As you all know, I recently took a trip to Italy and Switzerland. I chose to fly on United because it used to be my favorite airline. I also decided to fly business first class for the first time in seven years because a girl has to treat herself sometimes. Here's my story complete with info on vegan food in United Business First.
I bought my ticket to Zurich, Switzerland two months early and immediately called to ensure I'd have a vegan meal. With United, you can enter a vegan preference in your profile, but "vegan" is not a meal selection when booking a flight. There is vegetarian and vegetarian non-dairy. What does that mean? It sounded to me like it might contain eggs so I called. And I called and I called. Why did I call so much? Because I'm not that trusting when it comes to these things. Every time I was assured that "vegetarian non-dairy" was vegan. Okay, fine. I believed it after the third call.
Fast forward to the day of travel and, of course, my flight gets delayed, then canceled. I was supposed to fly out of DCA (Reagan National) to Newark and eventually to Zurich (ZRH). Instead, I got in a cab and caught a flight out of Dulles (IAD) direct to Zurich (ZRH). This last minute change assured that my bags would not be with me. But, even worse was that I probably no longer had a vegan meal. So, as soon as I arrived at the gate, I sought help at the counter at which time they said my vegan meal was on board. I knew that was too good to be true because I quickly found out it wasn't. I was instructed to see the Purser, or the head flight attendant, who told me I needed to have ordered that meal 48 hours ahead of time. As I explained to him that I made a last minute flight change, he didn't seem to care, but still immediately went to search for a solution. He said he was able to locate an Indian meal for me and I said that would be great.
The meal started with warm nuts and wine. Yum.
Then, they served my Indian meal, which was tasty, but definitely lacked the presentation of the first class meals. It looked like a coach meal that they plated, but whatever, I can't be picky due to the flight change.
For dessert, while everyone else had hot fudge sundaes, I had grapes. Sigh.
On the way home, similar drama. This time, they offered me a direct flight even though I was scheduled for a connection, but, in the end, I couldn't change my flight because they refused to move my special meal from one plane to another, so I got stuck on the connecting flight itinerary. This time I was served several courses. It started with a salad, quinoa, and fruit.
Then, roasted veggies and rice with a tangy red sauce.
Then, later, a veggie sandwich with vegan margarine and more fruit.
So, I got vegan food, but it was not nearly as gourmet or extravagant as the meals around me. I felt satisfied, but slighted at having paid the same as everyone else, but not having the same standard of meal. If they serve hot chocolate sundaes, couldn't they have a pint of almond milk ice cream for me too?
So, the lesson learned is that they can do vegan, but don't expect fresh, gourmet meals with several choices like those around you. You'll get to eat, but you'll get less than everyone else. Luckily, all wine is free in first class, so drink up!! And the dessert wine is divine! Just a little advice for United -- it would be nice for you to offer a fresh vegan meal as well as all customers in a similar cabin who paid similar amounts should be treated the same regardless of dietary preferences.