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Does A Single Banana Qualify As A Full Breakfast?

Does a single banana qualify as breakfast? Japan Air Lines (JAL) seems to think so. At least, that’s what it recently served a passenger who had requested a vegan meal. The incident raises serious questions – both nutritional and economic…

JAL Banana - © 2024 - Kris Chari

What happened

JAL passenger Kris Chari shared her disappointment via a post to the air travel online forum Flyertalk.

“Before take-off today, my flight attendant confirmed that I ordered VGML (Vegetarian Vegan Meal) and that my breakfast was a banana, by which I mistakenly assumed she meant that breakfast included a banana.”

No problem there. But when the meal was served…

“I thought [the banana] was just an underwhelming appetizer, but it was in fact the entire meal service!”

Not a simple error or oversight

The banana ‘breakfast’ was oibviously not an oversight or an error by the cabin staff. The flight attendant who confirmed the ‘vegan meal’ said it was a banana. Chari misinterpreted the attendant’s statement. But I, too might have, “mistakenly assumed she meant that breakfast included a banana.” I mean, nobody would consider a banana a full meal.

From Chari’s on-the-spot photo, it’s clear the banana didn’t even come with so much as a cup of coffee. Much less other items what might have constituted a proper meal. Although, there is a glass of something in the upper righthand corner of the pic. Could be apple juice. But it looks more like champagne. If so, did she pay extra for that?

And who in their right mind would have thought that she’d need cutlery to consume her banana? I’m guessing the ‘hardware’ packet was included on her tray for the sake of the napkin.

Not a proper meal

A single banana, by itself, barely qualifies a snack. In no way can it be construed to constitute a ‘meal’. What were they thinking in the JAL catering kitchen when they decided a ‘bare’ banana was acceptable in the role of a meal? Where’s the whole grain component? The fibre? The all-important protein?

Would it have been so hard to provide a bowl of silken tofu? A couple of slices of whole grain toast? Or a bowl of oatmeal? Maybe get creative and offer some scrambled tofu (as an egg analogue)? And why just a banana, when a selection of fruits would give the diner a better mix of vitamins and minerals?

Another, darker motive?

Of course, there are those who would speculate that JAL just doesn’t care about its vegetarian-vegan customers. And makes no proper preparation for them. Others might say someone in the JAL catering hierarchy decided it would be too much trouble and/or too expensive to come up with a one-off proper vegan meal.

I’ll leave that one for the online conspiracy theorists to argue about.

My take

I think something must have gone wrong in the JAL catering kitchen when the meals for the flight were being made and packed. Maybe they forgot, until the last minute, that a single ‘VVML’ was required. And had to run around looking for something that qualified as vegan. And it might not be unfair to assume that whoever as in charge of finding ‘something vegan’ didn’t really know what they were looking for. Didn’t know what vegans can, and should eat.

I have trouble believing JAL would intentionally serve a vegan passenger a single banana for breakfast unless something went awry behind the scenes. On one hand, they – like all major airlines – are struggling to stay ‘in the air’ financially, as fuel and other costs continue to rise with inflation. They have suffered declining ticket sales as their prices have increased. On the other, they must have known they wouldn’t be endearing themselves to the flying public by intentionally disappointing a passenger with a substandard in-flight meal.

Nevertheless, the online whiners are going nuts over the ‘JAL banana breakfast’ post…

To JAL’s credit, Chari did admit, it was a really good banana. But that’s not the point.

~ Maggie J.

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