Browse Tag by Airline meals
Travelling with 5

In-flight special meal request that made my gluten and dairy intolerant son ill

Airlines traveller's guide to In-Flight Meals - A Free From Life

Why we always have problems ordering a special meal when we fly

Airlines traveller's guide to In-Flight Meals - A Free From Life

If I’ve said this once, I’ll say it a thousand times again and will keep saying it until such a time that things change. Why can’t airlines get it right when it comes to catering for food intolerances?

We’ve just been abroad and flew with Ryanair and whilst I detest this airline because the ‘cheap’ flights come at a cost of sitting in the middle or back of the aircraft, having no room to store your luggage in the overhead locker because you didn’t get on early enough and not being able to get any food because they’ve sold out by the time they get to you, what I do prefer is that you have a menu, with a key, so that you can choose something suitable for your dietary needs (if they have it, that is).

The non low cost airlines might provide you with a sandwich if it’s a short haul flight, or a full meal if you’re going further afield, but apart from guessing what will be the best option for you (do I go gluten free and hope it’s got no dairy in it, or do I go low lactose and hope it’s also gluten free?), you have no way of knowing what food you will be presented with.

This ‘letter’ to British Airways highlights our recent experience and it’s not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, something like this happens every time we travel.

Dear British Airways,
We’ve been here before haven’t we? In fact, this is the third time now: the last three times we’ve taken a flight to go on holiday.
Our requests are simple, but they don’t seem to meet the criteria for importance. Let me say it again though, my son is dairy and gluten intolerant. The pairing of these two intolerances is where the problem lies. As I have said before in my letters of complaint, we are unable to order him a suitable meal when we fly.
Like most other airlines, you offer a low lactose option or a gluten free meal, but no option for both. On our first long haul flight two years ago, I rang customer services prior to flying in order to explain the predicament. I told the operator my son was only 5-years old, so was there an option that would suit him (meaning, something age-appropriate). Unfortunately, this was miss-interpreted and he ended up with a child’s meal, containing macaroni cheese, a yoghurt and a chocolate biscuit.
On our flight home, I ordered him a gluten free meal, which came with yoghurt and some other dairy-containing breakfast items. Since then, I’ve tried a vegan meal (salad sandwich and vegetable pasta) and a low-lactose meal.
The low-lactose meal, which in itself is a risk as it may not be completely dairy free, caused my son to be sick four times. Whilst I can’t prove that the meal made him ill, he was the only one who ate it, no one else was sick and the poor boy had to endure a ten-hour flight to America feeling rotten. On the return flight, I was worried about him eating anything at all, but the crew to their credit were wonderful and managed to put together some chicken and bacon, with salad and a gluten free bread roll.
What do I do next time we fly though, as I feel like we have run out of options?
I’m afraid I’ve lost faith in the catering system of your flights. I don’t want to put my son in the position where he might get ill and I don’t want to risk ordering a meal when I don’t know what is in it: I was amazed to discover that the crew is not given details of the ingredients of the special meals ordered. They have the allergy information for all the other food on board, but not those. Surely, this is crucial information that both the crew and consumer needs.
British Airways, we may be in the minority, but please listen to these requests. Many people have multiple food intolerances: gluten and dairy in particular being a common pairing. If only you could provide more information regarding on-flight meal offerings, it would allow us to make informed choices about which special request meal to choose.
Food intolerances are not life threatening, but they can cause a great deal of discomfort for an individual, should they consume something that their bodies cannot deal with. My son, to his credit, did not complain one bit about feeling sick and vomiting on our latest flight. That’s why I’m complaining on his behalf and I will continue to do so every time we fly until hopefully someone will get the message.

What do you think? Time for a change?

Travelling with 5

Travelling with Food Intolerances – The Ups and Downs of In-Flight Meals

Airlines traveller's guide to In-Flight Meals - A Free From Life

I know from experience what it’s like when an airlines messes up on the meal you ordered. My son, who cannot eat dairy or gluten, was given a child’s meal by mistake (a dairy and gluten fest) on a flight to America last year. There was no alternative for him, apart from a bit of green salad that the team managed to scrape together. It was a nightmare.

The mix up came because I couldn’t order him both a dairy AND gluten free meal. It was one or the other. The alternative was perhaps a vegan meal, but I wasn’t sure if it would suit a five year old child. So I rang up customer services, explained the situation and thought it was sorted. What went wrong (I think), was that they marked him down as ‘child’ and he ended up with the same meal as his sisters – macaroni cheese, yoghurt and chocolate!

There is no way I will go on a flight without taking food for him after that experience, regardless what I order in advance. And after finding the whole process somewhat confusing, I decided to put together some air travel tips for people with food intolerances.

I worked with the team at SheKnowsUK to produce an infographic setting out what the major airlines offer in terms of in-flight meals and how you go about ordering them. You can see the result here. I was amazed at how different the airlines approach their in-flight meal service, but most offer essentially the same choices. When it comes to ordering both gluten and dairy free in-flight meals for my son, it looks like that’s not going to happen any time soon. For us, it will be a case of choosing one or the other and picking out what he can eat, whilst adding to it with our own food.

Have you had any bad experiences with airlines food? Let me know.