Flying gluten-free can be challenging, but it can be done. As I take trips, I’m making notes of which airlines had great food, which airlines fell short, and how I managed various scenarios.
As a rule, ordering gluten-free meals on domestic flights is a perk reserved only for business and first-class passengers. This is because main cabin, coach, or whatever-your-airline-calls-it passengers don’t, generally, get meal service on domestic flights. Airlines do have food for sale on these flights, and non-alcoholic beverages are still free (at least on the airlines I’ve flown!).
For international flights, you can order a special meals for the flight, and, knock on wood, my success rate has been excellent (though the food quality can be spotty). My meals have arrived as ordered, and, on my last flight, my flight, my flight attendant was also gluten free, so she was particularly careful and attentive when it came to serving me. That was really nice!
Remember: you must order gluten-free, or any other special meals, in advance. Every airline has a different process. The easiest way I’ve found to determine how to best accomplish getting your order in on time is to Google “special meals [name of airline]”.
Before we get into the airlines, I’d like to reiterate that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to flying these days, and you (like me) will likely want to be prepared for emergencies with a few snacks in your carry-on. Heck, this is good advice for travelers *without* special dietary needs — I was once on a Virgin America flight that, due to a weird day of weather and changed schedules, ran out of food very early in the flight. I was one of the lucky ones who’d ordered before this happened, and, boy, was I grateful.
- Coach, Domestic/International (Canada): Alaska offers GF meals, based on your travel, and gluten-free snacks. Their Mediterranean Tapas Pack is both vegan and gluten free.
- Coach, Domestic Flights: American Airlines, you’re killing me. You keep telling me you’re gonna add gluten-free snacks for domestic flights, but I haven’t encountered them yet. Plain potato chips, that’s all I ask. Seriously. I’ve been a loyal customer for a very long time, but you are losing me. Because, while I won’t starve to death on a traditional, no-delays flight, it would be really grand if I could, you know, I could be treated like the rest of passengers in coach.
- First Class, International: Technically, I was booked for business, but ended up in first class (ah, twists of fate, I do adore you). So let me say, British Airways first class cabins rock! I had a fantastic flight, and when I win the lottery, I will be flying first class forever. Even though I knew i was getting a special meal, I read the first class menu avidly, thinking that, surely, one of those item would be made available for me. Sigh. I ended up with dry chicken breast accompanied by paste. I would have called it sauce, but my flight attendant called it paste. As in “I don’t know what the paste is.” The paste was good, sweet. The meal was boring. The service was fantastic, by the way.
- Business Class, International: Now this is what I’m talking about! Excellent gluten-free food on this flight. The first meal started with a light salad and smoked salmon with capers. A gluten-free roll was on the side. The main course was, sigh, chicken breast with potatoes and veggies. A slightly lemony sauce accompanied it. It was much tastier than my first meal, so I count that as a big win! For the second meal — or, tea — I was treated to a lovely smoked salmon and cucumber gluten-free sandwich. A small GF chocolate cake — very heavy on the chocolate — accompanied this meal. I was also given a cheese plate during the flight, and that was also fantastic. The service throughout the flight was top notch!
- Coach, Domestic: Ah, your Terra Blues potato chips, I love them, and appreciate that you make them available at no additional cost. As silly as it sounds, this tiny little detail makes me more inclined to be a loyal customer. JetBlue also offers a “Shape Up” box for sale — it’s kosher, vegetarian, and gluten free!). Also offered is a kale salad and veggie plate (neither are expressly noted as gluten free).
- Coach, Domestic: I’ve only flown Virgin America a couple of times since eliminating gluten from my diet, but not on a flight long enough to justify ordering their Artisan Cheese Box with gluten-free crackers. It looks amazing, with fresh and dried fruits accompanying the cheese. They also sell Popchips as a snack.
- Coach, International: I admit it: I was nervous on my first international flight after going gluten free. I was nervous that the airline would get it wrong. They’d forget. Something. I was sure of it. Luckily, it was a dream scenario. Nothing happened. I was fed two (dinner and breakfast) excellent meals. Yes, airplane food, but it was good. Better, I think, than the non-gluten-free meal my husband ate. Going out, I enjoyed gluten-free pasta.
Tip of the Week
You can only order one type of special meal for a particular flight. For example, if you are both vegan and gluten free, your meal must be vegan *or* GF. It cannot be both.
Menu of the Week
Not only are frittatas easy to make any night of the week, not to mention a great way to use up extra cheese and veggies, but they are also delicious cold. This makes them ideal for travel meals. Pop a wedge or two into a container, put the container in an insulated lunch bag/box, and you have a fantastic, filling meal for your flight.
Broccoli and Goat Cheese Frittata
Vanilla Greek Yogurt with Fresh Fruit
6 thoughts on “Gluten-Free Airline Meals and Snacks Reviews”
I can also add:
Delta Business class;
Gluten free meals differ from meat and rice to chicken and potato, side of salad.
They have rice crackers (only airline that does that effort.) fruit at the end watch out for the chocolate some have gluten. By far the best option out there meal wise.
Copa airlines/united Buisness class:
NO GF can you believe it and everything is Gluten, breakfast is cereal and dinner/ lunch is bread or pasta!! Very rude when calling they say just have a fruit plate…. really for dinner.
tried my luck scraped the egg quiche for breakfast from the base. ohh wat a cramps, etc I had 🙁
Worst is flight attended would not get me a coach option!
Jet blue Mint class;
I am traveling with them soon, they contacted me with a menu preference, like wow. ill post later how it was.
Let me tell you a tale about American airlines and gluten free. My wife and I traveled to Lima, Peru for a three week vacation in March 2017 which ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Of course I followed the procedure and called the airline to request a gluten free meal on the outbound trip to Lima and the return from Buenos Aires. I got on the plane to Lima and when the meals were being handed out asked where mine was. I was very politely told by the Flight Attendant that the flight was not long enough to qualify for an ordered meal (5 hours from Tampa), and that I should have been told that by the person who took my request on the phone. As a result I did not have a meal though the crew was very apologetic and gave me a plate full of fruit they got from someplace. I felt safe for the return trip because that was around 8 hours in length. After getting on the plane and going through the same process of watching everyone else get their meal I asked where mine was (remember this flight met the time requirement). They once again apologized and said there was no meal on the list for me. I complained and once again the crew went out of their way to find me something to consume (more fruit). When I got back home I called American airlines and complained. I told them all they had to do was tell me I couldn’t get a meal and I would have brought my own! They apologized for the screw up on the outbound flight by not telling me I did not qualify (still don’t get that rule) and for not having a meal for me on the return. They offered me 5000 air miles to my American air account which I accepted. I have been flying American and USAIR (bought by American recently) for over 20 years for business and vacation travel both domestic and international. I felt they did an extremely poor job of providing services to people who need them. I will never again get on a plane for a long flight without having a meal to eat even if I have reserved a gluten free meal.
lee — i totally get it with with AA. on a recent (okay, january 2017) flight from australia to la, it was discovered by the flight crew that another attendant had given my GF meal to another passenger. the crew did scramble to find something, and, sigh, provided me with something that was completely inedible (the two flight attendants helping me were in concurrence). i appreciated the effort, truly, but wasn’t happy AT ALL about not being fed. luckily, i’d had a large-ish breakfast, and the crew was able to work out fruit and yogurt for me. this was not a good thing, and, like you, i always travel with back-up food in the form of kind or other bars. alas, on a flight that long, i wanted a meal-meal, not a bar.
American Airlines – flew 1st class and requested gluten free meal before the flight.
I had to ask what the hot cereal was as the grain was not recognizable. Oatmeal. It looked more like a rice kernel split lengthwise.
In addition, they gave me 2 packages of wheat crackers – for breakfast.
I did not eat any of it.
i am sorry you had such a horrible experience. that has *not* been mine on american, and i hope you raised the issue to the company. the wheat crackers are totally unacceptable (i wonder if you had a similar situation to mine when another passenger somehow snagged by GF meal, and the flight attendants had to cobble together something as the passenger had already eaten my meal).
I have flown Qantas twice and specified GF. The first time I was served eggs (which I am allergic to) and had to hand it back, they found an extra fruit tray. They often offer fruit tray with yoghurt as a breakfast option. The meals are generally nice but the packaged muffins or cakes are inedible – stiff and dry. I don’t like Udis though (common offerings) and generally just skip the GF bread-type options. Qantas is very generous on international flights and the snack section is free.
Has anyone flown United International to Australasia? I bought a ticket from Travelosity and thought I was buying an Air New Zealand ticket but it turned out to be United with ANZ as the Aukland to Wellington connection. I am not enthusiastic about the GF offerings I am reading about online. (And they make you pay for your snacks!)