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Air India Stops Non-veg Food in Domestic Economy Class, Says It’s Cost-cutting

According to estimates, the airline will save up to Rs 10 crore annually if non-vegetarian food is stopped on board. Air India spends around Rs 350-400 crore annually on its catering services.
 Air India, which is reeling under a cash crunch, has decided to take non-vegetarian food off its menu in the economy class on its domestic flights.
In a statement, the loss-making national carrier said the move was aimed at reducing wastage and costs, and to improve catering service.
According to estimates, the airline will save up to Rs 10 crore annually if non-vegetarian food is stopped on board. Air India spends around Rs 350-400 crore annually on its catering services.
Air India — founded in the 1930s and known to generations of Indians for its Maharajah mascot — is saddled with a debt burden of $8.5 billion and a bloated cost structure. The government has injected $3.6 billion since 2012 to bail out the airline.
BJP leader Syed Zafar Islam, a non-official independent director of Air India, denied any “political interference” in the decision. “There is no political interference in this decision. The decision has been taken by the airline and there is no political interference.”
The move, however, has evoked sharp reactions from politicians and passengers.
Reacting to reports that the move was aimed at avoiding “food mix-ups”, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah tweeted:
Air India has faced flak in the past for serving non-veg meals to vegetarian passengers. In October last year, few vegetarian passengers on a Shanghai-Delhi-Mumbai flight were served non-vegetarian food.
Passengers, too, are outraged over the move. D Sudhakar Reddy, President of the Air Passengers Association of India, termed it as “discriminatory”.
“This is not acceptable. The airline is discriminating among passengers in the same aircraft. It’s division based on class. We will take this issue up with the authorities,” Reddy told CNN-News18.
He added that Air India had lost customers because of its “shoddy” performance and “low quality” of services. Improving quality of service, instead of cutting down on food options, may be a better idea, he said.
According to sources in Air India, the decision to take non-vegetarian meals off the menu was being considered for the last four months by the airline’s board of directors.
Air India had in 2015 issued a circular, saying non-vegetarian meals would not be served on its fights where the journey time is 90 minutes or less.
Air India, once the country’s biggest airline, has seen its domestic market share slump to 13% as private rivals such as IndiGo and SpiceJet have expanded.
The Union Cabinet had on June 29 approved plans to privatise the debt-laden carrier.

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