30 Nov

Traveling by sky for the Holidays?  If so, this post is for you!  Being a gluten free traveller can be very challenging.  Here are some tips for safe and healthy travels.

The task of eating gluten free becomes monumentally more difficult when internet access is taken away.  Personally, I double and triple check ingredients and restaurant menus on my phone (both with GF apps and plain old google).  This luxury is not a reality when you are 40,000 ft in the air.

This is a problem I faced very recently on my flight home from New York to San Francisco.  I was filled with excitement when I realized that the ticket I acquired by using miles happened to be business class.  Not only would my seat be big enough for me to sit cross-legged but I would also get to re-experience the joys of airplane food.  Now, I know most people are thinking, “Airplane food? Joy? What???” but let me tell you, as a kid, back when the economy was functional, all long flights had a free food service for passengers.  As a child, receiving the mystery lunch or dinner box from the flight attendant was the high light of the flight.  You would think, as a seasoned Celiac, I would have known to call ahead to make sure the flight was going to have gluten free options but I did not.  In my defense, I did not actually know there would be a dining service until I was already on the plane and they handed me their fancy little menu.

Unfortunately, my options seemed grim.  Certainly the Lasagna was off-limits but what about he marinated beef filet over mushroom ragout with roasted potatoes in a merlot sauce?  There are several opportunities for gluten in that description:

  1. Marinade – the fillet could have been marinated in a sauce containing gluten eg Worecestershire, soy sauce or a malt vinegar
  2.  Merlot sauce – this could be thickened with flour
  3. Mushroom ragout – Ragout could mean mushrooms cooked in a tomato based sauce, but it could also mean it is a pasta dish
  4. Roasted Potatoes – These could be breaded or dredged

I asked the flight attendant if she knew what was gluten free on the menu.  She did not.  I asked her if she had a list of the ingredients for the menu items.  She did not.  It seemed that the flight attendants had NO idea what they were serving to the people on the flight.

Why don’t airplanes have a list of ingredients that are in their food? Do you know how devastating it would be if someone with an anaphylactic food allergy accidentally ingested their allergen eg peanut allergy while on the plane??  For their sake, I hope they have epipens and lawyers on board!

The point is: airplanes are not typically equipped to accommodate the needs of a Celiac unless you call ahead. The steak dish I encountered may well have been GF but I will never know because the food did not come with ANY information on board.

So, what should you do?

Before you fly:

1. Research to see if your flight is providing a dining service and whether they have special meal options

2. Call ahead and ask for GF options

Here are links to the special meal request pages for several airline companies: American Airlines United and Continental and Alitalia

Sometimes your requests can be lost in the hustle of bustle that is the airport business so it is important to prepare yourself for that possibility.  Two weeks after my diagnosis, I flew from Los Angeles to Rome and did not come prepared…this is a mistake you do not want to make, trust me!

How to be prepared:

1. Bring your own snacks – Most planes offer peanuts but, when I flew Southwest, the peanuts were coasted in malted barley so it is very important that you bring something to munch on in case you get hungry

2. Bring plastic bags – There is nothing more annoying than a half eaten bag of chips that you cannot close but need to stow away because you have a layover or are landing at your final destination.  Pack a few Ziplocs so that you can securely and neatly pack away your snack foods!


8 Responses to “Airplanes”

  1. cookie November 30, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Thanks for the really helpful tips about travel. I truly avoid situations like this because I don’t know what options are available. I am not sure I would have been aware enough to check the peanuts, though label checking is routine, I freak on flights.
    Good, informative blog!

  2. Cristina November 30, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I refuse to eat airplane food, even if they tell me its GF. Even in first class. Because the GF options aren’t really GF — they’re not made in a dedicated GF facility. Usually they’re a “regular” meal with something removed. For example — once I was given a salad and told it was GF so long as I did not add the optional croutons. But the dressing they weren’t too sure about it. The airlines are definitely way behind when it comes to addressing food allergy issues. Except peanuts — there’s a reason they serve pretzels now and not peanuts anymore.

    In any case, when flying I ALWAYS bring my own food. Its safer for me, and usualy tastes a whole heck of a lot better too.

  3. C McClung November 30, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    With my daughters allergies prior and now celiac, I’ve been packing food for years on flights. To avoid TSA issues for liquids, i carry a dr note indicating she has to bring her iwn food. Also, because you may not be in a location with specialty stores, pack enough food for at least 2 days. I also have my gf flour and mixes shipped to my parents for the holidays to save suitcase room and weight.

  4. Bill December 1, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Great article. Thanks for the websites for special meals.

  5. JMF Solutions April 16, 2014 at 3:35 am #

    I appreciate, result in I found just what I used to be having
    a look for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man.
    Have a great day. Bye

  6. Logan August 20, 2014 at 2:31 am #

    The Dog Training dog training techniques school.
    Behavior correction of” being also self-protective. With some simple ways to stimulate your pet and it flies by. S, St Francis Pet Ministry gives people the opportunity to share lots with them during a live stage presentation on Saturday, Feb. Praise him as he circles. As there is fun for both dog and you can’t decide between a shock collar a go.

  7. Gift Deresoma-Stahmer November 3, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

    Do you have a suggestion for GF dinning in foreign country? Going to France for instance?
    Please help. I’m a celiac traveling shortly. Have no problem with airplane. They have GF meal option and already notified and will pack extras for on the go. Can I find easily places to eat in Paris?
    Thank you


  1. The Gluten Free Professional: the gluten free diet and your career | Cc Gluten Freed - April 30, 2013

    […] If traveling, make sure you pack snacks to have on the road.  Pack protein bars or you can always buy Kind bars at Starbucks! Here is a post on traveling gluten free by air! […]

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