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Special Meals On Planes?
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Hi - first time flying since being diagnosed with Celiac - can you order special meals on the planes?  It's a long flight.  And if so, are they the same whether you're in economy, business or first?

 

Thanks,

Nikki

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Yes,  let them know that you require a gluten free meal option, when you make your reservation.  I would also suggest that you have some snacks with you, in case there is an error.  Or buy something after you have passed security.

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And no, first class gets to eat much, much better than cattle class :P  But at least on international flights all airlines should be able to serve you a gluten free meal, whatever the class.  Request it at the time of booking.

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In Dec. I flew Japan/LAX. I ordered gluten free meals ahead of time. However, I didn't eat the meals either flight. I was too afraid of cross contamination. I don't eat in restaurants either so there was no way I was going to trust the airline! At any rate, I brought rice crackers/sliced meat/cheese and made little sandwiches with those on the plane. I had some cut fruit too. I had mixed nuts, dried cranberries, etc. to snack on. I also had a few Lara Bars and some gluten-free cookies for dessert! For me, the key was to feel like I had a "meal" and not just snacks. In the end I had more food than I really needed. In my case it was a midnight flight so I wasn't that hungry until the last few hours of the flight. I had no problems taking the food through security.

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There is no such thing as packing too much gluten free snack food on an airline trip, just ask anyone who blundered into one of those Voyages of the Damned where they won't let you out of the airline terminals and most of the flights are canceled, then the replacement plane can't take off because it needs repairs, which they tell you after you and all your fellow passengers boarded,  the security people in the terminal don't like your biological hazards, aka the gluten free food, because bananas are frightening, you eat it there in the terminal in front of them because you don't know when your next meal is going to be (it will be about 16 hours later)  and then the stewardess gets really petty and gives you grief when you try to bring on your carry on bag with your emergency food onto the very full replacement airplane, because you can't eat the terminal food.   :angry:  <_<   :ph34r:

 

Be sure to check with the airline on what sort of absurd rules they will be using the day you attempt to fly anywhere.   And it's better if you avoid peak travel times and pre and post holiday travel days.  I have to use a backpack because I have such bad tendons in my wrists and I need to keep my hands free, but if you fill the pockets with trail mix and fresh fruit, this really sets off some sort of suspicion profile of someone eating healthy or something.  :wacko:  

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At the last minute a friend gave me a bag of gluten free pancake mix to bring back to Japan. I had NO space in my luggage so I took it out of the box and put it in my carry on just in the plastic bag it came in plus a Ziploc. At security I was taken over to secondary inspection to have my bag of "white powder" analyzed. It took a few minutes to register why they'd want to "check" my pancake mix! I got it back no problem!

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I was just filling out my info for a trip to Israel in June. On El Al Airline there is a choice for gluten free, however it clearly states that it is not for celiacs or sensitive people. I guess it is just lighter gluten, LOL. I am ordering fruit and will be taking my own food.

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Few domestic airlines even offer actual meals anymore,  and those that do usually offer a limited selection, and no longer cater to special diets because the possibility of waste if the flight is delayed, canceled or you are reaccomodated on an alternate flight or airline.  But, call your airline just to make sure.  The reservations agent should be able to let you know. 

 

Still, even if they do offer a gluten free option,  make sure you have enough food in the event that your order gets lost, or in any other way messed up, or you encounter a significant delay like Takala mentioned.   I fly a lot (work for an airline), and while I have had my  share of snags, most of the time I've had smooth sailing.   The TSA will let you pass with just about anything if you tell them it is because of a gluten sensitivity.  Really, they can be very accommodating.

 

Like Takala, I bring sliced cheese, rice crackers and fruit.  I've also brought  yoghurt (allowed past the TSA because of a special diet).  A tip I received  from a TSA agent for ANYONE wanting to bring yoghurt past security is to freeze it solid in its container, and keep it cold on the way to the airport.  If its solid when you go through security, they can let it through. I've also never encountered grief from a flight attendant for bringing my meal on board.  Just make sure you have a container small enough to fit under the seat in front of you and you're golden.  


Remember, too, you can bring several 3 oz containers of liquid/gel substances in your carry on.  I bring several small tupperware-type containers of peanut butter, then sliced apples or carrots to dip into it. I've also brought hummus in those same small containers, with sliced red peppers or other veggies or crackers to dip. 

 

Honestly, I eat better than the passengers that buy a meal. 

 

ETA:  Funny, Julissa, about the gluten-free Lite :lol:     I simply would not trust a gluten-free meal on an aircraft.  Those meals are assembled in the same kitchens as all the other meals and I just would be too afraid of cross-contamination combined with a "please remain seated with your seatbelt securely fastened" situation.   :wacko:

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It highly depends on the airline you are using as some to do a much better job than others.  There is no need to fear eating the gluten-free meal that might be served.

I have had many gluten-free meals on flights and haven't gotten sick from the airline meal and I'm very, very sensitive.  They do take precautions with prep as the airline does not want poeple getting sick on board a flight...especially a longer oversea's flight.  Plus, if they screw up and your meal is not on the flight, whatever food you can have, they will give you first pick from all food on board and deny someone without a food intolerance or allergy and give them something else. This is what they do on Virgin Atlantic.  My gluten-free meal almost didn't make the flight one time and they said there was other food I could have, mainly stuff being served in first class, and I would get to pick from that menu if need be.  First class food is always healthier with salad choices. I thought that a pretty good policy!

 

I only fly Virgin to certain destinations....they are the best airline as far as service is concerned. They also have many other special diet choices for others.  I think you pretty much only get a meal on a long haul flight.  I also bring snacks but the meals have always been good.

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I brought along canned salmon, sardines, and chicken on my last flight.  make sure they have a pull tab.  Hard boiled eggs in an egg carton were edible to.  I also had my own gluten free muffins in meal size packages.  It wasn't the easiest 20 hours of flight, but I got there with my own food sustaining me.

 

One thing to mention.  Pull out any cans of food and show them at Security checkpoint.  When I didn't show them, all of my carryon got analyzed.  My stuff (carefully placed) was pulled out and left all over a table.  We tried to stuff it back in right quick, and it just didn't fit the same.

 

Diana

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It depends on the airline.  I've been able to get gluten free meals several times with no problem on United and Lufthansa.  As far as I know, this is only for international flights.  Everything was labelled 'gluten free' and had my name on it - never been glutened by an in-flight meal with these carriers, either.  Still a good idea to pack enough to eat, though, as you never know if there'll be a cancellation or flight change - or a problem with the meal.

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We've gotten gluten free meals on travel to and from Europe. They tend to be bland like a rice cake and a piece of fruit or plain chicken and rice and salad. They come in sealed packages specially marked with our names. We've also ordered some of the snack boxes and skipped the crackers. They usually have something like a piece of cheese, a little can of tuna, some raisins, a toblerone bar all of which are fine. We take snacks but they get yucky on super long trips (over 15 hours). 

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To reiterate what everyone else has said, be PREPARED.  We travel internationally regularly and must plan ahead.  On our last trip to Paris the airline did not have a meal for me, even though I had ordered it in advance and double checked.  Thankfully I had my stock of food anyway.  But also be prepared not to find anything safe at airports.  Expect delays.  One of our recent flights was delayed six hours at Frankfurt (added to the four we already had). 

 

You should get your gluten free meal first on flights (special meals get served first).  If you are not, be sure to ask immediately.  On the back of one of my snacks that said gluten free on the front (I believe it was a cookie) had wheat listed in the ingredients.  I never eat that sort of icky thing anyway but just be cautious.  The meals themselves should be fine.  Returning from Croatia last time my meals were actually better than my husband's!  I was pleasantly surprised. 

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I travel a lot as well and am now well stocked when I do.  The individual almond butter or sunbutter packets are great, apples, gluten-free bars, GoPicnic ready to eat gluten-free meals (actually found in an airport concession store a couple of times!), nuts, etc.  Starbucks in the airport usually has bananas (don't like to bring them- get squishy).  I recently went to a conference at a really high end hotel and the catering staff for meals were clueless.  The only thing they could really steer me towards was lettuce.  Now I may need to drop a pound or two, but lettuce for three days doesn't cut it!  (and yes, I alerted them early to my gluten-free needs).  Ended up finding a cute little grocery store, and some local restaurants nearby were fine....

 

I've become a traveling convenience store ;)

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In Europe you can get food on some airlines, but not all. If you're about to travel, you ned to contact them before booking and ask. 

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This is really useful because I'm going on a plane in July and I was wondering about this too!

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helpful hint - to keep your traveling food cold, pack in an insulated lunch bag with a bag of frozen peas. Ice packs won't clear TSA, but peas do!

Was just told recently that you can now take a frozen (frozen solid) bottlr of water with you through security. tried it last week at LAX as I had extra time. My carry on bag got pulled for the secondary inspection, but they let me takethe frozen bottle with me! Going to try putting the bottle in its own tray next time. Anyone know anymore about this? It would be a much better cooler pack than peas!

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Was just told recently that you can now take a frozen (frozen solid) bottlr of water with you through security. tried it last week at LAX as I had extra time. My carry on bag got pulled for the secondary inspection, but they let me takethe frozen bottle with me! Going to try putting the bottle in its own tray next time. Anyone know anymore about this? It would be a much better cooler pack than peas!

 

This would be awesome!

 

guess chemicals wouldn't freeze solid like good old H2O,

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that sounds like a great idea, thanks. I leave in 2 weeks for Israel and am planning my food bag now. great tip!

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I have taken frozen water and yogurt on flights many times now with no issues. Been through Canadian, American, EU, NZ, AU, and Japanese security and not had any problems either. In 1994 I worked with UAL and Air Canada to provide safe gluten-free meals on their flights especially the international ones as they were receiving more requests and I, as a traveler for business, flying 100k a year, was having problems getting consistant meals. I was the top consumer of gluten-free meals for both airlines. Meals at that time were also served domestically for travel. In the USA and Canada they take allergen meal prep very seriously in flight kitchens and it is all done in a sterile area where no cross contamination can happen. I cannot speak for the overseas kitchens, however the ones I toured in both counties here were better than any restaurant environment. In fact, UAL, took it one step farther, primarily due to all the issues I had with meals and substitutions, they had a central commissary in Chicago, under sterile and allergen control conditions, prepare all their GFML's and ship them frozen to their flight kitchens to put on planes so each kitchen would no longer make mistakes such as subsitute rice with orzo pasta... Happy travels!

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Thanks for the good suggestions!  We are flying to Germany non-stop from Chicago on United and have ordered the gluten-free meal for hubby.  Still, we will have the suggested foods with us in case it looks inedible.  The non-stop flights are a little pricier, but we thought it would be worth it to NOT have to deal with a stop-over at an airport terminal.  Now, to calm my nerves.  I've flown before, but never overseas! 

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Have a wonderful trip :)

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Thanks for the good suggestions!  We are flying to Germany non-stop from Chicago on United and have ordered the gluten-free meal for hubby.  Still, we will have the suggested foods with us in case it looks inedible.  The non-stop flights are a little pricier, but we thought it would be worth it to NOT have to deal with a stop-over at an airport terminal.  Now, to calm my nerves.  I've flown before, but never overseas! 

When do you go and for how long?  I love Germany. We fly to Europe at least twice a year and though I detest the flights due to horrible pain, it is worth it in the end.  Take a deep breath and relax.  Honest.  If it were not so extremely painful, I would enjoy flying.  I used to!  Look for the Scharr brand of gluten-free stuff.  The sliced bread sucks but the ciabatta rolls are actually quite good.  They also make all sorts of cookies and snacks.

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My Celiac hubby has a question.  What if he doesn't eat everything he takes with him?  Will there be any issues with left-over food when we land in Germany?  We have ordered a gluten-free meal (and airline confirmed), but will be taking some food with us in case of the above-mentioned snafus.  Thanks!

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My Celiac hubby has a question.  What if he doesn't eat everything he takes with him?  Will there be any issues with left-over food when we land in Germany?  We have ordered a gluten-free meal (and airline confirmed), but will be taking some food with us in case of the above-mentioned snafus.  Thanks!

 

I've taken food with me a bunch of times to Europe (including Germany) and I've never had problems - I've brought in fruit, sausages, lara bars, nuts, dried fruit, etc. I think there's always a chance something could be confiscated if you get checked at customs, but I don't think it's likely.

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