One of our avid YeahThatsKosher.com readers arrived yesterday at JFK airport in NYC for her flight to Israel on El Al Airlines. She asked the check-in desk attendants about the kosher meals in-flight and was informed that her meal (and her friend's meal) was in fact a fleishig (meat) meal. While this may not be an issue for El Al's Sephardi passengers, Ashkenazim do not eat meat during the 9 Days, unless it is Shabbat or after a siyum.
At JFK's Terminal 4, she was able to find one of the food stands that sell kosher prepacked sandwiches and other foods, but only found kosher options that were fleighigs as well (apparently she wasn't the first person to look into the dairy options in the terminal). While eating meat during the 9 Days is not a major violation of halacha, it is obviously something that was not preferable for her (and others in our community), and likely many other El Al passengers.
Lessons for travelers:
- Always call your airline a few days (or weeks) prior to your trip to confirm your kosher meal, and in this case a kosher dairy or pareve/vegetarian meal.
- Never assume that any airline understands your religious needs, even if it is El Al (which is a business entity, not a religious one).
Lessons for airlines (especially El Al):
- Serving meals for kosher (and other "special meal") customers is not as cut and dry as it seems. Please consult an expert if you'd like to properly accomodate your kosher observant travelers, as needs (clearly) change throughtout the year (think Passover).
- If you service major North American cities like NY, Miami, LA, Chicago, Toronto, and others, as well as multiple cities abroad, you likely have a steady stream of Jewish Orthodox kosher observant travelers.
As a regular traveler, and representing the kosher community, I urge you to make sure that you have done your due diligence to provide us with the appropriate meal when flying, and not consider us an afterthought. Feel free to contact me with any questions or advice as to how you can make the flying experience better for your kosher observant customers. Thank you.