Gluten Free Travel: Changes to In-Flight Catering on British Airways

The announcement was finally made this week that British Airways are due to scrap complimentary food and drinks on all short haul flights departing London Heathrow and Gatwick in Economy from 11 January 2017.

Normally I would pay little interest to this for several reasons (not least there’s usually nothing gluten free on offer in Economy) but when I heard they would be selling Marks & Spencer’s food on-board I was intrigued. M&S are delivering some really great gluten free products at the moment, from a wide range of sandwiches, wraps and salads through to sweet options.

I reached out to both M&S and British Airways via Twitter to see what might be on offer for the gluten free traveller next year on BA. I was particularly interested to see if they would offer a savoury option as well as – I imagine – the ubiquitous sweet treat which seems to be the default option for gluten free provision.


I also asked Marks and Spencer what would be on the in-flight menu:



Finally I checked the BA website which states:

“Launching on 11 January, a seasonally inspired ‘M&S on board’ menu will feature a variety of delicious fresh sandwiches, salads, savoury nibbles and sweet treats. There will be a number of healthy eating, gluten-free and vegetarian options to choose from, including many of the popular selections you know and love from this iconic, British high street favourite.”

So far so good, right? Maybe, maybe not.

Here is the list of food options which are published on the BA website as available to buy. And just look at what’s first in the list! The bane of every gluten free flyer, the FRUIT SALAD!

Fresh food

Classic Fruit Salad £3.10

Includes pineapple, melon, mango, apple, kiwi and blueberries.

Yogurt with Summer Berry Compote and Crunchy Granola – £1.95 

Reduced-fat Greek-style yogurt, blackberry and blackcurrant compote and granola with sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Mature Cheddar Cheese Ploughman’s – £3.00 

Farmhouse cheddar cheese with vine-ripened tomatoes, pickle and lettuce on malted brown bread

Aberdeen Angus Beef and Red Onion Chutney Bloomer – £4.75

Soft onion bloomer with Aberdeen Angus beef, red onion chutney and tangy mustard.

Bacon Roll – £4.75

A soft white, buttered roll filled with succulent smoked British bacon. Served hot.

Mozzarella and Tomato Focaccia – £4.75

Buffalo mozzarella, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes and fragrant basil pesto dressing on pesto focaccia. Served hot.

Spiced Chicken with Quinoa and Rice – £4.95

Spiced chicken with quinoa, rice and a smoky tomato salsa.

Savoury snacks

Oriental Snack Mix – £2.00

Sesame-coated roasted cashew nuts, edamame soybeans, and roasted corn with puffed brown rice all with a soy and five-spice seasoning.

Hand Cooked Crisps – £1.00

Salt and Vinegar, or Lightly Sea Salted.

Nut Assortment – £1.60

A selection of almonds, brazil nuts, cashew nuts and hazelnuts.

Wasabi Peas – £1.60

Roasted green peas with a punchy wasabi flavoured coating.

Something sweet

Percy Pig – £1.85

Soft fruit-flavoured gums made with fruit juice…an M&S classic.

Salted Caramel Hazelnut Millionaire Biscuit – £1.45

Made without wheat and deliciously gluten free.

Chocolate Pretzels and Candy Popcorn – £2.45

Milk chocolate-covered toffee popcorn with popping candy pieces.

Super Nut Fruit and Seed Flapjack – £1.45

Soft, chewy all-butter flapjack.

From the list above of savoury options, perhaps the chicken and quinoa salad will be gluten free, but I’ve been unable to find nutritional information online for this salad so I don’t know. If you’ve seen it in store and know if it is/is not gluten free, please do leave a comment below and I’ll edit this post.

As someone with a nut allergy, I find it interesting they will be actively selling the Nut Assortment on the flights (I’m allergic to 2 of the 4 nuts listed in that pack), in addition to the Oriental Snack Mix which also contains cashew nuts. Is this really necessary to introduce more allergens to the plane when you have a choice not to? For me, this also means that the one listed Made Without Wheat item, Salted Caramel Hazelnut Millionaire Biscuit is off limits for me also (allergic to hazelnuts).

So, what does this mean for the gluten free flyer? Not much change in my view. Either eat at one of the good gluten free options at the airports (there are many options at both London airports e.g., Carluccio’s, Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food, Leon, The Grain Store….) Or take along your own picnic of things you actually like eating. And you’ll probably save some £ too. Which will come in handy since from January BA will be charging £6 for a gin and tonic.

Notes:

  • These changes apply to short haul flights with a flight time under 5 hours
  • Moscow (flight time 4 hours) is NOT included in the upcoming changes
  • The changes apply to flights departing London Heathrow and London Gatwick on British Airways. If you’re flying on BA from Stansted or London City, these changes do not apply
  • This also does not apply to flights in Club Europe where an enhanced in flight meal service is apparently planned (I won’t hold my breath on that one….)
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6 Comments

  1. September 30, 2016 / 11:59 am

    I’ve got mixed feelings about this too – I will miss the complimentary g&t but could never eat the food anyway so if there’s something gluten-free worth eating then it’s a bonus. Though M&S have some good gf options they do have a habit of sticking wheat in their salads where it doesn’t belong (wheat berries in a quinoa salad – why?) so will be interesting to see what they come up with (though after losing by luggage twice and moving me from a seat I paid for in the last 3 flights with BA I’m not sure I’ll be flying with them much more anyway!!).

    • September 30, 2016 / 12:05 pm

      Yes, I agree with you about the random wheaty additions in M&S salads, although I’ve noticed less of this recently as they’ve ramped up their gluten free offerings. I’ve searched for the full ingredients of the salad listed on the BA website but I don’t see it on M&S website and it’s not in Coeliac UK’s F&D Directory. So I wonder if this is a new for BA.

      Wow, losing your luggage twice and moving your seat 3 times even when you’ve paid for it? That’s really bad luck. Why were the seat changes made? I hope you were refunded for the seat charge and your luggage was eventually located?

  2. September 30, 2016 / 7:14 pm

    I have never been able to eat on planes, particularly long haul or at the airport, as nothing historically has catered for people with eating allergies/sensitivities. Whenever I’ve ordered something in advance, they never have it when I’m on the plane. However, I gave up M&S gluten-free bread long ago as I’m intolerant to maize/corn too. I know they and other food mfrs mean well but the free-froms are always full of other junk that allergic eaters can’t or wouldn’t dream of eating, particularly sugar. All these so-called health bars in the shops are loaded with high GI fruit, nuts and fat. I don’t know who advises these companies but they haven’t got it right yet and there is likely to be cross-contamination issues involved in the food preparation unless they are specifically gluten-free companies.

  3. September 30, 2016 / 10:41 pm

    I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I am sad for what these changes mean about the state of BA’s finances. I liked the fact that our national carrier was one of the few remaining airlines that don’t completely nickel and dime you for everything. As for the food, to be honest I reckon the only gf savoury item will be the fruit salad (SODDING fruit salad) as I think I’ve seen a similar quinoa salad in store and been disappointed to note it was wheaty. I’m also not a fan of nuts so won’t be having the millionaire’s bar. I also think that’s an odd choice, especially as nuts are tricky for a lot of people as you mention. I wonder why they didn’t pick the rice crispy bar one which is much less contentious?

    However on the other hand, I could never eat the short haul in flight food in BA anyway so it’s not like I’ve really lost anything. If it means BA can hobble along for a bit longer, so be it. I am horrified that they’re going to start charging for drinks. That was the one perk I looked forward to at the end of a stressful business trip!

  4. October 18, 2016 / 10:50 am

    Noooooo! I fly to Porto with them on January 12th! What bad timing 🙂

    I agree: M&S gluten-free range is fantastic and they should be including these options on the flights. Even their GF cheese ploughmans would be fine. Come on BA!

    Thanks for looking into this Mrs D – really helpful!

    • October 18, 2016 / 11:43 am

      Oh no! But Porto, that’ll be fantastic. I’ve never been but I’d love to visit. I like that m&s cheese ploughmans, would happily take that over BA GF meal.

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