The Gluten Bigot: Air Travel Gluten Free Style

Monday, April 22, 2013

Air Travel Gluten Free Style

Anytime I have a long haul flight I am a mixture of two things. One: Excited! My long hauls have been exclusively for personal travel. And Two: anxious about bringing the right amount of food onto the plane. Like any good gluten free traveler I do bring energy bars and snacks onto the plane. This is because even when I have received upgrades to business, the airlines don't always seem to have a gluten free meal for me. I thought I would write a post to help anyone who is planning a long haul and is curious about GF meal availability. 

I will start off by saying it is important to note when you are booking that you have a special meal request. If you are gluten intolerant/celiac and lactose intolerant I would ring in to their airline as you can generally only make one selection.

esI fly most frequently with United as I do have status with the airline On my most recent trip I flew New York (well Newark) to Edinburgh to start my journey. This flight was with United. I was happy to enjoy champagne and cheese in the lounge pre-flight. I was also excited during the flight when they brought my GF meal, which was really not incredible except for the cookie. The cookie was seriously amazing and I wish they had just given me a plate of them. Aside from this flight I have flown a couple of long hauls where they did not have a special meal for me, however in both instances they have consulted with me on what I can and cannot have and improvised. It may be worth noting that I have been on United flights where the air host/hostess marvels that they have a gluten free meal for me, one noted they never have them on the plane. It is also worth noting that the quality ranges greatly. New York to Tokyo the food was really good, while San Francisco to Sydney was disgusting.

My return flight was operated by Swiss Airlines (I had booked via United). They hadn't received my GF meal request, which was annoying because I was flying Prague to New York via Zurich (ie - not a short trip). They did bring me a plate of fruit and nuts of first class (very nice of them) as well as cheese. Oh and I got to eat the chocolates they hand out which are incredible.

Cathay Pacific is another one I have flown with a few times - I used to fly Vancouver to New York with back before I moved to NY. They always had a gluten free meal for me, even though it was only a 4.5 hour flight, and the food was actually good.

KLM offers decent gluten free meals. I did fly with them once where they did not have a meal on hand (it was during the Iceland volcano disaster a few years ago) and I have been on standby until literally 15 minutes before the plane took off. They were able to make me a nice salad from the first class cabin.

My experience with Air Canada gluten free has been mediocre. They have consistently provided me meals, however the food has always been terrible and often I won't touch what they give me. 

I have flown with Air New Zealand as well. Domestically they didn't have gluten free snacks for me, though I recall them having something Sydney to Auckland and Wellington to Sydney for me -  obviously it was nothing amazing and nothing terrible as I have little recollection of it. Their lounge is fantastic for those with airline status or who purchase lounge access, and they have clearly marked gluten free options within. They lounge in Sydney had brownies when I was in there one time (I probably ate the whole tray). 

Who is your favorite to fly gluten free with?

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