Browse Tag by Airlines travel and special dietary needs
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?


Health Writing Round-Up

Healthy writing round up - A Free From Life

I’ve been writing away frantically for the last few weeks, which means I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to my blogs. What I thought I’d do though, is provide a health writing round up right here on A Free From Life, so you can find out what I’ve been up to.

How to convert recipes to gluten free - A Free From Life

Having a gluten intolerant child, I’m more concerned perhaps than most when it comes to worries about arsenic in rice. Most gluten free products contain rice flour and that’s why I mostly make my own things and monitor what my son eats. He loves rice milk, but I don’t give him it any more, choosing coconut milk by Koko instead (look out for added rice milk in some other dairy free alternatives). I make my own bread, but my son’s biggest love of all is pasta. He would eat it all day and everyday if I let him and prefers it to sandwiches for his lunch. I try to look for corn based pasta if I can, as he has to give up so much already and I feel sorry for him.

In the news last week though was the story that Swedish officials have warned parents against giving children rice cakes as a snack. That simple little product that we all thought of as a healthy alternative to a biscuit has raised concerns about the level of arsenic consumption in children. No doubt we will be hearing more about this as studies continue.

Debunking the FODMAP diet - A Free From Life

I looked in to the world of apps and how they can help people with food allergies and intolerances and found a number of useful ones. For me, being out for the day and not knowing where to go to eat is one of the biggest worries and having an app that can link your location with nearby establishments would be a really useful tool. Whether you need help with your shopping and cooking, managing your symptoms or you’re embarking on a FODMAP diet and need some guidance, you can download a corresponding app and have vital information at your fingertips wherever you are.

Health writing round up - A Free From Life

Whether you choose to eat gluten free (for health or medical reasons) or want to switch to being completely grain free (Paleo), you may choose to increase your protein content. Protein takes longer to digest and so can keep you fuller for longer. When you cut down or give up those carby grains, you may find you need to up your protein for that very reason. I investigated some high protein food swaps that would make healthy alternatives or additions to your diet.

Health writing round up - A Free From Life

From zero calorie noodles, to savoury ice cream and spreadable beer, quirky food is everywhere. I looked up several examples of seemingly ordinary food that’s made with unusual ingredients. These twists on the originals make for some fun and interesting products. I’m not sure I would eat all of them though!

FODMAPS and IBS - A Free From Life

I shared a personal experience of what it’s like to live with IBS. Having learned to control the symptoms over the last twenty years, it came as a shock when I had a particularly bad attack. Looking back at the events leading up to that day, though, it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Stress, not eating properly and indeed not eating at all, are all factors and I of all people should know that. It’s a lesson learned and a reminder not to forget about my own health when I am busy looking after the rest of my family.

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

After a particularly stressful long haul flight that involved my son having no meals because his order was messed up, I resolved to never trust airline food again. When investigating what airlines claim to offer by way of special dietary meals, what surprises me most is the lack of flexibility. As my son can’t eat dairy OR gluten, not one seems to provide an option that caters for both. So which do I go for? A vegan meal might be an option, but will a child be likely to eat it? There are so many things to consider when ordering a special meal on a flight and I’ve heard many instances of people having terrible experiences. I can only hope that the situation improves as more people highlight these issues.

Health writing round up - A Free From Life

Last, but not least, I couldn’t finish without including a little something for the weekend. Although not health related in the slightest, these cocktails I created are a fusion of three classics: Pimms and lemonade, G & T and Mojito. Inspired by the idea that we are a divided nation when it comes to choosing our favourite, I thought why not mix them up? And why not indeed. I hope you feel inspired by this little burst of sunshine we’ve been blessed with to try one of these. I’m particularly proud of my photography work in this article, as it’s my first time using a professional camera. What a difference it makes too.