Qantas derided as the 'flying Mosque-a-roo' over pork ban

Qantas has removed pork from its in-flight menu for Dubai flights. Although a standard practice, the decision has drawn a barrage of racist criticism online.
Qantas has removed pork from its in-flight menu for Dubai flights. Although a standard practice, the decision has drawn a barrage of racist criticism online. 

Qantas is weathering an attack on social media over its decision to ditch food containing alcohol or pork on its European flights through Dubai.

The decision, made out of respect for Islamic beliefs, follows the new partnership between Qantas and Emirates that came into effect on March 31.

One of the images posted on Twitter after news broke that Qantas would not serve pork on flights to Dubai.
One of the images posted on Twitter after news broke that Qantas would not serve pork on flights to Dubai. 

Some of the less offensive comments on social media included the airline being referred to as "Al-Qantas" and "the flying Mosque-a-roo".

"No pork or pork products, announcements in Arabic, no alcohol ... who owns Qantas?" asked one user.

The move also made international news, including on the most-read news site in the world, the Daily Mail, where the story attracted many comments, including a comment calling for a boycott of the airline voted among the "highest rated" comments on the site.

Qantas said on Tuesday it would not change its decision, despite the barrage of negative responses, many of them racist and some calling for the airline to be blackbanned.

It said alcohol was still being served on flights, but not used in food preparation.

"Our in-flight catering reflects the cultural and regional influences of the international destinations that we fly to," the airline said in a statement.

Despite the pasting on social media, a spokesperson said the reaction from passengers flying the route had been "positive".

The menu, written in Arabic and English, includes chicken and fish in economy, while business passengers are feted with lamb cassoulet, chicken schnitzel and even a mezze plate that the menu says is "inspired by Emirates".

"The feedback from customers onboard has been fantastic ... we do have a good reputation for the quality of our food, compared with other international airlines."

However, the airline has had to moderate comments on its Facebook page, where the move attracted hundreds of responses.

"In line with our social media policy we have removed some of the inappropriate comments," the spokesperson said.

However, Qantas is unable to remove comments from Twitter, where hundreds of angry responses are still online.

In a way, Qantas is doing nothing new with its food offering. For years already, the airline has flown to Jakarta, another Muslim-dominated destination, without pork or alcohol in its in-flight meals.

It is common practice for other airlines flying to such destinations to do the same.

Those airlines include Emirates, Etihad, Malaysian and Virgin Australia, which transits through Abu Dhabi.

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia confirmed: "Our flights into and out of Abu Dhabi do not serve pork, and all meals that are prepared are Halal accredited. We serve alcohol on the flights but we do not use alcohol in the preparation of food."

This isn't the first controversy to engulf Qantas over its new flights to Dubai.

Concerns were raised recently that Australians travelling through Dubai risk fines or jail for cultural misdemeanours such as holding hands in public, swearing, harassing women with a prolonged stare, wearing inappropriate clothing or sharing a hotel room if not married or closely related.

Additionally, Australian travellers of Jewish background who are Israeli passport holders can only transit through Dubai and are not allowed to leave the airport.

Qantas has eight flights daily via Dubai. The airline said last week that it had sold six times more tickets to Europe in the past nine weeks as part of its new partnership with Emirates than it did in the same period last year.

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