Monday, August 6, 2012

Eating Gluten-Free on Delta Airlines

Airlines Serve Gluten-Free Meals?

Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don't.

Usually the first criterion is a long flight. If you don't have a flight that is at least four hours long, you have almost no option for a gluten-free meal.

Next, you must have selected an airline that regularly offers special meals.

Third, you need to have selected an airline that offers gluten-free meals.

Fourth, the airline you have selected must load the proper number of gluten-free meals onto your flight.

Fifth, the flight attendants need to correctly distribute the gluten-free meals to those who requested them before departure.

If all of these criteria are met, then you have a pretty good chance at getting a gluten-free meal.

Even with all of that, you still have no guarantees.

Forget asking for a gluten-free snack. I've never seen such option.

Gluten-Free meals on Delta Airlines

I recently flew internationally on Delta Airlines. I had the option of flying American Airlines. Both offer gluten-free meals. But the airports and connections and timing was better with Delta.

So, Delta it would be.

Then I searched online for information about getting gluten-free meals on Delta. That is when I began to worry.

I found lots of complaints about Delta Airlines and their purportedly gluten-free meals.

Meals labeled gluten-free, but containing clearly-labeled, gluten-laden components.

Gluten-free meals requested at the time of ticket purchase, but no gluten-free meals were loaded on the flight.

Flight attendants unwilling to take back a gluten-laden meal, even though a gluten-free meal had been requested.

Scary stuff.

I dread the thought of unknowingly consuming gluten on a long flight. If this were to happen, I would be forced to jump to the front of the line for the restroom and stay in there for the remainder of the flight.

And if that flight still has four or five hours left before landing?

Not good. Not good.

Let me apologize, in advance, to all of my fellow passengers, should this ever happen.

If you ever see someone demand the restroom and not come out, please be understanding!

To the airlines: Please, don't ever feed me gluten!

Back to the food.

This was my Delta gluten-free dinner. Grilled (I think) chicken with no seasonings, boiled vegetables and rice, green salad and dressing, margarine, plain rice cake, and fresh fruit for dessert.

This was edible.

Tasty? No. Filling? No. Satisfying? No. Edible? Yes.

While on an airplane, I lower my standards to simply "safely edible". This meal met that criterion.

Gluten-free dinner? Success!

Never mind that I ate this dinner at 2:30 AM in an unexpected detour to an airport. That was Delta's fault, but had nothing to do with the gluten-free status of the meal.

Breakfast later that morning turned out to be more of a challenge.

For breakfast, I was handed a standard meal.

I handed it back, informing the flight attendant that I had requested a gluten-free meal. He took it back and went off to find my gluten-free breakfast.

He returned and informed me that there had only been three gluten-free breakfasts on the plane and they had already been distributed.

"But I had requested a gluten-free meal! There should be one for me."

"There's nothing I can do. They have been all been given to other passengers. There are no more." And then he hands me a normal breakfast tray, taking away the breakfast sandwich that was wrapped in foil.

That tray had fruit and yogurt left on it.

I carefully read the ingredients on the yogurt, but it was not conclusive whether the "modified food starch" would be safe for me.

Hungry, I took a risk. I ate the yogurt.

And I got lucky. No problem.

No problem except that they did not provide me with a gluten-free meal that I had specifically requested.

Gluten-free breakfast? Failure.

Were they handing out gluten-free meals to just anyone who asked for one? Had each of those gluten-free breakfast recipients requested a gluten-free meal ahead of time? Or had Delta miscounted and not put the proper number of gluten-free meals on the plane?

I don't know who is to blame, but it doesn't matter. This should not happen.

I requested a gluten-free meal because I need one. Not because it is in fashion. Not because it is the hip, new diet. Not because I just discovered while on the plane that they were available. Not because I just wanted to try it out.

I did my homework and researched safe options for traveling. I requested my safe food in the time specified by the instructions given by the airlines. I checked everything before I consumed it.

I did my part.

Delta, you did not do yours. Well, not all of it. I got half of the safe meals I requested.

Can I have refund on that missing gluten-free meal?

More importantly, will you be able to take care of me completely next time I fly? Will I choose Delta next time?

Maybe not, if I have other options.


  1. I like gluten-free meals mostly for their nutritional benefits. Since I started working out, I try to avoid most carbohydrates as possible. Good thing I also have vega sport supplement to help me receive so essential nutrients.

  2. I fly on international flights regularly and find that Qantas is the best hands down. Their GF meals are tasty and the crew is very aware of what gf is as well as what it isn't. I've never had a problem with them, and even on short domestic flights, gf food is always served.

  3. Oh, this doesn't bode well for my trip on delta coming up in 2 weeks. Dang Dang Dang! Ok, back to bringing my own food, yet again.

    Loved your post, thanks!


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