National carrier Air India will only serve vegetarian meals to passengers on flights lasting up to 90 minutes, according to a report in The Hindu. The airline’s move is aimed at cutting costs and avoiding a mix-up of meals.
“We have decided to serve vegetarian meals in our economy-class seats on domestic flights,” said Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani in the report.
The airline will continue to serve non-vegetarian meals in its business class and executive class seats on all domestic and international flights. It will also continue to give vegetarian and non-vegetarian meal options to economy fliers on flights of over 90-minute duration.
The airline has changed meal options for economy class fliers earlier as well. Last year, it took tea and coffee off the menu and decided to serve only hot vegetarian meals in flights from 61-90 minutes. The flights with shorter durations served vegetarian refreshments and sandwiches (vegetarian and non-vegetarian). The non-vegetarian option has been retracted now.
The flight has had past incidents of mixing up meals leading to unpleasant situations. In a Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai flight of the airline, a few vegetarian passengers were served non-vegetarian food. Another point to note is that many passengers choose to select meal options on flight, which, the airline says, leads to a lot of wastage of non-vegetarian meals and hence monetary loss.
A senior Air India official told indianexpress.com: “The move was decided early December last year. However, the consensus for the implementation was reached recently.”
The airline is in a debt of over Rs 50,000 crore and has been marred with years of inefficient handling of finances and acquisition/merger decisions. The airline expects to save around Rs 6-7 crore annually with the move but it appears to be part of a larger plan to manage finances efficiently.
“The amount of debt that Air India has on itself, it is important to remove inefficiencies in each mode of operation. Though this will not do much to reduce the debt on the airline, we are trying to handle each operation individually and save as much as possible,” the official said.
The estimated spending on catering last year was around Rs 400 crore. “If we save even 2 per cent of the cost just from cutting wastage, I think it is good.”