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MarathonGirl

American Airlines No-gluten-free Policy

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I am travelling first class from the midwest to Hawaii on December 11, to run the Honolulu Marathon, on December 13. It is now July. I am travelling to Europe later this month, also on American Airlines. American Airlines provides gluten-free meals on overseas flights to Europe. (Thank goodness). When I travel to Hawaii I will be changing planes in LA. American Airlines has flights from LA to Europe, on which they provide gluten-free meals. However, according to Karen Paluch and Customer Service rep Jan at American Airlines in Dallas, American Airlines has made a "business decision" to NOT provide a gluten-free meal on the overseas flight to Hawaii, EVEN THOUGH THEY PROVIDE THOSE MEALS TO OTHER OVERSEAS FLIGHTS ORIGINATING FROM THAT SAME AIRPORT (LAX).

I said that I have a documented disability, and that I don't understand why American chooses not to accomodate it, particularly at an airport where the disability relief I need is being supplied to some overseas flights already. American said IT WAS A BUSINESS DECISION.

When Jan and Karen told me this, I suggested to them that business decisions that result in a lot of negative customer feedback are business decisions that can be changed.

There are 5 months until I fly from LAX to Honolulu. Doesn't it make sense to you, my fellow celiac, that an airlines that supplies some overseas flights originating at LAX with gluten-free meals would, with appropriate prior notice (5 months), also supply my overseas flight with a gluten-free meal for me? What does FIRST CLASS mean, after all? Evidently it does NOT mean first-class service!

Let's give American Airlines some negative feedback so they reconsider this BUSINESS DECISION!

Marathongirl.

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They probably have different food service contracts for domestic and international flights and technically LAX to Hawaii is domestic. Regardless I'm a little surprised that they wouldn't offer gluten-free in first class on a flight of that duration. I've noticed that sometimes the airline websites allow you to order gluten-free meals but the telephone reps don't have it in their list or vice versa. Also, you could try to get the gate agent to order one when you check in. I'm always surprised at the things the first class purser can get on short notice so you could ask when you get on the plane. Good luck!

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If it was me, I don't know that I would trust a "gluten-free" meal from an airline... especially if I was going to something (like a marathon) where I needed to be at my peak physical performance.

I know it's a bummer flying in first class and being unable to enjoy the food... I had that experience back in March (long story). I agree that American could do a lot better job of trying to accomodate a legitimate need. But... I know I would feel better having my own safe, healthy, probably tastier, free-from-cross-contamination, gluten-free meal(s) in my carry-on luggage :P

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I think I agree with MOJ - I'd be taking my own food and not trust their meals, especially if I was going somewhere to run a marathon, but if I was going on a trip of any kind. I just wouldn't want to risk being sick the whole time I was there.

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You'll find this is actually pretty common. Most airlines will only do special meals for international flight, I have yet to find a domestic flight that I have taken with a special meal option.

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You'll find this is actually pretty common. Most airlines will only do special meals for international flight, I have yet to find a domestic flight that I have taken with a special meal option.

Continental still offers special meals on coast-to-coast flights in the U.S. and certain other flights, including LAX to Hawaii. The original poster unfortunately chose the wrong airline.

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I just came back from a vacation to London and Paris. I flew on United and requested gluten-free meals. The meals to Europe were OK and gluten-free. The dinner was chicken and rice and the snack was a crumbled rice cake and a container of applesauce, but at least it was gluten-free. On the way home, the dinner was the worst fish I have ever eaten (which I did not finish) and some veggies. The dinner was served with a packaged non-gluten-free roll! It was definitely a regular roll, identical to my daughter's non-gluten-free meal roll. The snack was two more crumbled rice cakes surrounding some dry chicken and wilted tomatoes. The dessert was a packaged non-gluten-free candy bar with wheat flour listed right in the ingredients. The meal was marked with my name and marked gluten-free Meal. So much for that. Do not trust the airline to get it right. If I hadn't been more observant, I would have been glutened. Next time, I will bring my own snack bars, etc to get me through. Luckily, I did have a pack of M&Ms in my purse!

Laurie

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But you guys are missing the point! American made a "business decision" to discriminate! Yes, the gluten-free meals on flights are unfortunately notoriously unreliable, but refusing to provide one in the first place, when it's requested so far in advance and obviously not impossible to obtain?? I think that is ridiculous! :angry:

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Schools have to accomodate celiacs because kids have to go to school. Private businesses, on the other hand, are allowed to discriminate in certain ways. Nobody is FORCED to fly. If American was losing a lot of business because they don't serve gluten-free meals it would probably convince them to change, but really... I still wouldn't trust them with a gluten-free meal if I was travelling to something important. My son has an allergy to peanuts and there is NO WAY I would let him eat a pre-packaged meal on an airplane. That's the last place to you want to have anaphylaxis :( If people with severe allergies can't get airlines to stop serving peanuts, then I don't see what hope there is for celiacs to change airline policies.

In an ideal world, it would be great if all businesses would accomodate legitimate medical needs and do so in a way that was truly effective... I'm not holding my breath.

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But you guys are missing the point! American made a "business decision" to discriminate! Yes, the gluten-free meals on flights are unfortunately notoriously unreliable, but refusing to provide one in the first place, when it's requested so far in advance and obviously not impossible to obtain?? I think that is ridiculous! :angry:

I cringed when you referred to Celiac as a disability as I do not and never will consider myself disabled. Airlines are not required to accommodate anyone with a medical issue with regards to food. They aren't even required to feed you at all. Diabetics, generally, do not get special meals either. I think the airlines that have them on long haul flights are awfully nice for doing so but I've had some pretty crappy gluten-free meals in first class myself.

If Americans want to fly ultra cheap, and they apparently do, you cannot expect airlines to keep the level of service we received 10-20 years ago. I noticed myself, on a first class flight from London in April of this year, how much they were cutting back on services. It was still nice to fly first class BUT it isn't the same first class it was even 10 years ago because the price was so much cheaper. It's all relative.

I usually try to find a safe restaurant at the airport to eat in during a lay-over or bringing my own food/snacks on board. I will say that Virgin Atlantic does a stellar job of accommodating Celiacs but their gluten-free meal this time was yucky. First time I didn't like it but that's the way it goes. I "survived" on red wine and cashews for the flight which wasn't too bad either! ;) They may supply gluten-free meals to Europe over Hawaii because Europe is loaded with Celiacs and the demand may be MUCH higher on those flights than to Hawaii. Many Europeans fly back and forth to the US on business so they always try to accommodate the business world in a big way. It's all about money these days!

Good luck with your marathon!

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I have had success with some gluten-free meals on flights, but I always take a back up plan. I've done ok on a number of airlines, including Air Canada, but I did have an issue with an Air Canada flight recently. They accidentally gave me a (wrapped) regular roll with my gluten-free meal. Obviously I didn't eat it. They later gave me a sandwich, which I suspected was actually for the vegetarian special meal. I didn't eat that either. I wrote them an email and they gave me a free VIP lounge pass, although that didn't seem like much compensation. I should have had more food with me. The only reason I didn't is because I ran out of Euros.

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I had both an amazing experience and a terrible experience on American Airlines in first class! I was already aware of their policy so, I planned ahead and brought food on both flights. On my way to my honeymoon (my mood might have had something to do with it), one of the flight attendants was gluten-intolerant and was super nice about everything! She told me that the nuts were okay to eat and made me a salad. I was made to feel like a normal person - wow, imagine that! On the way back to Dallas, however, I had a completely different experience. The flight attendants brought me to tears! I asked if the chicken had gravy on it and they told me they didn't know. I explained that I had an allergy and they started laughing! "Allergic to wheat? That's weird," one of the ladies laughed with another customer! This is first class! Then they went off that it wasn't their business to know what was in the food and they couldn't be held accountable for what I ate. Real nice.

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