A passenger on an Air India flight who found chicken in her supposedly vegetarian meal and complained on social media has prompted widespread criticism of the airline.
Veera Jain was flying from Kozhikode (Calicut) on the Keralan Malabar Coast, to Mumbai with the Indian flagship carrier. She had ordered a vegetarian dish, only to discover lumps of poultry flesh in her meal.
With the flight having taken off late, Jain was clearly in no mood to mince her words when there was also a problem with her food order. She posted her astonishment and a photograph on social media platform X.
“More than one complaint”
“On my @airindia flight AI582, I was served a veg meal with chicken pieces in it!” she exclaimed, adding: “I boarded the flight from Calicut airport. This was a flight that was supposed to take off at 18:40 pm but left the airport at 19:40 pm.”
She went on to describe a disappointing response from the aircraft’s crew. “When I informed the cabin supervisor (Sona), she apologized and informed me that there was more than one complaint about the same issue other than me and my friend. However, after I informed the crew, there was no action taken to inform other passengers having vegetarian meals.”
At the time of writing this article, her post, published on 9 January 2024, has garnered nearly 36,000 views. Many social media users expressed sympathy, disgust and outrage with the airline, pointing out that for believers in Jainism, one of India’s three ancient religions, discussing eating meat, let alone eating it, is a sin. Many called for compensation.
One said it was “a betrayal of religious sentiments” that the airline had “let the other vegetarian passangers [sic] eat chicken (a sin by their religions).”
Public relations disaster
2023 saw Air India announce a livery makeover and the launch of plans for new apps and lounges intended to help the airline upgrade the passenger experience and shed its reputation for financial woes. But now, this incident seems like a public relations disaster.
The airline’s initial response on X was to request that the passenger contact them by Direct Message and delete the publicly visible post “to avoid misuse”. X users branded this request “intimidating”, “shameless” and said “the deletion of a grievance” is like “hiding garbage under a carpet”.
Veera Jain said she had “lost all trust in the airline” and speculated about what the airline would do if a passenger failed to pay for their flight correctly and then took no action other than apologise. “Imagine not making the payment right when booking their flight and later just apologizing for it continuously.”