Woman documents ‘worst flight of her life’ after she’s given the wrong food

She says she immediately ‘started to panic’ after realising croissant provided with in-flight meal was not gluten-free

Sophie Watson
New York
Tuesday 13 June 2023 20:48 BST

Related: Celiac disease has lesser known impact on teen’s mental health

A woman has filmed herself crying in the toilet of a plane after battling sickness for a 15-hour flight due to a “pastry mix-up” that saw Emirates allegedly serve her the “wrong” croissant.

Chloë Chapdelaine, 25, who suffers from coeliac disease, ordered a gluten-free in-flight meal ahead of a recent 15-hour flight from Dubai to Los Angeles, California, on Monday 5 June.

When she received her meal, the 25-year-old influencer was excited to receive what appeared to be a gluten-free continental breakfast, which was served on a tray labelled “gluten-free” an hour into the flight.

However, after eating half of the plain croissant provided with her meal, which didn’t carry a gluten-free sticker, Chapdelaine decided to confirm with a flight attendant that it was indeed gluten-free.

An air hostess ultimately confirmed it wasn’t gluten-free, according to Chapdelaine, with footage dubbed “the worst flight of my life” showing the content creator inside the airplane bathroom explaining what had happened as she tried to make herself throw up.

After spending an hour throwing up, Chapdelaine said she spent the remainder of the flight feeling nauseous and suffering from bad stomach cramps and diarrhoea.

She also claimed she suffered with itchy skin, and said she’ll have to cope with the “mental repercussions” of what happened for weeks to come, which she said include brain fog and feeling depressed.

“As I was eating one of the croissants that was on the tray, I had a really bad feeling,” the 25-year-old from Alberta, Canada, said, according to Kennedy News and Media. “It tasted so good and I have never tasted such a good gluten-free croissant before. “I then questioned why they would have such a good gluten-free brand on a flight and this is when I questioned whether it was actually gluten-free to a flight attendant.”

According to Chapdelaine, the flight attendant “went pale” before going to check whether the pastry was gluten-free. “She came back and told me it wasn’t meant to be on my plate and it wasn’t gluten-free,” Chapdelaine said, adding: “Immediately I went into shock and started to panic. I am very highly sensitive and my coeliac disease will react to a trace amount or cross contamination.

“To be told I had eaten half a non gluten-free croissant, which is quite a large amount and bigger than what I have reacted to in the past, was really scary for me. I didn’t know how I was going to react.”

The traveller also noted that she wasn’t “upset” because she’d broken her gluten-free diet, but rather because she “knew there were going to be a lot of symptoms I would now have to deal with probably for the next couple of weeks or so”.

“It was a moment of panic. I went to the bathroom and made myself physically sick and was in there for about an hour throwing up, which was horrible,” she said of the actions she took after she’d consumed the croissant. “I knew if I didn’t do this it would cause my body a lot more damage. I could feel the other symptoms starting straight away as well and it just got worse from there.”

According to the 25 year old, she still began to experience symptoms. “I started getting really bad stomach cramping, I got diarrhoea, I felt nauseous and my skin started itching - when I eat gluten I break out in hives or a rash,” she explained. “The initial symptoms for me are the stomach issues but after that the rash and hives follow.

“Then I have to deal with the mental effects like brain fog or I get depressed for the next couple of weeks.”

Following her body’s reaction to the croissant, Chapdelaine shared a clip on TikTok to show how serious the effects of eating gluten can be for someone with coeliac disease.

Chapdelaine said she had not eaten gluten for almost nine years since she was diagnosed with coeliac disease, but that this was not the first time she has had problems on a flight.

“For me this isn’t the first time I have been exposed to gluten on a plane,” she said. “Fortunately, last time I realised before I ate it but had I not, I would have eaten it and the same thing would have happened. It’s not a one-time thing and also on half of the flights I have taken - I travel all the time - gluten-free meals are forgotten.”

Chapdelaine said, from her experiences, many people are also “quick to question why people with coeliac disease don’t bring their own food on a flight”.

In response, she explained: “Firstly, this isn’t always possible as when you’re travelling and in a hotel room you don’t have access to a kitchen to do so. Also, a lot of border security doesn’t allow you to bring food items over the border. A lot of the time you can’t bring meat, dairy or seeds or nuts, which eliminates a lot of products and makes it very difficult for me to bring on my own food onto the plane.”

The Canadian also said airlines need to take allergies and intolerances on flights more seriously, and believes if she had a nut allergy the situation would have been different.

“I do feel like coeliac disease is not taken as seriously [as nut allergies] at times,” she said, adding that she believes “people with food allergies or sensitivities deserve to exist safely and be taken seriously in their medical condition and that’s not always the case”.

“I just hope the airlines specifically take allergies or medical conditions seriously when it comes to serving people food on planes because it can have lasting effects for lots of people,” she continued.

As for the response from the airline, Chapdelaine said the Emirates flight attendants were sympathetic towards her, but after filing a formal complaint she has yet to hear from the airline.

An Emirates spokesperson said: “We are disappointed to hear Ms Chapdelaine’s complaint. Emirates aims to cater to all passenger specific needs by offering a number of special meals that cover as many medical, dietary and religious requirements as possible. 

“The safety and health of our customers is taken very seriously. Ms Chapdelaine has reached out to our Customer Affairs team, and we are investigating the issue.”

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