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From January 1, government-run Air India will not serve non-vegetarian food to its economy-class passengers on flights up to 90 minutes. The national carrier has also decided to take off tea and coffee from its lunch and dinner menus. An airline circular said, as of now, Air India serves sandwich (both vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and cake on its flights that are up to 90 minutes of duration, which will be discontinued from January 1, 2016, and replaced with an “all-vegetarian” hot meal. The circular issued late last week said, “It has been decided to provide all Indian vegetarian hot meals in economy class on all domestic sector flights between 61 and 90 minutes duration from January 1, 2016.” Flights on most non-metro routes fall in this category. Air India defended the move saying it has upgraded the meals. “We have, in fact, upgraded and improved the meals. So far, we were serving only sandwiches and cakes, which have now been replaced with hot meals,” a senior airline official said. With 150-odd passengers onboard and just two crew cabin members to serve, at times it becomes difficult to cater as per the passenger’s choice in such short-duration flights.” However, according to travel industry expert Rajji Rai, the state-owned airline should have first carried out a passenger survey, which is an industry practice, before affecting any change in the menu. “Airlines world over carry out customer surveys before taking such decisions.
Unfortunately, Air India lacks in such practices. This decision to discontinue non-vegetarian food on these non-metro flights is just one-sided,” he said. Air India had flown 1.18-million passengers with a market share of 16.2 per cent in the previous month. In a statement, Air India said it presently provides cold vegetarian snacks on flights of 61 to 90 minutes flights duration. "Air India will now be serving proper hot vegetarian meals on these 60 to 90 minutes flights. "There will be a review after obtaining passengers' feedback. On flights exceeding 90 minutes, the present choice of veg and non-veg meals will continue," it said.