Qantas brings back vegetarian meals, snacks on short flights

The airline’s backflip follows public backlash on a “one size fits all” approach to inflight meals.

By David Flynn, September 23 2022
Qantas brings back vegetarian meals, snacks on short flights

Vegetarian meals are coming back on the menu for all domestic Qantas flights after their removal on short-range routes resulted in a fierce public backlash.

The airline has also promised a “broader menu refresh” to launch in October, which will include “new vegetarian options” along with fresh fruit on all domestic flights under 3.5 hours.

“As an example, for evening meal service a zucchini and corn fritter could be carried onboard in addition to a chicken and leek pie.”

Qantas pared back its inflight menu on all domestic flights under 3.5 hours in early 2020, at the start of the pandemic, which resulted in some flights having just a single snack option – and if that was familiar chicken and leek pie, for example, it often meant vegetarian passengers went hungry.

That streamlined menu has since remained in place. “We now offer a single meal/snack option per flight on our shorter flights, such as a chicken pie or a zucchini and onion frittata,” the carrier explained earlier this week.

“If the option on a particular flight is not suitable for vegetarians, we try to offer an alternative of a small sweet or savoury snack which is vegetarian.”

The airline recently cited “high levels of wastage” as one driver for the reduced menu, but today pledged to would reinstate vegetarian options and fresh fruit on all flights after coming under fire from passengers this week.

Vege meals and fake meats

“We had to make a lot of alterations to our service during COVID and we’re still in the process of bringing things back and updating others,” said Qantas Executive Manager of Product and Service, Phil Capps.

“We’ve heard the message loud and clear about having vegetarian offerings on all of our flights and so we’re making that change as a priority.”

Capps added the airline is “in the middle of a broader menu refresh for our domestic network that will roll out from October, which includes new vegetarian options.”

“There’s a lot of work happening to get Qantas back to its best and that includes listening to the feedback from our customers as we keep investing in our product and service.”

Executive Traveller has sought further clarification from Qantas on which flight timings qualify for a traditional breakfast, lunch or dinner as opposed to a small snack served in a cardboard box.

However, even a dinner service can leave vegetarian passengers wanting: by way of example, on a recent 6.40pm Qantas flight from Cairns to Sydney, one of the Executive Traveller team was served a small economy dinner box containing three party-sized pies, only one of which was vegetarian (lentils and mushroom).

As previously reported, Qantas will soon launch ‘artificial meat’ meals on flights and in lounges by the end of this year.

“We're doing a lot of menu planning for the future in the next month, and I think in the next six months we're hoping to launch some things” Qantas chef Neil Perry told Executive Traveller in July.

“We’ll have a complete plant-based dish on each of the menus and we’ve also started looking at plant-based meats like Beyond, Impossible and V2, which is an Australian product.”

The Roo’s latest stumble

Arch-rival Virgin Australia has shifted to a ’buy on board’ menu for economy – a move which Qantas promises it will not replicate – while challenger Regional Express offers a free snack and drink to economy passengers.

However, Qantas’ meagre economy meals on short flights is arguably making it easier for travellers to reconsider the overall value when it comes to the difference in airfares charged by Qantas, Virgin and Rex – and to ask how much travelling on a ‘full-service’ airline is really worth.

For its part, Qantas says it remains “the only domestic airline to offer complimentary food and beverages, baggage and onboard WiFi on its domestic Boeing 737s and Airbus A330s, on all economy fares.”

Catering cuts and reduced meal options are the latest in a series of stumbles to beset the airline since the long-anticipated travel rebound began in late 2021.

The growing list of seemingly never-ending woes has included included hours-long telephone hold times for call centres, delayed and cancelled flights, and lost bags.

This led to CEO Alan Joyce making an unprecedented public apology, saying “when it comes to what you expect from Qantas, it‘s not good enough” – and promising to bring the airline “back to its best” while also offering a bevy of make-good measures to the airline’s 14 million frequent flyers such as a 12-month status extension, $50 flight vouchers, complimentary lounge passes, bonus Qantas Points and opening up more points-based award seats.

Additional reporting by Matt Lennon

QF - Red

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 38

Does this mean all meal requests will once again be available on shorter domestic flights such Kosher and halal meals?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Mar 2018

Total posts 26

BTW, Qantas, vegetarians don't eat dead animal, which includes dead fish and dead chicken. (If they do, they're not vegetarian, duh.)

The fact that you are pursuing "plant-based meat" shows how limited your world-view is and how nothing is to interfere with the bottom line, not even a "full-service" offering. It means you only have to swap out one item on the plate instead of having to come up with separate delicious vegetarian meals. How cynical you are.

Reminds me of the big banks 20 years ago closing thousands of accounts (and losing the customers) on the grounds that such small deposits never made money for the bank and therefore the customers were not worth the cost of having them.  I suspect you are making the same calculation about kosher and halal meals.

15 Mar 2018

Total posts 92

More free publicity, but really nothing new.

25 Feb 2015

Total posts 59

Fascinating development and I can’t help but feel that my own personal feedback given on this issue, and “test case” on a flight when I asked “do you have any vegetarian options” (and was given some lousy pretzels and a protein bar), has been the catalyst for this (very necessary) backflip ;) 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Feb 2022

Total posts 6

Has anybody seen the Cathay Premium Economy and Business Class fares to UK and Asia??

At these prices why would anybody pay the outrageous Qantas fares???

23 Sep 2022

Total posts 1

The meals have gone downhill over recent years - in both business and economy. Qantas would be better off just offering some sambos than the slop many sectors now get. Until very recently I travelled frequently in business class for a two hour each way flight and I have to say the economy sausage roll/pie pack was often requested by my fellow business class travellers over the business meal. Just two days ago I flew to Darwin return on the same day in economy and the breakfast served in economy (see pic) was a disgusting slop.  Many, like me, opened the box then shut it again. And on the return flight the only option was another slop meal containing pork which many people wont eat. So yes, Qantas you may have a lot of wastage - but that is likely to you serving up extremely sub standard meals.

08 May 2020

Total posts 41

The food on Qantas is pretty poor, especially long haul.  Premium Economy is probably the furthest below expectations - carby and cheap cheap.


19 Apr 2012

Total posts 1422

I can’t work out why don’t offer vegetarian food on short flights if it is too complicated to offer both. Meat eaters to eat vegetables from time to time, but not the other way round.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Jan 2017

Total posts 28

Cost cutting in the lounges too:  No more nuts, licorice allsorts or tomato juice.  I know, 1st world problem, but we're all paying more - for less! 

Graham H

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Sep 2013

Total posts 188

The Australian online article on the backflip has drawn comments almost totally scathing of those who have complained about not having access to a choice of meals...   Work that out.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 712

At the risk of sounding like a 'woke warrior', which I can assure you I'm not (ESG can take a running jump!), I'm also no vegetarian, BUT I have on a couple of recent Virgin flights sampled their mushroom meal in J-class.  

Man o Man, is it good.  Can't remember the fancy name, but "the mushroom meal" was well understood.  Weird thing is, I think I was the only one who selected it.  If ever given the option to pre-order the meal online (as with seat selection), I'd embrace it.  Might help cut down wastage too?  

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 177

Can't believe QF, given it's sky high fares, can't supply decent catering. It did so in the 80's and 90's so knows how to achieve this. I believe catering is only 4% of the average fare cost, so not that difficult a service to budget for. A pie for dinner, come on QF, that's in Ryan Air's domain. Fix the catering now, and then work on call center wait times and replacing the 20+ yr old aircraft in your fleet, and move the company forward. Please!

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 177

Just to add, QF could probably supply a superior catering option by having an onboard menu to purchase from, at least passengers would have a variety of both cold and hot food items to at least purchase on board. QF may be leaving themselves short by stubbornly refusing to have this option and retaining their 'full service' example which is failing big time. Move with the times QF!


09 May 2020

Total posts 566

You do realise the potential amount of wastage when you have a combined complimentary and for sale hot food option, plus the excess stock holding space and inventory required on the ground and in the air?

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 464

I remembered once ordering Vegetarian Breakfast on a domestic sector and it turned out better than expected.offer people such an option.But those really short sectors need some work on the food department saw some pics on Qantas Link way back in the day Sydney to Canberra featuring some sandwiches similar to a local sandwich shop at the local mall food courts but the best on offer now is the crackers and dips which I have had before return Adelaide to Port Lincoln.Granted both are Dash 8's but at least try your best.

18 Apr 2019

Total posts 6

I've flown J domestic eight times in the last few months (east west), and it does not represent value for money. The catering in particular is pretty bad. Its literally what you used to get as an economy meal pre-covid. That is, a tray with your main, a box with a cupcake and cup of water. I guess at least you get a choice in J? Ive also flown J international during this time, and it was slightly better. But as others have said, for what they are charging? Loyalty is a two way street Qantas...

07 Feb 2018

Total posts 20

This stuns me! The quest to cut costs has now overtaken operational competence. The years prior to Covid, Qantas was really starting to be a great choice. These decisions now are going to ruin Joyce’s legacy. They need to get the comfort and luxury happening again!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

For an asking price of up to 24K return, just returned from Syd-Lax in F on the A380 as a paid passenger

Words cannot express the dramatic decline in the F product, including food, wine and amenity kit, the former approaching poor economy mains at times (I have taken pics of all of this)

On the return flight 3 of the wines on the wine list had been altered including the champagne which had been replaced by a version over AUD 200 less 

The crew were deeply embarrassed  and did their utmost to mitigate this citing multiple examples of serious complaints in all classes which they are powerless to repair

On the return flight (14/9/2022) refrigeration failed (this had been known for sometime as the flight arrives over 15 hours before it leaves and a crew member mentioned this had occurred earlier in the week on that aircraft) and only one meal was served post-takeoff on a 15 hour flight in F due to health and safety reasons

Despite the CSMs assurance no communication from Qantas or any token gesture of recognition of this has occurred

The aircraft had not been cleaned properly on both flights and one amenity kit had the only items worth keeping (moisturiser etc) missing from it 

The plant-based meals were a disgrace, soggy, overcooked creations with low cost being disguised by the veneer of a concern for customer preferences

Im surprised Neil Perry allows his branding to be used for this vastly inferior product (I read the menu again and he refers to a magnificent world class dining experience with ingredients from local producers carefully sourced - The tasteless overcooked bone dry chicken breast in tap water like liquid with grey green peas illustrated this with aplomb)

The focus on "nonstops" and the "new" (cramped) F product on the A350 are unsuccessful  attempts at temporary diversion from the core decline of this once impressive carrier.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 177

Ian62, Your last 2 paragraph's sums it all up perfectly! Qantas has lost focus on it's customers and simply doesn't seem to give a corporate care. It really makes one wonder what is going through there minds. Wasn't AJ also in a top management roll with Ansett when it collapsed!!!!!

24 Mar 2020

Total posts 4

Just flew business class on BA in Europe for 2 hours and their meal blew the socks off that I had on QF9 flying all the way to the UK!

24 Sep 2017

Total posts 7

For domestic travel, VA is now the clear leader. The price on VA more accurately reflects what you are going to get, and in my personal experience these last 5 weeks or so the VA flights are on time whereas the QF flights are not. 

As one forum member noted above, QF loyalty is actually a two way thing and QF has completely and totally dropped its end of the bargain.

QF is now a great airline if you are a financial investor in airlines, but a very poor airline to be a customer of and a very poor airline to be an employee of. Soon enough this focus on the wrong things will start to seriously catch up with QF...

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 45

Yet another example of the accountant-driven service provided by Qantas. Beats me why Australians continue to support the long-ago privatised business, when there are better alternatives (esp internationally). Perhaps people keep going back to Qantas because they think it will get better and Qantas didn’t really mean to disappoint in the past?

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1197

It is an astonishing own goal given the extensive database Qantas has on its customers via its FF program. Surely, they focus group these decisions. Didn’t someone put their hand up and say “have we tested this decision?”

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Aug 2016

Total posts 4

I wonder how big in numbers was the backlash? Could it be generally unhappy QF customers also reacting to poor service?

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