You wouldn’t have thought it would be that hard! But flying gluten free in Australia is actually a little more complex than we expected. Firstly, because of the differing food options on the individual airlines. Some don't offer a meal at all, and others only on selected flights. For those that do you you must specify your requirement for gluten free food at least 24 hours prior. Below we detail who serves gluten free meals and what you need to do to make sure you get one.
Qantas serve complimentary refreshments and snacks on all flights. They serve meals on flights between Perth and Adelaide/Brisbane/Canberra/Darwin/Melbourne/Sydney, as well as flights between Sydney and Adelaide/Brisbane/Canberra/Melbourne. The meals are suited to the time of day at which you are travelling.
If you require a gluten free meal or refreshment on any service you specify at least 24 hours prior to check-in. There is no food for purchase and speaking from experience, there is no food on the flight that will be suitable apart from apples (although they did throw a whole heap of pretzels our way and ask if they were suitable, points for trying?!). So, if you miss the cut off make sure you take your own gluten free food.
On a recent business trip, we were confused with who the airline would be on the way home (we didn't organise our flights) and it wasn’t until we got to the airport that we realised we were flying Qantas. A quick trip to the customer service desk informed us that we weren’t going to be able to put in for a gluten free meal at such late notice (fair enough). In speaking with the flight attendant on the plane, we were informed that if you call 13 13 13, you might have some chance of rectifying the situation. So that is a good tip for anyone who misses the 24 hour cut off!
Virgin serve complimentary drinks on all flights, a complimentary hot meal is served on flights between Perth and Brisbane/Sydney/Melbourne, a complimentary snack is served on flights operating within Western Australia.
If you are travelling on any of the above services offering food, and you require a gluten free refreshment or meal you will need to notify the airline 24 hours in advance of departure.
If you are travelling on any other Virgin domestic service you will be able to purchase from the inflight menu, on which there will be some (maybe three if you are lucky) gluten free snack options (delicious Spotted Cow Cookies peaked our interest!), although none of the 'meals' (hot food options) on offer were gluten free last time we flew Virgin. The Virgin in-flight menu does have the gluten free options marked so you can see what you are able to eat at a glance. Also, a note to keep in mind, is that none of the options are particularly healthy so you may wish to pack your own food.
Domestic Jetstar flights in Australia do not serve any complimentary food or drinks. The options to purchase are, as above, below par on the health rating. At the time this piece was written, you would be able to have sea salt chips, a gluten free cookie or perhaps an ice-cream if you can get a squiz of the label, their in-flight menu isn’t marked so you will have to put your mad label reading skills to good use!
Domestic Tiger flights do not serve anything complimentary (actually we are surprised the toilets aren’t coin operated too but you do get what you pay for). Again prepare to use your label reading skills. A quick google search determines the assorted nut mix is probably gluten free but make sure you double check the stock on the day. Unfortunately, that is the only option for us gluten free jet setters. Again it would be best to take some food with you.
Now, a few boring notes here;
- We didn’t link to the menus because they are all PDFs and likely the be changed and unreachable from our site at any time. If you google ‘inflight menu airline’ (for example, 'inflight menu Qantas') you will find a link to the most recent menus.
- You get what you pay for when it comes to flying and as we know too well, gluten free costs more. If you want a better food experience travel with one of the more expensive carriers. If budget restricts this then be prepared and take your own food.
- Our musings are based on the menus at the time, always ask to read the label of anything before you purchase, this will avoid that inevitable food envy disappointment we sometimes experience.
Happy travelling. We hope this post will help make your journey a slightly better one!