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