On 20th February 2023, a vegan passenger flying with Japan Airlines from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (CGK) to Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) was served a single banana as breakfast in business class despite having pre-booked a Vegetarian Vegan Meal (VGML) and confirmed this with the flight attendant.

Kris Chari, the passenger — who did not make a fuss and took the whole incident with humour — posted a photo of it, commenting this: “Before takeoff today my flight attendant confirmed that I ordered VGML and that my breakfast was a banana, by which I mistakenly assumed she meant that breakfast included a banana. When she served the banana after takeoff I thought it was just an underwhelming appetizer, but it was in fact the entire meal service! It was a really good banana — one of the best I’ve had recently — but it still seems more appropriate as a snack. Is catering out of CGK typically this underwhelming?” The passenger was eventually served a full lunch consisting of “barely seasoned spaghetti.”

When Simpliflying.com contacted the airline for comment, got the following g statement: “On flights departing from Jakarta, a snack/refreshment is served immediately after take-off in business class. Prior to arrival at Narita, a meal is served: (JL720-lunch) or (JL726-breakfast). The current snack/refreshment for all special meals on this route is a banana. We take customer satisfaction seriously and we will continue to respond to our menus in light of the growing interest and diverse needs of customers requesting special meals, including the valuable feedback from this customer.”

The question is, why a simple banana is served for all special meals instead of all meals? Why would meat-eaters be served differently if they could also eat a banana? Or is the airline thinking that meat-eaters deserve more? The issue of failures to provide adequate meals in airlines is more serious than in other situations, especially on long flights where the passengers do not have the option to change the airline in mid-air if they realise they cannot eat what they are offered. 

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.