Airlines: Halal food above the clouds

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Halal-Food, Japan Airlines. (Photo: Japan Airlines)

The Halal regulations also apply in the air. We have asked selected airlines whether they offer Halal food on board and in the lounges. Question marks remain.    

Pasta or chicken? This question is a classic. The chicken on board an airline should taste clear, but for Muslims it is not enough that the meal served does not contain pork or alcohol. The meat and the ingredients must comply with the Halal guidelines.

Passengers can order Halal menus from many airlines, but not always on every route and in every country. In addition, for logistical reasons, some airlines require passengers to order the desired menu at least 24 to 48 hours before departure.

Emirates passengers do not have to worry about halal food. “All meals served are halal and without surcharge,” the airline says. Other special menus must be pre-ordered 24 hours before departure. The Emirates Flight Catering Center, which is located at Dubai International Airport, produces 162,500 dishes a day for Emirates and 24,500 for other airlines. To ensure that the dishes remain halal from production to serving, the airline buys the food from certified producers, stores the food appropriately and takes all halal regulations into account when preparing the food. In addition, the staff responsible for halal must undergo further training.

At Qatar Airways, too, all food is halal. It is therefore not necessary to order a corresponding court in advance. The airline has its own caterer in Doha, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company. According to the airline, the caterer produces 120,000 meals a day.

Halal menus are not available on every route. For example, Japan Airlines offers halal-certified food in all classes. It must be ordered at least 24 hours before departure. The meals are only offered on international flights departing from Japan, Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta. Air France and KLM serve Halal meals on all intercontinental flights and flights to and from Algiers, Athens, Budapest, Bucharest, Casablanca, Istanbul, Yerevan, Kiev, Moscow, Rabat, Sofia, Stockholm, Tunis and Tel Aviv. Ryanair currently does not offer food according to Halal rules,” says Robin Kiely, Head of Communications at Ryanair. Sun Express is trying to meet the Halal food requirements on board, according to the holiday airline.  “Even if it can’t take place on the same scale as airlines on long-haul routes, especially from the Middle and Far East,” he says. The airline offers a “halal-capable” meal for sale. This is a pasta ratatouille dish. It will be brought on board completely shrink-wrapped and will be available on all routes. Fresh products, such as simits and sandwiches with chicken, which are loaded on flights from Turkey to Europe, contain Halal sausage and Halal cheese and are also shrink-wrapped.

Lufthansa’s reply is interesting in that it draws attention to a problem with labelling. We asked the airlines whether they offer food according to Islamic halal rules. The meat must be halal-slaughtered and the ingredients halal-compliant. “Lufthansa only offers special meals (MOML) suitable for Muslims as part of the special deal offer,” says Lufthansa press spokeswoman Sandra Kraft. The airline uses animals slaughtered according to Islamic rituals or products made from them such as beef, poultry, lamb or mutton. In other words: no pork. However, the production processes in global catering operations are not halal-compliant across the board. Therefore, the airline could not offer “pure” halal-certified meals. Passenger demand for these dishes seems to be low anyway: only around 0.2 percent of passengers order the “Muslim-friendly” food.

But what does MOML stand for? What are the regulations for these meals? Because: either the food served is halal or not. So there cannot be 95 percent halal food. The inquiry with the world air federation IATA does not contribute to the clearing-up: “We don’t have a list of the airlines’ special menus,” says Mona Aubin of IATA. The airlines themselves would decide which special meals to offer on which routes. That depends on the respective market.

What’s more, it’s not customer-friendly and hard to comprehend that the airline industry is not prepared for kosher food.

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