Travel: No meat, no treats

ONE OF my non-meat-eating predecessor's closing remarks expressed disquiet about the way airlines treat vegetarians. A wholesome series of letters from readers suggests Frank Barrett's experiences were not typical. 'Varied and delicious,' is the conclusion of Steve Elliott of Derby on the vegetarian catering of the Dubai-based airline Emirates. And John Browning of Stroud writes: 'In 20 years' flying I've never had any problems - recently I forgot to tell Lufthansa in advance, but they still produced the vegetarian meal.'

Birthday treats are more difficult to arrange. British Airways used to accord full birthday honours, and I once ordered a cake for a friend travelling between Bogota and Caracas. It cost me pounds 12, but it turned out to be a first-rate sponge which the airline had managed to procure in the Colombian capital, a city not known for its fancy cakes. Better still, it was washed down with a free bottle of vintage champagne which the cabin crew smuggled from First Class.

The airline has now lost its sense of fun, cancelled all cakes and joined the ranks of party poopers. And after my last attempt to arrange flying festivities, I'm thinking of joining them. A friend flying from Auckland to London managed, by deft scheduling and the International Date Line, to celebrate her birth twice on the same flight. I called Air New Zealand excitedly: it couldn't promise anything, but would see what it could do. After take-off from Auckland, the stewardess approached my 6ft-tall friend and, looking perplexed, explained that a child's meal had been ordered for her. Pass the jelly and ice cream.

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