By Stacey Leasca
February 04, 2020

Let’s just put it out there. Airline food isn’t exactly the best meal you’re going to eat all year. Yes, it’s OK and does the trick when you’re hungry, but it’s not like people really look forward to the airline food experience. And that goes double for vegans and vegetarians.

As a lifelong vegetarian, I can attest to the troubles I’ve had trying to find foods I can eat on flights all over the world. The options, however, are typically limited to crackers, pretzels, and just eating the bread off the meal service plate. But, pilot Matthew Ayer says there’s a better way for meat-free eaters (and really everyone) to dine and fly.

Matthew Ayer, better known as the Veggie Pilot, chronicles his vegan meals while working as an airline pilot
Credit: Courtesy of Matthew Ayer/ @theveggiepilot

“It started, I swear to you, one day in LAX,” he said. “I went to one of the little restaurants on one of our layover and got a veggie sandwich and it was white bread with this government cheese and sprouts and maybe a sliver of avocado and they charged me like $13. I remember swearing to myself that I would never, ever pay money for such awful food again,” Ayer explained to WBUR.

From there, Ayer started bringing his own meals on the flight, including spaghetti and vegan meatballs, which brought on a lot of looks. However, he soon realized others had the same needs.

“There are probably over 500,000 flight attendants in the U.S. and I was doing some research online. I Googled ‘vegan pilot’ and nothing popped up,” he said. He wanted to then start a website just to show others that flying while vegan is possible.

Some of Ayer’s best tips include packing things that are easily accessible like greens and carbs such as rice, which anyone can find in airports around the world. The big problem, he said, is finding vegan protein. This, however, can be mitigated by bringing along a packet of vegan protein powder and water bottle. Simply fill it up after security, shake, and you’re good to go.

On his blog readers and viewers can also gain access to recipes and quick tips via Ayer’s short video clips like this:

In the clip above, Ayer explains exactly what he packs for a three-day trip. One of his meals is a an easy dish combining mushrooms, kale, and quinoa, along with pita and vegan sausage wrap. He then packs in a few of his favorite protein bars and oatmeal bars. He then always adds in his vitamins, including a B-complex.

As for where Ayer says he prefers to fly to get a great vegetarian meal, he told WBUR that the airports in Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Seattle, and Portland have some of the best plant-based meals around. But, Ayer doesn’t stop his vegetarian advice at flying. Check out his Facebook page to see more videos of him exploring cities around the world and sharing his favorite veggie destinations wherever he goes.