TOKYO — Gluten allergies are the worst. You can’t eat breads, cereals or pastas and often have to resort to tasteless non-gluten grains and leafy vegetables to supplement your diet. But one man who recently flew with ALL Nippon Airways (ANA) hit rock bottom when he was served a single banana as his gluten-free meal.
According to the Independent, Martin Pavelka, 32, from London was onboard a nine-and-a-half hour flight from Tokyo to Sydney on April 20, the second leg of his journey that began in London. As someone suffering from coeliac disease, he had ticked the gluten-free box for his meal prior to boarding, fully expecting a meal not as varied or enticing as the full English breakfast other passengers were enjoying, maybe, but a meal nonetheless.
What arrived on his tray, however, was a slightly bruised banana, with a label that identified his seat number and the letters ‘GF’ to indicate Gluten-Free. Even more laughable is the fact that the offensive fruit was served with a knife, fork, salt and pepper.
Pavelka, who’s flown many times before, said his gluten-free meals in the past have sometimes been bland, while others were actually much better than the ordinary meal service. “On this flight, I was left literally speechless,” he told the Evening Standard. “This was a nine-hour flight. Although definitely gluten-free, the banana did not keep me full for very long.”
Pavelka said the flight attendant apologized. “I think the stewardess realized something wasn’t right too. The fault must be somewhere in management.”
A spokesperson for ANA told The Independent: “ANA takes great pride in providing an exemplary customer experience for all passengers, and for this one passenger we did not meet his expectations. We have apologised to him personally and as a result of his experience we are reviewing our policy on gluten free options and how they are served.”
The spokesperson also noted that there were two food services during the international flight, the first of which was a full meal served an hour after departure. Pavelka was served the banana as his pre-ordered gluten-free snack option two hours before arrival.
“We make every effort to meet our passengers’ needs and in this situation felt we accommodated our guest’s additional food requests inflight by providing an additional regular meal as well as an entrée from the regular menu for his snack. To imply that ANA only serves a banana for a flight of this length is incorrect,” the spokesperson said.