JetBlue AmpUp

JetBlue’s AmpUp snack box is vegan, gluten-free and kosher. Image via JetBlue

APEX Insight: Six percent of Americans are vegan, up from one percent in 2014, according to a GlobalData study published in June 2017. How is this trend reflected in the airline catering industry, and will it extend to other aspects of the passenger experience?

What the Health, a documentary that’s vehemently in support of veganism, has been causing a stir since it launched on Netflix in June. While the producers have been accused of bias and exaggeration, the film has planted a seed, prompting discussion about the effect of animal product consumption on human health, and even causing some viewers to switch to a plant-based diet.

Air India initiated a similar debate in July when it announced plans to to offer an entirely vegetarian menu for economy-class passengers on domestic routes. While the airline cited cutting costs and reducing food waste as reasons for the decision, some called it discriminatory – about 30 percent of Air India’s customers opt for non-vegetarian meals, according to The Indian Express.

“PETA is encouraging all Indian airlines to follow Air India’s lead and serve … vegan meals on all flights.” – PETA India CEO Manilal Valliyate

Following Air India’s announcement, PETA sent letters to Indian airlines encouraging them to serve vegan meals to all passengers. The animal rights organization explained that meat, egg, and dairy production is one of the leading contributors to climate change, which is causing droughts and heatwaves in India. “Balancing an airline’s carbon footprint can start with putting meat and dairy products on the no-fly list,” said PETA India CEO Manilal Valliyate. “PETA is encouraging all Indian airlines to follow Air India’s lead and serve exclusively healthy, humane, and eco-friendly vegan meals on all flights.”

Most in-flight menus are made up of predominantly animal product ingredients, but research conducted by a vegan food blogger in 2015 found that over 30 airlines offer either vegetarian or vegan options. JetBlue, which launched a new collection of snack boxes in June, including the gluten-free, vegan and kosher AmpUp box, can be added to the list.

But what about animal product use elsewhere in the cabin? Tesla has “gone vegan” and eliminated leather seats, according to reports. Could this be an indication that airlines will follow in the footsteps of Tesla and Vegan America and opt for exclusively “pleather” seats?