Dear Delta: Do you Take Food Allergy Safety Seriously?

Dear Delta,

After my most recent round trip flight with you, I can assure you of one thing, that I will not fly Delta again.  Not only did the service suck, but I do not believe your organization takes food allergies seriously and you do not provide adequate training to your staff to help them speak to and manage relationships with customers with food allergies.  I was not provided with meals that suited my food allergy needs on either leg of my journey with you.

I received gluten in my gluten-free meal on both legs of my journey.  Not acceptable.  To anyone reading this letter, please be diligent when you fly any airline and continue to check food labels when you fly.

I flew Delta from Boston to London Heathrow with my husband to visit family for Christmas.  When we booked our tickets weeks in advance, I stated on my booking that I required a gluten-free meal.  I forgot to include a request for cabin staff that didn’t treat me like an inconvenience and leg room.  My bad.

I know coach isn’t supposed to be super-comfortable.  That is why first class was invented.  Fair enough.  However, I do believe that even in coach, a size 6, 5’6” person should not feel so cramped in their seat that they spend the whole flight thinking “Christ, I can’t wait for this to end”.  Generally, I only feel that way about flights with screaming children who run up and down the aisles unchecked by their douchey, self-involved parents.

However, on Delta, I had my first experience of not being able to move my legs, as they were JAMMED up against the seat in front of me.  Since I am not very tall, I was far from the most uncomfortable person on the flight.  I felt really bad for the many people on the plane 5’10” and over.  I spent most of the flight just praying for the turbulence to stop, not because I was afraid, but because I needed to move my legs so badly and wanted to stand up.

When we got into the air, the stewardess came around with pretzels.  I said I had a gluten allergy and did she have anything else.  She said she didn’t know what a gluten allergy was and didn’t want to look at the food labels.  I asked if she just had any peanuts, as there was no sense in trying to explain, she clearly did not care.   I got my peanuts and some attitude.   With the profusion of food allergies: why are Delta cabin staff not trained to understand the basics of food allergies?

On the flight from Boston to Heathrow, I was served the most grotesque meal I have ever eaten on an airplane (and I have flown British Airways, my previous standard for horrible airline food).  I was served a rice cake with butter, a mini salad with some olive on the side and some fruit.  The pièce de résistance was the entrée: rubber chicken breast with rice and vegetables that were so soft and gray, I thought I was eating cat food.

At the end of the flight, I was served a snack of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and some fruit.  Since Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are not gluten-free (they contain barley malt) I couldn’t eat them.

Both Husband and I felt sick after the plane food on Delta and were glad that we had 10 days in the U.K. before we headed home and faced their awful food again.

On the way home, I was again taken aback by the horrible service and lack of understanding of food allergies.   Again, when the cabin crew was serving pretzels and peanuts, I asked for two peanuts and explained my food allergy.  I received a blank stare.

However, I was really pissed off with the staff’s piss poor training and understanding when I received my “gluten-free” meal.  Again, I received a salad, some fruit, a piece of rubbery chicken with “vegetables” and rice.  I was thrilled to see a gluten-free roll on top of my meal.  When I picked it up, I noticed some crackers underneath and was really glad I would have a snack for later.  I picked up the crackers and noticed they were Jacob’s brand (a U.K. brand I used to like).  I thought, wow, Jacob’s is making gluten-free crackers now, awesome!  When I read the ingredients, I realized the crackers had gluten.

You have got to be kidding me Delta

I flagged down the stewardess assigned to our area and said: “I received gluten in my gluten-free meal.  I think you should check with any other gluten-free passengers to ensure they did not also receive products that would make them sick.”  I showed her the pack of crackers.  She said there was no need, it probably fell off another tray and left before I could explain that this was under several products, including butter and salad dressing.  I hope any other gluten-free passengers noticed and didn’t eat the crackers.

It is truly awful to face a six-plus hour flight fearing illness because the airline you are on clearly does not incorporate rigorous standards for ensuring food safety into either their internal business practice or their contractual obligations with external catering vendors.

It is very hard to find gluten-free food in an airport and it is hard to bring a decent meal through security.  Trust me, I have tried.  If I could find good gluten-free options in the terminal, I would just bring my food and avoid your awful and unsafe slop, but I can’t, so at the very least, Delta, would you just make sure my food is safe and that the company responsible for catering for food allergies understands what they are?

At least the roll was gluten-free...

And please don’t write a response to me or post a comment that you are not responsible for what your catering company does.  I bought my ticket from you and you contract with the food vendor.  I work in contracts.  Privity of contract means you are responsible for executing the terms of the contract with me, including overseeing subcontractors to ensure that they meet the standards set forth in the contract, which means the gluten-free meal I ordered.

Since the contract mentioned nothing about pleasant staff or enough leg room to not make me want to rip my own legs off, I guess those are not your “fault” but they are pretty poor business models for retaining and growing your customer base.

So Delta, at least you know now why I will never fly your airline again.   I am also going to encourage all my friends, readers and loved ones with food allergies and long legs to avoid your flights.




2 thoughts on “Dear Delta: Do you Take Food Allergy Safety Seriously?

    • Hi Cheryl,

      I never did hear back from Delta. I guess we will just have to fly Virgin Atlantic / America from now on. They have been really fabulous each time we have travelled with them.

      Thank you for reading and commenting!

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