Qantas removes pork on flights to the Middle East

Is the Qantas decision not to serve pork on flights to the Middle East controversial? It probably depends on your point of view. Photo: AP

CHARLOTTEApril 5, 2013 – Sometimes it is difficult to really know whether a business is being culturally savvy or responding to political correctness.

Case in point, Qantas, Australia’s national airline, has removed pork from its in-flight menus to the Middle East.

Further investigation focuses valid arguments on both sides of the debate, but there is always that nagging question about yielding to Islamic pressure as it becomes a growing international concern.

Qantas has partnered with the Middle Eastern airline Emirates which makes their corporate decision all the more muddied.  Flight schedules have been altered to include stopovers in Dubai, which is a major hub for Emirates.

The Qantas ban goes beyond offering porkless menus, however. In keeping with Islamic beliefs, no meals in any class of service to the region will be prepared using alcohol. Qantas has emphasized the decision has had minimal impact on its menus.

According to the airline, in-flight catering has always reflected regional and cultural preferences for cuisine between various destinations. Other airlines have similar policies and procedures.

Qantas explains their flights in and out of China and Hong Kong include stir fried meals while service between Singapore and other cities offers noodle selections.

So is this much ado about nothing?

Many airlines flying between the United States and Europe give passengers a choice between pasta and chicken. The selection has more to do with individual taste preferences than cultural awareness. Most people who do not eat chicken will opt for pasta, which usually satisfies the needs of vegetarians and generates less resistance than something like beef.

On the other hand, airlines will prepare special meals for passengers with specific dietary needs, provided the customer notifies the carrier in advance. Such options are frequently made for Indian passengers or Jewish fliers who require kosher meals.

Which raises a question as to whether airlines could, or should, provide a choice for passengers who desire pork, ham or meals prepared with alcohol rather than completely eliminate such dishes.

Other airlines follow similar procedures as Qantas. Virgin Australia does not serve pork during its flights to and from Abu Dhabi. Virgin Australia even ensures that its meals are halal accredited with meat prepared as prescribed by Islamic law.

With the vast variety of foods available to passengers, most fliers typically accept one of the choices offered by the airline and, if pork is not part of the menu, they don’t even question the reason for the alternatives.

Such discussions usually have little consequence for non-Muslims but they are frequently the subject of contention for followers of Islam if they sense a perception of infringement upon their beliefs.

Pork and ham products are readily available for purchase in grocery stores in Bahrain. Expatriates frequently travel from Saudi Arabia across the causeway to the island nation to procure bacon and other pork products banned in the Kingdom.

Sometimes non-Muslims attempt to “smuggle” pork back into Saudi after a junket to Bahrain. If caught, the meat is immediately confiscated, but the important point is that items which are banned in some Islamic countries are also available in others.

In that sense, airlines could be perceived as bowing to the pressures of Islamic protocol purely to satisfy their desire to make it an issue.

Then again, Americans have long maintained that we should eliminate “pork” from government legislation, but that’s another story for another day.

Contact Bob at  <ahref=””>Google+</a>

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in CharlotteNCTaylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to SwitzerlandFrance and Italy for groups of 12 or more.

Inquiries for groups can be made at Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others.

As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 71 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries. He also played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte.


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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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