• Kyodo

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Major carriers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are offering more options for in-flight meals amid a rise in foreign passengers and fierce competition with low-cost carriers, the companies said.

ANA said that 30 years ago, most passengers on its international flights were Japanese. But in the first quarter of 2016, only half were Japanese, a change attributed to an increase in foreign tourists.

To meet the needs of passengers with varied backgrounds, ANA offers choices of meals without pork for Muslims and without beef for Hindus, as well as kosher meals for Jews, an ANA official said.

JAL began offering a choice of meals without certain ingredients in 2008 after receiving inquiries about allergies.

It also provides meals with reduced salt and fat for passengers with dietary restrictions. Meals for babies and children are available as well.

Both companies offer about 20 varieties of special in-flight meals for passengers who request them in advance.

ANA received orders for about 120,000 special meals for international flight passengers in fiscal 2014. The number increased to some 410,000 in fiscal 2016.

The companies said they need to improve their meal services as a means to differentiate themselves from LCCs, which charge for meals.

“Updating equipment like widening seat space would take several years. In-flight meals can be made to stand out in a short time,” said Shigeo Kamiya of JAL’s in-flight meal operation office.

Namiko Tosu of ANA’s product development department said the firm hopes continue developing special meals “so everybody will be able to feel at ease on flights regardless of their nationality, age or allergies.”

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