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NJKen

Continental Airlines Has Discontinued gluten-free Meals

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Following what turned out to be a 13-hour flight from Amsterdam to Newark on March 15th in which my reserved gluten-free meal was "not on their list", I wrote to Continental Airlines via their website. I described my flight experience and noted that their updated special meals list, which came out that same day, omitted gluten-free as an option. I received the following response:

Thank you for contacting Continental Airlines.

I understand you had some concerns about the Gluten-free meals. Effective March 15, 2010, Gluten-free meals were discontinued. I am sorry to learn of your disappointment and understand that you could not enjoy the meal service onboard your flight, especially since the flight was delayed.

Several special options including Gluten-free, Low-Fat, Low-Sodium, and Diabetic meals were discontinued, and later this year complimentary food service overall will be limited to primarily international routes. As an alternative, we will be offering several food items for sale onboard many of our flights. We recently introduced a program for customers to swipe their debit and credit cards onboard for in-flight purchases.

The decision to change our policy came after we analyzed market and consumer trends and found that travelers were not selecting their airline based on the meals offered. Our traditional free-food model, which served us well for many years, needed to be updated to reflect today

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Effective March 15, 2010, Gluten-free meals were discontinued. I am sorry to learn of your disappointment and understand that you could not enjoy the meal service onboard your flight, especially since the flight was delayed.

I wonder if the change was made in preparation for the merger with United, and if the subsequent re-introduction was only until the merger takes place?

US airliners are perpetual money-losers, and are resorting to survival tactics including fees for everything under the sun, and elimination of any service that they can't charge a fee for. They can't charge for special meals, so eliminating the low-volume ones may be their response.

I suppose we all may have to fly a non-US flag airline in order to eat.

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I'd never trust a prepared meal from an airline anyhow! Have lunchbox... will travel... w/ GOOD gluten-free food!!

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Fly American Airlines. They were super-careful with my requested meals and the food was decent (and dairy-free as well as gluten-free). It was rather comforting to be served quinoa pilaf. :)

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Fly American Airlines. They were super-careful with my requested meals and the food was decent (and dairy-free as well as gluten-free). It was rather comforting to be served quinoa pilaf. :)

Ditto for Virgin Atlantic. Yeah, they aren't an American flag carrier but they are English....close enough! :P

I got a warm gluten-free roll that was really good, along with great gluten-free meals. Never got sick from one of them and I am uber-sensitive.

I figure if the English can't get it right, no one can. I haven't flown Virgin America yet but if their service is half as good as their English cousin, it'll be great.

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Fly American Airlines. They were super-careful with my requested meals and the food was decent (and dairy-free as well as gluten-free). It was rather comforting to be served quinoa pilaf. :)

The return flight was equally good with regards to service and safe food. The breakfast wasn't dairy-free, but was nice for me as I was served thick yogurt instead of breakfast pastries along with my fruit and juice (I'd much prefer the yogurt even if there were gluten-free pastries available).

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Continental Airlines' special meals list now includes "Gluten Intolerant": http://www.continental.com/web/en-US/content/travel/inflight/dining/special/default.aspx

I guess I wasn't the only customer who was unhappy...

I received the following email while I was away on vacation:

Thank you for contacting Continental Airlines.

I understand you had some concerns about Gluten-free meals.

We discontinued serving Gluten-free meals March 15, 2010; however, in response to customer feedback, we started serving them again, effective May 1, 2010.

I apologize for any inconvenience our policy created for you. It is never our intention to cause you distress of any kind. Your feedback is important to us, and I will forward your comments to our management team for internal review.

We appreciate your business and look forward to welcoming you onboard your next Continental Airlines flight.

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Thanks for the update. I need to fly in a few months and I was worried about this. I'll still be bringing plenty of food with me but it's nice to know there are gluten-free options at least.

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