Saturday marked the start of the Islamic Holy Month of Ramadan – the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which see’s Muslims around the world fasting from dawn to sunset. In preparation, Gulf airlines have stepped up their services for Muslim passengers with special Iftar boxes and other enhanced services.
And while Islamic law actually makes an exemption for travellers, many Muslim’s choose to continue their fast even when flying some of the longest flights in the world. Luckily, Middle East carriers like Emirates and Qatar Airways are well prepared.
Crossing multiple time zones can make calculating when to break one’s fast tricky but Emirates has got a trick up its sleeve. The airline says all of its aircraft are fitted with a special tool that calculates the correct timings for both Imsak (when to start fasting) and iftar (breaking fast), wherever they are in the world.
A spokesperson explained the tool utilises the aircraft’s longitude, latitude and altitude to ensure the “greatest level of accuracy possible while on board.”
But that’s not all that the Gulf carriers are doing for Muslim passengers during Ramadan 2017. One of their biggest offerings are the special Iftar boxes, packed with suitable fast breaking foods. Here’s a rundown of what some of the biggest airline’s are offering their passengers this year:
The Emirates Iftar box is packed with food that the airline calls “nutritious and balanced” for a fast and easy meal that caters for a global palate. The boxes include a’atar chicken with hummus, spinach fatayer, halloumi cheese and cucumber sandwiches, and traditional sweets such as maamoul and dates, as well as yoghurt.
Emirates says the boxes will even be refreshed mid-Ramadan (should you be flying with the airline a lot over the coming weeks). A mainstay of the Emirates annual catering programme for 20 years, this year the Iftar box features a traditional Arabesque design. Special meals will be available on flights to and from the Gulf region. They’ll also be available to Umrah groups travelling to Jeddah and Medina.
Trays of dates and water will even be offered to guests at Emirates boarding gates around the world.
Guests flying with Etihad Airways will find reserved prayer areas onboard the carrier’s Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft. The airline’s in-flight entertainment system even has a special Qibla compass to ensure guests observe their prayers correctly.
Muslim guests will break their fast with a ‘full-service meal’ where possible but otherwise, Etihad will give out an Iftar meal pack. Presented in an Arabian-themed bag, the packs contain a selection of snacks including dates, sandwiches, fruit, water and milk.
The award for the nicest looking Iftar bag has got to go to Qatar Airways. The Doha-based airline has created a beautiful cardboard bag that wishes their Muslim passengers, ‘Ramadan Kareem’. It comes packed with plenty of goodies, including dates and other sweet treats. A selection of other traditional Arabic food is also included in the bag.
At Oman Airways, passengers will get a ‘specially prepared’ Iftar pack on all flights to or from the Gulf region. The packs contain an assortment of finger sandwiches, fruit and cake bites. They’re finished off with dates, a traditional food eaten by Muslims to break their fast and Arabic coffee.
And that’s not all – Oman Airways will also be giving all customers, whether Muslim or not, a generous luggage allowance of two checked bags, free of charge and just for the month of Ramadan.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.