food tray

Image: Marcelo Cáceres

APEX Insight: Travelers with special dietary preferences and meal requirements are likely to find it easier to eat on the fly.

If you’re a gluten-free diabetic Muslim infant with an ulcer, you’re probably going to want to book a flight on Singapore Airlines. That’s because it offers its passengers 33 unique meals that appeal to different age groups, religious needs and all manner of dietary requirements. Today’s airlines need to be sensitive to the culinary needs of people from all walks of life, and while Singapore Airlines raises the bar in terms of its special meal offerings, just about every airline on the planet offers a roster of meals designed to accommodate a variety of passengers’ needs.

Today’s in-flight catering goes well beyond the traditional categories of dietary restrictions. Instead of just “vegetarian,” flyers who eschew meat can choose from a wide range of options, including vegan, ovo-lacto, raw or even just a fruit plate. While most airlines offer a children’s meal, airlines like Asiana aim to please by breaking it down by specific age group and offering a baby menu, a toddler menu and a child menu. Singapore Airlines overachieves here, as well, with its “post-weaning” menu, a specific category for one- to two-year-olds that falls in between the baby and infant menus.


With allergies becoming more and more prevalent, airlines have altered their options accordingly. Many have chosen to cut out tree nuts from their menus entirely, and Japan’s ANA even goes a step further. It offers a catch-all ‘’27 allergen-free meal,” which promises to exclude the seven most common allergens along with 20 less common allergens, including crab, bananas, kiwifruit and matsutake mushrooms. On the other end of the spectrum, Canadian low-cost carrier Air Transat made headlines this past August after deciding to nix meals for special dietary requests in economy class.   

The whole system is controlled by IATA codes that streamline the ordering process so airlines can make sure passengers get the right meal every time they fly, no matter the carrier. The next time you book a flight, give thanks to all your in-flight dietary options by ordering the CLML – that’s the Celebration Cake Meal.

“Multiplying Menus” was originally published in the 6.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.