables and some tea

I could immediately tell that Carrie, the flight attendant serving the first class cabin, was awesome. In most cases, I think you can tell very quickly if the flight is going to be remarkable or not. She was fun and gracious at the same time. She also offered to let me try the non-VGML appetizer of crab, after she confirmed that I was okay with eating something not vegetarian. If you like crab, you’d probably like the appetizer, but I preferred the hummus.

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Normal crab appetizer with avocado and citrus

Menu for the flight

Menu for the flight

Non-alcoholic drinks

Non-alcoholic drinks

Drink menu

Drink menu

I think that Cathay’s caviar service is great. They have blinis, all the fixings, and a Cathay Pacific-branded caviar spoon. You might notice a glass of Krug in the photo, which was poured because Carrie insisted that I drink some champagne.

Caviar service

Caviar service

No metal spoons here

No metal spoons here

For the main course, the VGML was an Indian-inspired dish of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant. It’s essentially a business class meal plated as a first class dish. But the food was tasty, which is what matters. I would order and eat it again, and I’d be happy to eat this at an Indian restaurant.

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

VGML entree of chickpeas, rice, and eggplant

For dessert, I took advantage of the red bean soup. They’ll serve it hot or cold (I chose hot). This is a super Asian dessert and super comforting to me.

Red bean soup for dessert

Red bean soup for dessert

Berries and cream

Berries and cream

They lowered the cabin temperature after the meal service, so the cabin was nice and cool for sleeping. No overheating this time. After sleeping for a couple of hours, I woke up and decided to have a snack given the length of the flight. First up was the fruit plate and berry smoothie.

Fruit plate and smoothie

Fruit plate and smoothie

I then asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs on the side. Cathay offers made-to-order eggs for their breakfast service, so I wondered if they’d bat an eyelash if I asked for some fried eggs to accompany my noodles. I think the flight attendant was a little confused at first by exactly what I wanted, but I did get the noodles and eggs so I could add the eggs to the noodles.

Asked for the noodles with two fried eggs

Asked for the wonton noodles with two fried eggs

Right before landing, we had breakfast. The VGML breakfast consisted of a cheeseless omelet with peppers and onions and an assortment of sides (spinach, potatoes, tomato, and mushrooms). I’m not sure why they include an omelet in a VGML since a VGML is supposed to be free of eggs and dairy products, but the omelet was pretty tasty. The sides were less tasty. In general, I think the mid-flight snacks are tastier than the second meal service items, so I wouldn’t hesitate to order those instead of breakfast.

VGML breakfast of a cheeses omelet with peppers, onions, and sides of spinach, tomato, potatoes, and mushrooms

VGML breakfast

Given that Carrie noticed how excited I was about the flight, she brought me one of the new (at the time) business class amenity kits. The business class kit contains Jurlique products, and the bag is a little nifty.

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Contents of the business class amenity kit

Overall, this was one of the best flights I’ve ever taken. So what makes service good? For me, it’s the small touches: always being addressed by name, making sure not to interrupt when you’re in the middle of something, being gracious, attending to small details like the position of items on the table, reading the passenger to know how to interact with them, noticing when you need things before you know you need them. This was the most proactive Cathay crew I’ve had, and they were one of the best crews I’ve ever had on a flight.

Flight Review: American Airlines Business Class Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita (LAX to NRT)

In this post, you’re going to get a 2-for-1 deal! This is a combined review of AA 169 and AA 170 in business class, which is Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) and back on Boeing 777-200s. I booked these tickets in coach and applied SWUs, which cleared about 3 days in advance in both directions.

It’s a little misleading because the official marketing title of the seats is “New Generation Business Class” (NGBC), which would imply that the seats are cutting edge, but they’re essentially recliner seats that recline a lot. I wouldn’t really call them angled-flat, but I find them pretty comfortable for sleeping because of the way they non-flat parts cradle your body. I also really like the bedding for business class, since the pillows are large, and the blankets are cool and non-staticky (similar to the blankets on Turkish Airlines in business class).

New generation business class seat

New generation business class seat

Seat back with screen and table extender/small storage space

Seat back with screen and table extender/small storage space

Seat controls

Seat controls

Armrest and plugs

Armrest and plugs

Amenity kit and slippers

Amenity kit and slippers

At each seat were an amenity kit and slippers. The amenity kit is nothing special, but slippers! I love slippers on airplanes (why do airlines give you socks? slippers >>> socks), and I really appreciate slippers in business class.

The business class cabin is a 2-3-2 seating combination. Obviously if you’re traveling with someone, you want a pair near the window, but if you’re a solo traveler and don’t want a window seat, I’d recommend an aisle in the middle as the middle seats in the middle are the last seats to fill up, so you might not have a neighbor. Additionally, if you’re in an aisle on a window side pair, the person next to you HAS to climb over you to get out, while if you’re in an aisle in the middle, the person in the middle has two choices over how to get out.

Business class cabin

Business class cabin

In both directions, I pre-ordered meals, but here are the menus for the outbound from LAX to NRT.

Food menu

Food menu

More menu

More menu

More menu

More menu

For the outbound, I preordered a strict vegetarian meal or VGML. The VGML started off with an iceberg lettuce salad with a side of mushrooms and tomatoes. This wasn’t a great start, given that I don’t really like any of these foods (which I acknowledge is my own fault, but does anyone like iceberg lettuce and flavorless tomatoes?). What was AA’s fault is that the bread was served cold (i.e. rock hard) with butter (which isn’t vegan), and the vinaigrette was frozen.

VGML starter

VGML starter

The VGML main course was vaguely Indian with basmati rice, peas and potatoes, and some vegetables. It was fine, but I think United so far has my favorite VGML meals (I can’t believe I’m saying anything nice about United).

VGML main course

VGML main course

Then, of course, was the infamous sundae (more on my feelings about sundaes on planes here). I mostly got one for the whipped cream.

Sundae

Sundae

For a mid-flight snack, I grabbed a fruit plate (there were fruit plates and cheese plates set out in the galley), and they had udon noodles on the menu, so I asked for some of those. To me, udon is generally served hot, but the flight attendant serving me had no idea what he was doing, so he just gave them to me cold. Not sure if that’s how they’re normally served.

Mid-flight snack

Mid-flight snack

The pre-arrival meal was served over 2 hours prior to arrival, which is a bit of a pet peeve given that you generally want to maximize sleep on these flights. The VGML pre-arrival meal was pretty sad looking (and served with crackers that weren’t actually vegan), so I also got a pizza off the normal menu, which wasn’t great.

VGML pre-arrival meal

VGML pre-arrival meal

Normal pre-arrival snack

Normal pre-arrival pizza

The headsets were also collected 90 minutes prior to arrival, and flight attendants were giving out in-ear headphones from coach as a replacement. It seemed like the flight attendants were just really, really eager to get to Tokyo, or else perhaps they had written down some times wrong.

On the way back, the flight was largely the same, although I pre-ordered a Japanese meal (which you should pre-order if you want since they don’t normally cater them). Here’s the normal menu:

Return menu

Return menu

More return menu

More return menu

And the Japanese menu:

More return menu

Japanese meal menu

The Japanese meal was decent. Some things were a little salty (e.g. the roe salad and the herring salad), some things were a little weird (e.g. fish and cheese?), but I thought the main course was solid, and I would probably pre-order a Japanese meal again if I flew this route in business class.

Japanese meal

Japanese meal

Japanese meal entree

Japanese meal entree

One thing I also don’t get about US airlines is why the flight attendants on these foreign routes don’t have better foreign language proficiency. Like why do less than half of your flight attendants speak Japanese on flights to Japan? But I guess that’s a lesser problem than the fact that most of the crews are more senior and seem to have stopped giving a fug a couple decades ago.

Anyway, I slept well on the non-lie-flat seats, I like the bedding, I like the slippers, and I like that I can apply SWUs to any coach fare and get upgraded to business class. Would fly again.

Thailand 2014: Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok (USM to BKK)

Introduction
Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco
Cathay Pacific First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Lounge The Pier Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to Bangkok
Millennium Hilton Bangkok
Cooking with Poo
Overnight Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai
Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Patara Elephant Farm
Bangkok Airways Economy Class Chiang Mai to Ko Samui
Conrad Koh Samui
Bangkok Airways Koh Samui to Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Check-in and Lounge Bangkok
EVA Air Evergreen Lounge Bangkok
Louis’ Tavern First Class CIP Lounge Bangkok
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines Lounge Hong Kong
Thai Airways Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana Airlines First Class Suites Seoul to New York
United Airlines Business Class PS Service New York to San Francisco


Koh Samui has one of the coolest airports that I’ve been to. It feels like a resort, with almost everything being outdoors. Of course, the flip side of this is that it can be extremely hot and humid if your flight is departing in the middle of the day, but hopefully you’re somewhat adjusted to the temperatures by the time you’re leaving Koh Samui.

Koh Samui airport

Koh Samui airport

One tip if you’re flying Bangkok Airways is to make sure that you check-in online prior to your flight. It doesn’t matter if you can’t print out your boarding passes or you need to check in bags, but if you check-in online prior to arrival at the airport, you can skip the normally lengthy economy class line and use the much shorter (i.e. non-existent) online checkin line.

Security is a breeze, and you can actually go through customs at Koh Samui even if you’re just on a domestic flight depending on your itinerary (make sure to keep the sticker they give you!). The gates are all open air and because Bangkok Airways is a “boutique” airline, there’s free snacks, drinks, and wifi for all passengers. This gives the whole thing a much more civilized feel, where even economy passengers get decent amenities. Again, one potential downside to the open-air concept is that there are mosquitos, so don’t think that you can abandon your bug spray even though you’re at an airport.

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Bangkok Airways waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Seating in the waiting area

Food options

Food options, including some attempts at authentic Thai snacks

More food options

More food options

To get to the plane, you take a tram, which adds to the whole resort feel. I enjoy the trams because they allow for better close-ups of the planes.

Walking up to the plane

Walking up to the plane

On board, the flight was unremarkable, which is how I like my economy class travel. Of course, since this is a foreign airline, they serve a meal on a 50-minute flight, and they even cater special meals. Given how short the flight was, they served cold meals, and neither my VGML or my friend’s normal meal was appetizing. Both of us picked at the fruit and left the rest uneaten.

All economy seating

All economy seating

VGML

VGML

Normal meal

Normal meal

Bangkok Airways dominates flights to/from USM, but at least their product is decent and they try to provide amenities to all passengers, so you don’t feel completely gouged by their monopolistic prices. I’d happily fly them again, and in many cases, flying is much more practical than any other form of transport in Thailand.

Review: Finnair Economy Class New York JFK to Helsinki

In order to hit American Executive Platinum status, I did two mileage runs, one to Shanghai and one to Helsinki. For my trip to Helsinki, I flew American from SFO to JFK and then Finnair between JFK to HEL.

Upon boarding the plane, the first thing that I noticed was that I was being pushed. I’m not a slow walker by any means, but there were people blocking the aisle in front of me, and yet someone behind me was literally trying to push me past the blockage. I was also pushed multiple times when I was in Helsinki–they weren’t violent pushes, but rather sustained nudging/force that was clearly intentional–so I’m not sure if this is a Finnish thing or if it’s a passive aggressive racial thing or what. For what it’s worth, the vast majority of people on the flight were Finnish (or at least speaking Finnish), and I was the only Asian person that I saw on either of my Finnair flights.

The seats were typical coach seats, but they at least have personal screens and video on demand. Just a note: it’s probably a bad idea to watch “The Notebook” on a flight, unless perhaps you’re in an enclosed suite where no one can watch you bawl.

Economy class seats

Economy class seats

In-flight entertainment system

In-flight entertainment system

I ordered a VGML as I usually do on coach flights. The first vegetarian meal on my flight out was surprisingly tasty: eggplant in tomato sauce with greens and rice, a potato corn salad, and some decently ripe fruit.

Surprisingly tasty vegetarian meal

Surprisingly tasty vegetarian meal

But the rest of the food on Finnair went downhill from there. The pre-arrival “meal” was two slices of pita with a couple of vegetables in it. On my flight back, the first hot meal was a little bland and odd, consisting of some sort of beet patty, potato balls, peas, tomato salad, and fruity syrup. The pre-arrival “meal” was similarly disappointing as it was mostly just a large piece of bread. I think there were supposed to have been vegetables in it, but I couldn’t find any.

Very disappointing pre-arrival meal

Very disappointing pre-arrival meal

Mediocre vegetarian meal

Mediocre vegetarian meal

Another disappointing pre-arrival snack

Another disappointing pre-arrival snack

The service was fine for an economy class flight. They seemed to be pushing the duty-free sales quite hard (I think due to high liquor taxes in Finland), which was slightly problematic because it meant that the cabin was pretty noisy and there were multiple extraneous announcements on a red-eye flight to Europe. Brutal if you’re trying to maximize your sleep on the way over.

Overall, it’s coach, so what do you expect?

Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines

Breaking Down Two Mileage Runs for 30,000 EQMs to get AA Executive Platinum
Getting a Chinese Visa
Planning a Mileage Run to Shanghai
Vegetarian Economy Meals on American Airlines
Hotel Review: Crowne Plaza Shanghai
Eating in Shanghai
Getting a Chinese Massage aka Tui Na
First Class Lounge (No. 69) Shanghai Pudong PVG
Concluding Thoughts on My Mileage Run to Shanghai


On my trip to Shanghai, I received 6 distinct VGML (strict vegetarian) economy meals/snacks on American Airlines. American doesn’t offer that many special meal options, but they have the basics.

First up was curried chickpeas with rice, broccoli, and a single carrot. This entree was the exact same entree as what I received on my flight on AA’s Flagship Service between JFK and SFO, but in a smaller portion and with sadder accompaniments. The carrots were still both mushy yet unchewable, a scientific feat if there ever were one, and they’re still serving a non-vegan margarine. But in all fairness, the entree is perfectly edible, except for the carrot.

I've had this meal before

I’ve had this meal before

For the mid-flight snack on flight number 1, I got some sort of wrap with wild rice and cranberries and other vaguely unidentifiable objects in it. It was confusing.

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Meal #3 served prior to arrival was some sort of pasta dish with cherry tomatoes and yellow peppers, but I have no idea what the white cheese-like curds were. They were flavorless, so that supports the idea that this dish was still vegan, but I can’t fathom why they chose to use flavorless unidentifiable white things as sauce instead of something like a basic tomato sauce. As a plus, the cantaloupe was sweet.

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All in all, the meals for my flight from ORD to PVG were unimpressive, but the meals on the way back were slightly better.

The fourth meal didn’t look promising, but it was surprisingly tasty. The couscous had flavor even without the tomato sauce, and the dessert was more interesting than a piece of fruit, but I’m not sure why they even bothered with the salad, and the bread roll was one of the toughest things I’ve ever tried to eat. I tried to rip off a piece with my hands and gave up.

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The mid-flight snack was a mini sandwich with pesto, green pepper, and squash. Somehow, the bread for this sandwich was edible while the bread that came with the previous meal was not.

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Finally, this wasn’t the strictly VGML meal since the flight attendant just gave me the normal meal as she said that the vegetarian meal was the same thing but much, much sadder. But again, given how terrible the roll in meal #4 was, I was surprised that the croissant and muffin were quite edible in this meal.

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Overall, I’d say that this was probably on par with the VGML meals I got on Air Canada, which is to say not that great. Surprisingly, I think that United does a pretty good job with their VGML meals.