What are the Best Airlines For Traveling Gluten-Free?
When a person gets diagnosed with celiac disease or is told that they are gluten intolerant, there are quite a few concerns that cross their minds: fear of what they will eat when they go out; what type of food might cause an adverse reaction if they accidentally eat it while out; what you will be able to eat, if anything, if you have a long journey ahead of you especially on a plane. Will you ever be able to eat a snack on the plane that is not from a carry on that you brought along with you from home so that you do not have to worry about eating what is safe for you?
Good news for people who suffer from these intestinal and digestive issues is that there are now certain airlines that are beginning to accommodate people who have this type of intolerance, offering special meals and/or snacks. Most of the time, these snacks are complimentary and can be given to you upon just asking for it, but there are some occasions where you will have to pay for a gluten-free snack or meal on a plane.
Unfortunately, most major and even some minor airlines often receive a lot of backlash from people who say that they experienced poor customer service on the floor for one reason or another. There are hundreds of poor customer service stories coming out on the media, specifically on social media, about people having horrible dining experiences on airlines. However, it is also important to point out the fact that airlines are not all bad.
Many airlines do make an effort that are worth pointing out and giving them credit for, and one of those things is the fact that many major and minor airlines have worked hard to make special accommodations for passengers who have dietary restrictions regarding gluten.
It has not only become a more widely accepted practice for these dietary changes to begin being made, but it is also becoming a standard among the airlines in the industry to begin offering their passenger’s different types of food for people who suffer from food allergies or health conditions that restrict what they are able to consume.
This means the airlines are having to offer people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance something different than just the typical chicken and pasta that is offered to other passengers on long international flights. Most airlines that take passengers overseas now offer menu items that are totally gluten-free, which the passengers can ask to see well ahead of time.
How do you get gluten-free meals if you do not fly in first-class?
It is no secret that not everyone can afford to fly in first class, especially if they are going on an international flight. First-class is great if you can afford it, and you will certainly get to enjoy some great meals and other luxury accommodations that you would not get to experience when flying in coach or economy.
However, for the majority of people who cannot afford to fly in first-class, especially internationally, it is nice to know which airlines they can fly on that will give them the opportunity to pick a meal from a gluten-free menu.
Some of the most popular airlines in the entire globe have been researched and analyzed in order to find flights in and out of North America that will give its passengers the flexibility they need to eat without worrying about digestion issues. Below are the top international air carriers that offer gluten-free dining to passengers to people that ride in economy.
International air carriers that offer gluten-free dining:
This infographic from Reservations.com shows some of the most popular airlines in the world and their gluten-free policies.
As anyone else with Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance knows, it is difficult to find gluten-free food that truly tastes good – and does not have the texture of mush. Couple that struggle with the fact that most airlines have the reputation of having poor food on the plane and the thought of putting your inner health in an airline’s hands can be a bit gut-wrenching, literally.
While many airlines can give you a menu that seemingly offers you a gluten-free meal, what they actually end up giving you can be either a hit or miss.
How to live with what you have when you board that airplane
Living your life with an intolerance to gluten can be difficult enough in a regular life setting, but anytime you enter into a new environment that challenge is just going to get harder and require you to adapt so that you can make it through without experiencing stomach upset.
Though airlines have begun doing a better job with providing their passengers with special meals and/or snacks based on their dietary restrictions, there is still a long way to go meaning sufferers still need to be attentive when flying. Below are a few tips that will make flying gluten-free a little easier and not as nerve-wracking.
1) Do your research before you ever leave your house for the airport
Before even buying your plane ticket, look through the food policies of different airlines that you are interested in. Find out what they will be serving based on how far or short the flight distance is, the operator and where the departing city is as those are all factors that will determine what the meal availability is.
2) Be aware of cross-contamination
The next thing you need to look at is the possibility of the airline food being cross-contaminated. There are several airlines that offer gluten-free meals but upon giving you the menu ahead of time making sure that you are completely aware that they cannot fully guarantee that the ingredients in the gluten-free meals were not mixed in with gluten ingredients at the manufacturing plant. Other airlines may not tell you this specifically which is why it is so important to pay attention to the fine print and small details in order to make sure that your meal is 100% safe for people with Celiac disease to eat.
3) Understand that there are other restrictions
Airlines simply cannot accommodate everyone and all of the dietary needs that are on every single flight which means that if you have more than one dietary issue they will more than likely only be able to meet one. For example, if you have celiac disease, lactose intolerance, peanut or other food allergies, etc. the airline will only be able to meet one of your needs. They are simply not equipped to handle every dietary need at one time and there are too many passengers on board to accommodate everyone in this way.
4) Know that every single flight is different from another
Every single flight that goes up in the air is going to be different from another. For every great review that someone who is gluten-free experienced and typed up about the airline, there is also going to be someone who had a poor experience and got sick on that exact same airline. While it is important to look through reviews and take people’s experiences into account, it is also important not to assume that everything you read on the internet is true and completely write off an airline just because of something you read. Do your own research, ask about their policies, read the fine print, and you should be fine.
5) What is your next step after your research is complete
Once you do all your research and figure out which airline you want to fly on, the next thing you need to do is book your flight and reserve your meal immediately after. It is best to go ahead and reserve your meal as soon as you book your slight so that your airline has enough notice to make sure everything is prepared for you when the time of your flight arrives. It is easiest to do this if you book your flight directly on the airline’s website as it will give you an option to choose your meal and will direct you to a gluten-free menu before you even get to the checkout page. If you do choose to go through another party to get your ticket, once you check out it is important to call the airline directly with your flight’s confirmation number and they will help you reserve your menu ahead of time.
Once you board your flight and get ready to embark on your vacation, gently remind your gate agent and/or your flight attendant of your specially ordered meal so that there are no last-minute mistakes or people running around and your onboard meal is will be as smooth as your flight!