Man Asks for Gluten Free Meal on Flight, Gets a Banana Instead
The incident went down on All Nippon Airways.
A hungry passenger on a nine-hour All Nippon Airways flight got just one single, solitary banana. He was forced to eat his lone airplane fruit while his fellow travelers feasted on the regular breakfast meal.
“All other passengers were served a full breakfast meal consisting of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, bread, and yogurt,” Martin Pavelka complained to the Evening Standard There’s almost nothing worse than watching other people eat when you’re starving yourself.
Pavelka, who was flying from Tokyo to Sydney on a trip that cost him about £1,200, is not one of the many people out there these days who want to claim a gluten intolerance – he actually suffers from celiac disease.
While the banana certainly does quality as gluten free, it wasn’t enough nourishment for Pavelka. Oddly enough, the airline seems to have pre-packaged what can only be considered a light snack as the only gluten free meal. Pavelka says it came with a note attached that read “GF” along with a fork and knife, and a packet of salt. I've personally never tried banana with salt, and I never intend to.
“When the stewardess came to me, she said, ‘We’ve got a special meal for you’ and I got the banana,” he recounted. “I asked, ‘Is this a joke?’ She just said, ‘I’m really sorry, that’s the gluten-free meal.’”
Pavelka tried to complain to the helpless stewardess—among good natured laughs from his fellow passengers—but there was nothing to do but go hungry on the rest of his flight, or get sick. He chose hunger.
Pavelka acknowledges that he did receive a full gluten-free meal during the flight, so the airline isn't completely ignorant about dietary restrictions. However, his issues stems from the fact that in the morning, during the second meal service when he witnessed passengers chowing down on full platters of food, there was no additional gluten-free breakfast option offered to him.
In their official statement, All Nippon Airways disputes Pavelka's version of events. They said in a statement to Food & Wine that, "During an international flight on the Tokyo-Sydney route, there are two food services. The first service is a full meal an hour after departure and the second is a snack service two hours before arrival...On this specific instance, the passenger ordered a gluten free meal and then a gluten free snack. The banana he ordered was the gluten free snack option."
Airlines are having a growing public relations problem lately: Back in April, Delta tried to alleviate travel delays by offering frustrated passengers free pizza. That same month, United Airlines faced seriously backlash for violently dragging a passenger from one of its flights. The banana incident, while annoying, seems relatively tame by comparison.
Pavelka later complained to All Nippon Airways, who say they have personally apologized to Pavelka. The airline insists that his "[implication] that ANA only serves a banana for a flight of this length is incorrect.” Let's hope they're right—and here's hoping airline food improves for everyone.