Don't always trust the airlines gluten-free meals

I live in Cape Town and recently made a trip to the UK with British Airways. I received my gluten-free meal before my husband and enjoyed the pasta salad. Unfortunately, when my husband's meal arrived, I discovered that he had the same side salad as mine. I complained to the steward who apologised and said the meal had been prepared in Cape Town and he thought that was where the trouble lay. So if you are travelling out of an airport from a country which doesn't offer clear gluten free guidelines, be careful. BA were apologetic and have offered me a £100 voucher but it doesn't really compensate for being glutened!

17 Replies

  • Hi Greyton, this comes up time and time again so I'm sorry for you being glutened. It could be so easy having a gf option wrapped and clearly labelled so it is obvious what it is and is kept free from contamination. It's not exactly rocket science and they are happy to fly 'us' around the world!

    Being a coeliac is a disability so we ought to have legislation to protect us and provide for 'our' needs, as places have to provide wheel chair access for those who are disabled with a severe disability and when a coeliac is on a flight they cannot pop out to get something that is gf so it is a very real need.

    Changing the subject I have read about coeliac in Cape Town being able to buy gf pizza's and I for one would be very interested if you were to write a post about being a coeliac in SA as I know very little about choices and options available to you and I'm sure that others would be just as interested as me. So please think about this.

    Lastly I hope that you enjoyed your stay in the UK.


  • I travel by air quiteoftrn, and have found GF food getting better on the International Airlines. However on more than one occasion flying out of Seattle with BA, I was given a biscuit containing wheat, I was also compensated with airmiles, but in saying that the gf food has been v good lately.

  • I just flew Emirates and although they managed not to gluten me some of the food was ill thought out. The best example of this was the rice cake 'sandwich' that was pre-made with cheese and tomato, no butter - it was a very soggy affair.

    Although I only said gluten free I seemed to miss out on the cheese and crackers other passengers got to enjoy and was always given disgusting marg spread :(

  • Hi Kathryn, I have discovered that they lump us in the people who have a lactic intolerance! I never get butter, real milk or cheese for this reason. Makes for dull meals!

  • I have just returned from a holiday in Canada, having flowing with Air Transat. The GF dinner was little short of disgusting, most of it being some unidentifiable overcooked veggies on a bed of soggy quinoa, linseed and some other grains I was unfamiliar with and which tasted awful. It was accompanied by a rice cake, marg and jam. Breakfast consisted of another rice cake, marg, jam and about 75 mls of orange juice! (less than 100 calories) To say I was starving on arrival is an understatement as the plane had no GF snacks on board and what I had taken with me was insufficient. The return journey meal was exactly the same, but this time I had brought food on board! As on your airline, the meal was a GF, Lactose Free vegetarian meal to save them the trouble of making an effort. Fortunately, my husband does not like yogurt, so I pinched his and another passenger also gave me theirs! I think airlines have a lot to do to cater properly for special diets. We have complained to the airline, but so far no reply. In their defence, the meal was properly marked and wrapped and kept separate from the rest of the meals.

  • Sorry you were ill, that must have been a difficult journey.

    I guess it's good to hear that airlines are starting to consider us.....even if they haven't got it quite right yet!

  • I flew to the US from the UK on an 11 hour flight earlier this year. Had ordered GF but it had not gone through the system. Survived on some fruit! Was starving! On the return flight GF was pasta but I can't eat free from stuff. Flight attendant was very helpful and got me a baked potato. Was advised on this site to bring my own food which I did - at least I brought a banana to help me survive the flight. Have been advised by the crew to order a special diet which does exclude most things that I am intolerant to but not sure how nice that will be. I was diagnosed last November and I do find taking my own food difficult to organize. This is partly because I can't eat free from stuff. I have taken rice cakes with me on holiday but I don't really like them, they just stop the hunger pangs! Given I can't eat free from, cheese or eggs any creative ideas most welcome!

  • You'd have been fine on the flights I took last year... my meal was free from everything, including flavour. It was plain chicken with some plain boiled veg and a bit of side salad. I was given the same meal three times on an 18 hour flight to Australia!

  • How absolutely un-creative and dire! All the more reason to bring your own nosh! I thought 11 hours was bad enough. You must have been starving. Did the crew apologize? They did on my flight.

  • I'm interested in why you can't eat the 'free from' stuff. Is it that you don't like it - or it doesn't like you?

  • Free from products contain hydroxypropylmethylcellulose which I react to. See previous post

    Also can't tolerate glucose syrup.

  • Many coeliacs can't eat free from either because they can't tolerate any Gluten even codex wheat or 20ppm or because it has too much fat or sugar or because of things like xanthan gum. Also much of the free from contains eggs and dairy. However, I have managed to get quite good meals on airlines the best was chicken with wild rice and sautéed veg and fresh fruit and yoghurt. I always pack fruit and carrot sticks and a 100 ml tub of homemade hummus in my bag for emergencies.

  • I flew With US Airlines to Washington. I had ordered a gf meal, which they failed to provide. I was offered, sugar free, salt free, dairy free, halal, vegan, vegetarian ( all of which are food choices not necessities)

    The stewardess actually shouted at me "will you tell me what you can eat, not what you can't eat"

    I was eventually given a banana, some cheese and about six grapes.

    I complained and they offered me air miles - I don't know why they imagined I would ever fly with them again.

    The same thing happened to me on a flight from India but they managed to rustle up something for me.

    The outgoing flights are ok because I can bring food from home, it's not so easy on the way home

  • Bluebell it is truly shocking that the stewardess shouted at you. I would have been mortified and so embarrassed. It is disgraceful behaviour from the staff. Did you complain about this behaviour when you returned to the UK?

  • Yes they offered me some air miles. How often do you fly to America!!

  • Quite! I would want to know that the staff were going to be trained in diplomacy and tact and in nutritional needs of passengers, particularly the stewardess in question.

  • years ago now, flew "Austrian " air from SA had wonderful trip, food wise to London, unfortunately on return their connection plane to Vienna was delayed so we missed the SA flight, they immediately transferred us (almost a full plane ) to special BA flight, but you have guessed it, no gluten free meals, and it was getting later and later so I didn't think to buy some food, I now always ensure that I have some bars etc so that I have some gluten free food with me, apart from food on flights not being gluten free, there are the emergencies as well