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Most people dread airline food, but when you have coeliac disease it can be a nightmare. Stuck in the sky for nine hours with no food would literally be hell for me – so when I request a gluten free meal I sit with my fingers crossed hoping I’ve got it.

I’ve flown with British Airways before and had a reasonably good gluten free experience (read more about that here), but never with Thomas Cook. I couldn’t find any other experiences with them online so I had to hope on my flight to Cuba my gluten free request would go through! Despite having checked with the travel agent about four times before flying, when the air stewardess reached my seat and handed me a non-gluten free meal, I began to panic. Which quickly worsened when she looked down the list of ‘special meals’ and couldn’t find my name.

It could have been because we booked seats but then upgraded at the airport, but after having a few stern words she somehow managed to magically find a gluten free meal somewhere – so not sure exactly what the mix up had been, but I was too relieved to even care, and she took my details so she could triple check my gluten free request would be on my flight home.


So what was the meal itself like? Well, everyone else had an option of sausage or chicken with mash – and I also had chicken, so I didn’t feel too left out! As far as an airline meal went it was, well, edible. I was glad it had some form of gravy, the chicken was a little shriveled but overall it was pretty decent – and not that different from what Steve had in his meal. It was nice to have sliced potatoes as well – would have appreciated a bit more food though, the chicken was tiny!


Alongside the micro-meal, I also had a bread roll, brownie and chunk of cheese. This was compared to the ‘normal’ meal which had bread, two chunks of cheese, crackers, and some form of pudding.

The bread roll reminded me of when I first got diagnosed and the gluten free bread was so rock solid you could build a house with it. It was solid – I took one bite, and even tried to soften it with some butter and the rest of the gravy, but I just couldn’t eat. If I could give some constructive criticism to Thomas Cook, I would say perhaps they should invest in some gluten free crackers, instead of the bread, which would probably keep a lot better and be more edible!

But the absolute BEST part of the meal, was the surprise of a Honeybuns brownie!!

IMG_1322The milk chocolate brownie made my day – a delicious edition to the meal and much better than Steve’s pudding! A great sweet treat, this brownie was rich and chocolately, the perfect texture, and with a hint of coffee too! It was delicious.

On my flight home, I forgot to take some photos, but I had some braised beef which was actually quite tasty (though still skimping on the meat content) and for the ‘breakfast’ I had fruit and yoghurt – everyone else had this plus a muffin. With gluten free muffins so easy to source, it was a shame I had to miss out.

It does annoy me, when I pay exactly the same for a meal as everyone else, yet they just take out the ‘gluteny’ things. Surely, as a paying customer, they should replace these things?

British Airways or Thomas Cook – who wins?

Overall though, the meal kept me satisfied until I could hit the all inclusive buffet at the hotel – and Wetherspoon when I got back to Gatwick – so it did the trick. Although the main meals weren’t quite as filling as the British Airways ones, I think the fact they have Honeybuns on board won it for me. Sorry BA, Thomas Cook has certainly led the way. But please, someone sort out those rolls! With so many good options out there, why settle for the crap ones?

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About Sarah Howells

Hi, I'm Sarah! Diagnosed with coeliac disease 20 years ago, I'm on a mission to create the best gluten free recipes since sliced bread. No fruit salads or dry brownies here.

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  1. I have only flown once with Thomas Cook and was unable to eat the roll in their GF meal as they de-glutenised wheat and I have a wheat allergy! Also, the cream cheese they supplied with my meal stated in French that it contained gluten, not impressed in the slightest. The staff brought me some fruit from their own supply so that I could have a little extra to eat.

    1. Oh that is not good at all! I didn’t have any problems like that which was lucky – but it’s so upsetting on a plane because there’s no where you can go – and there’s nothing I hate more than being hungry!!

  2. Wow that sounds a great meal. I had a pretty awful one on a flight to America once. The brownie would be a lovely surprise.

  3. Hi Sarah. I’ve never had a long-haul flight so never had to worry about a GF meal but at Wetherspoons at Gatwick last Saturday I was told they couldn’t really offer me much (the barman was actually coeliac himself). Their town centre pubs seem to still offer a couple of options but it’s certainly not what it used to be. Garfunkels came to the rescue and I actually had a lovely meal of salmon and baked potato. Alison

  4. This is really interesting thank you for posting. I have been a Coeliac for almost 7 years and I always dread the in-flight meals. Recently flew to Mexico (from the UK) for our honeymoon with Virgin Atlantic and they didn’t have me down as requiring a GF meal even though I had the paperwork to prove it! I ended up having 5 side salads all the way there…I was starving by the time we arrived! On the way back they had me booked for one which was strange (as if I wouldn’t be GF flying out of the country but coming back in I am- dur!)

    Anyway, interesting post, can totally sympathize! Love you site too!

    Katie xx

    1. Oh no, that is really annoying, especially on your honeymoon! Sometimes these flight companies seem to talk a load of nonsense – at least when BA forgot mine they fetched me some posh salad from first class – if I had been offered just side salads I think I would have cried on the stewardess!!

  5. Oh no! I’m really worried now, we’ve just booked to go to Cuba next month, when we checked our booking this morning it had us down for 2 standard meals. Hubby just spent ages on web help to get it changed but I’m still worried.

    1. Hi Marg, don’t panic! If I were you I would call the travel agent – speaking to a person may be a bit easier but I am sure they will get it sorted for you 🙂

  6. It has got worse ….
    I had the same small lump if chicken meal as above however with a roll and an apple – no cheese or brownie

    Afternoon tea I had a roll and packet of jam and an apple !?

    Was left upset and hungry after an 8hr flight