British Airways - Allergy Issues

Old Jan 28, 19, 9:06 am
  #1  
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Question British Airways - Allergy Issues

Hello to all.

Would appreciate your guidance:
I've just come back from a 9 day trip ATL - LHR - ATL in Club World. At time of booking, I specified that I needed a gluten free meal on all legs of the journey, and also followed up before departure, and advised cabin crew on board. I am celiac, so this is essential for me, and not a lifestyle choice.

All went well outbound until breakfast before landing, when I was served a delicious wrap with salmon & scrambled egg. I had just taken a mouthful, when cabin crew rushed back and told me they'd made a mistake & the wrap was made of wheat. I was fine until I got through customs, but then was pretty miserable, as the effects of wheat exposure made themselves known.

I had booked a series of meetings for last week, but had to miss all but one, as I was in a pretty bad way, and only started to recover just in time for my return flight.

Is there something I should have done to have avoided this issue? How would I contact BA and advise them that this happened?

FYI, my flight back was magnificent; I advised cabin crew of what had happened when I boarded, and could not have wished for a more attentive and helpful service, so would like to compliment them for that flight.

Would welcome your suggestions / ideas.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 9:43 am
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Originally Posted by kaptainkremen View Post
Is there something I should have done to have avoided this issue?
Sounds horrible. I'm sorry that happened to you, despite your precautions.

Not much else you could have done other than confirming the meal was indeed a GFML as it was handed to you. Special meals usually have stickers on top to show what they are. I imagine you were handed a regular box by mistake?

If the crew didn't log a complaint using the iPad inflight (symptoms not presenting yet of course) then the best thing to do next would be to use BA.com to contact Customer Relations, and that due to the mistake, you lost x hours of work. They won't pay for time missed, but should offer other compensation of some kind.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 10:29 am
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To be honest, if you've been diagnosed as a coeliac and suffer symptoms that badly, I wouldn't be eating any food presented to me on an aircraft - I would be taking my own. The risk of cross contamination I feel is far too high, and - as you've witnessed - you can be exposed to human error.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 10:30 am
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My wife is coeliac too, plus has some other allergies. We've often found GFML service to be variable and the really stupid thing is that GFMLs often include shellfish, which my wife is also allergic too.

We didn't get a great service in F (both ways), LHR-JNB last year. We spoke to the CSD and one of the comments made by her was that they had been asking BA to put ingredients labels on the special meals given the importance. So might be worth mentioning that to customer relations if you contact them. If enough people raise the point they may change. Plus *maybe* they would have spotted the issue with your meal.

My wife takes some food with her, on the basis that she may not get anything suitable to eat on board, which might make sense if you're in economy but really not when in F!

Due to the issues with her food we were given 5000 Avios points plus a bottle of champagne on board. We didn't ask for any compensation as that wasn't really the issue, it was proactively provided by the cabin crew, so we weren't going to say no
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Old Jan 28, 19, 10:37 am
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This sort of story makes me shudder. I have a family member with a severe allergy and a mistake like this could easily be life-threatening. Especially on a plane where intervention options are limited. Of course, at that level the SOP is to self-cater but it's a bit sad that the possibility of human error rules out even seemingly safe options anywhere outside of home.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 12:32 pm
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Originally Posted by xPositor View Post
To be honest, if you've been diagnosed as a coeliac and suffer symptoms that badly, I wouldn't be eating any food presented to me on an aircraft - I would be taking my own. The risk of cross contamination I feel is far too high, and - as you've witnessed - you can be exposed to human error.
I couldn't agree more.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 12:54 pm
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While it is entirely BA's fault for not having taken sufficient care, given the risk to OP, I would confirm at the time the item is handed over that it is in fact free of whatever the allergen is. I also agree with xPositior that it taking a lot on faith to presume that there is no cross-contamination. While miserable, I would bring my own food.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 2:34 pm
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Originally Posted by GrahamClarke View Post
My wife is coeliac too, plus has some other allergies. We've often found GFML service to be variable and the really stupid thing is that GFMLs often include shellfish, which my wife is also allergic too.

We didn't get a great service in F (both ways), LHR-JNB last year. We spoke to the CSD and one of the comments made by her was that they had been asking BA to put ingredients labels on the special meals given the importance. So might be worth mentioning that to customer relations if you contact them. If enough people raise the point they may change. Plus *maybe* they would have spotted the issue with your meal.

My wife takes some food with her, on the basis that she may not get anything suitable to eat on board, which might make sense if you're in economy but really not when in F!

Due to the issues with her food we were given 5000 Avios points plus a bottle of champagne on board. We didn't ask for any compensation as that wasn't really the issue, it was proactively provided by the cabin crew, so we weren't going to say no
I sympathise with the dietary restrictions...but Im mystified as to how shellfish in a GFML is "stupid" None of the coeliac folks I know are also allergic to shellfish...is that actually a common combination? Should ALL special meals be suitable for any/all combination of allergies? (Is that even possible?)
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Old Jan 28, 19, 3:19 pm
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Originally Posted by trooper View Post
Should ALL special meals be suitable for any/all combination of allergies? (Is that even possible?)
Put simply no that is not possible.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 3:24 pm
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This is a very unfortunate incident for which the OP had my sympathies. Sometimes the BA crew can't know; I've had a dish with cheese concealed in it more than once, without it being mentioned in the ingredient notes ("Chef's Chat"). Fortunately I'm not allergic to cheese, I just loathe the taste, smell and texture of cheese - but a person with a stronger allergy might have had a problem. Omelettes are particularly untrustworthy in this respect.

In this case it sounds like the crew made a mistake, but mistakes are also made elsewhere in BA. Mistakes may, in the end, be impossible to prevent and can only be reduced to a low level - as elsewhere in aviation and in life.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 3:31 pm
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I can probably see what happened here. In CW, during the first meal service, orders are taken via an order form. On this we'll have written pax names, status and their SPML before going out into the cabin and taking orders. We'll then work down this list when delivering trays and hots, so SPMLs are delivered to the right pax.

During the second service, we won't complete a formal meal order as such, we'll simply work our way down the cabin asking for the customer's preference as we reach them. At this point, the crew had probably forgotten that the OP had ordered a GFML and had offered from the regular menu and then delivered the choice the OP had made.

Crew should always be reminded of any relevant SPMLs for the second service by the galley operator in that cabin so that this is avoided, which has clearly been missed here.

However, as a general note on SPMLs (and I'm not suggesting that what happened to the OP is in any way their fault), it's always worth confirming with the crew that this has been ordered and it is what they're delivering to avoid any doubt - especially when allergies (and not simply preferences) are present. Please also remember, that all meals are cooked in the same ovens, loaded in the same trolleys and manufactured at the same facilities so it's difficult to absolutely 100% guarantee any SPML is completely free from allergens.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 3:42 pm
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Thanks, Jaxba
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Old Jan 28, 19, 3:47 pm
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Many thanks to all for your comments.
It is ironic that I've never had an issue with a gluten free meal in economy, but it is disappointing that I had this problem after paying for Club.

I'll contact BA and advise them. I did have absolutely sterling service on my return, with cabin crew being wonderfully helpful and attentive. I'll mention this also with customer relations
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Old Jan 28, 19, 4:05 pm
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Originally Posted by MFCC View Post
However, as a general note on SPMLs (and I'm not suggesting that what happened to the OP is in any way their fault), it's always worth confirming with the crew that this has been ordered and it is what they're delivering to avoid any doubt - especially when allergies (and not simply preferences) are present.
I do agree with this [1] and it is, of course, not the customer's fault in this case. I see this advice as helpful and as attempting to avoid "all the holes in the Swiss cheese lining up", a common metaphor that if one can add additional checks it decreases the probability of incidents and accidents.

[1] While I don't have any allergies, my partner is very allergic to crustaceans, so I'm accustomed to checking.
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Old Jan 28, 19, 4:41 pm
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Originally Posted by xPositor View Post
To be honest, if you've been diagnosed as a coeliac and suffer symptoms that badly, I wouldn't be eating any food presented to me on an aircraft - I would be taking my own. The risk of cross contamination I feel is far too high, and - as you've witnessed - you can be exposed to human error.
While I don't suffer from any serious food allergies, I have friends and family who do and they do the same thing.
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