Financially troubled Air India goes veggie

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Air India, which has been in severe financial difficulties, has decided to suspend provision of meat in its economy-class meals.

The policy, effective since last week and limited only to domestic flights, aims to “reduce wastage, reduce cost and improve catering service,” the airline said on Monday.

Air India said its decision is based on previous studies tracing its meals data during the course of several months, which has found that offerings with meat frequently went waste, according to a report by CNN Money.

Air India has been struggling to compete in the populous country’s booming aviation market, having received a 4.5-billion-dollar government bailout to keep operation.

In a May 25 report, the New Indian Express newspaper quoted Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju as saying the government won’t privatize the debt-ridden national airline.

“We don’t want Air India to become history. We will like it to remain with us and work for the Indian Aviation,” said the minister, who also told CNN Money in a February interview that the government cannot prop up the airline indefinitely.

The cutting of meat meals, however, has stirred some resentment online. Terence D’Souza, who appeared to be based in India’s fourth largest city of Chennai, said: “I express my complete disagreement with the step taken by Air India and the juvenile arguments put forth in favor of it…”

The remarks were in a series of letters published on The Hindu newspaper’s website on Tuesday. Also on the website, J. Edwin Thomson, also claiming to be in Chennai, said: “Air India’s announcement is unacceptable and objectionable to any cautious air traveller.”

“Citing reasons such as preventing the chance of mix-up — of a vegetarian meal with a non-vegetarian one — are only hilarious,” he added.

India has a large vegetarian population, with many of the Hindu majority considering themselves to be vegetarians. Yet, the country’s Muslims and other religious minorities do eat meat.

Similar moves by Air India to abandon the serving of meat have been reported in the past. In January 2016, for example, the airline replaced sandwiches with hot vegetarian meals for economy passengers traveling between 60 and 90 minutes on flights.

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