Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Virgin Atlantic Flight...Not Quite Right

This year we booked our flight to Orlando again with Virgin Atlantic. We made the booking online and due to only being able to pick one type of "Special Meal" I emailed the Special Assistance department to advise that I needed a Dairy, Egg and Gluten Free meal. I did the same last year and although it wasn't perfect it was worth doing. This year I had a reply to say that Dairy & Gluten wasn't a problem but they couldn't guarantee egg free. Fair enough, Egg is pretty easy to pick out so it didn't bother me too much. We flew from Manchester to Orlando.

In preparation for the flight I picked up some snacks that I could put in my hand luggage in a small cool bag. At least then I'd have something for the airport if need be and the plane. We ended up with a 4 hour delay so they came in handy although Virgin did supply us with £10 food vouchers so I used it to stock up with more snacks in Boots such as edamame, fruit jelly, carrot & hummus and crisps. One tip is make sure you eat any fruit and veg before you land as there are on the spot fines in America if you are found to be carrying fruit/veg into the country.

So the outbound flight didn't go quite as well as expected. I was served a "Nut Free" meal. After looking at it for a few minutes I asked the air steward if it was also classed as gluten free & dairy free as that's what I'd ordered. He wasn't sure so took it away. It contained a starter of salad, a main of stinky boiled veg and an apple crumble. Hmmm. He returned with it apologising but he'd checked and the starter & main were fine but he'd swapped the pudding for a "First Class" starter of Tomatoes & Mozzarella. At this point I was beyond pointing out that it had cheese on it so accepted it and gave it to my husband. It did look very nice but shame. Did I eat any of it? Except for a few salad leaves and carrots from the starter, no. I wasn't going to eat a bowl of boiled to death veg. Bleugh.

While everyone was being served afternoon tea I was given a tray of fruit. The steward said he'd added the banana and orange. He did ask me if I'd eaten enough and showed some concern. I cant eat oranges so I settled with the banana and picked out the grapes.

The return flight was slightly better although at first they couldn't find my meal. The steward offered to make me jacket potato but luckily they found my meal. I pointed out that I wasn't surprised as they'd messed my meal up coming out. He did seem quite concerned. Anyway this meal was a bit more substantial. I had a salad starter, a breast of chicken with rice and veg, a fruit salad and a rice cake. No egg to be seen so all was good.

Now breakfast time arrived. I didn't hold out much hope after last year. I was correct. Fair enough it was dairy and gluten free but it was Egg whites, spinach, tomatoes and mushrooms (another thing I avoid). The worst part was I was served the same muffin that my husband was served even though it was written clearly on my meal Dairy & Gluten free. Fail! Needless to say I didn't eat any of it and my husband enjoyed two breakfasts. 

Virgin still have a way to go with their special meals and understanding of allergies. Some things are fine but others not. Surely it would be a lot easier for them to create one safe meal which avoids all the top allergens rather than trying to mix and match. There's so many free from suppliers out there that surely they could do a deal with a company to supply free from snacks. A company like Enjoy Life would be perfect. I love flying with Virgin but their special diet meals need some attention. Fingers crossed things get better in future. 


  1. Last time I had a flight with Virgin was 15 years ago!, they also stuffed up my dietary meal so looks like they still can't get it right. Since then I never bother ordering a meal and just make sure I eat in airport and have snacks. Not being able to cater egg free is poor what about Vegans surely they get meals?

    1. Yes Vegan meals are an option although not guaranteed to be gf and would probably still have ended up with boiled veg & fruit!

  2. We travelled with Virgin last month (arriving back the day before yesterday) to Gatwick.
    Having tried to book a meal for our severe egg-allergy suffering daughter online through the Virgin website we could find no suitable egg free meal choice (e.g. nothing was listed as egg free...the only option was to perhaps select Vegan which may have ended up in a plate full of veg....not something a 16yr old meat eating girl would enjoy). So I tried the available phone numbers a couple of times, each time getting lost in the call menus, or running out of time waiting or sitting on hold (calling from work)....when I did get through they could not guarantee anything egg free.
    We decided that after 16 years we can normally work out if it is made of or with or strained-through egg (some soups and white wines are clarified by running through egg-white). With the help of the cabin staff on the way out (they had ingredient information as required by uk legislation) we worked out what was egg free and (along with food we had brought with us) the trip went well. The return trip was a bit of a disaster when it turns out that the "Sweet and Sour chicken with Honey and Ginger, with steamed rice and a couple of veg also contains what turns out to be a "small egg roll/pancake". So, not even a mention on the menu and it is a separate item actually made out of egg that is cooked with and comes inside the sauce of the dish! Luckily my wife had the same meal, and her "egg" was lying on top of the daughters was not...and she had a mouthful of the food. We stopped her immediately we realised, however we had to give her antihistamines (liquid piriton) on the flight and get the epipen out and ready for use if needed.
    In hindsight....we should have persevered and informed the airline before hand or brought our own food. However NO allergy or ingredient information was available for the menu on the return flight (staff told us that US regulations are less stringent than ours) and none of the staff could tell us what was in the food. She did eventually have a little of a tofu curry, which luckily was a spare meal.
    I have raised the issue with Virgin today as if she had eaten much more we may have had to insist on diverting the flight.