Did Japan's ANA Airlines Really Give a Single Banana as a Gluten-free Meal?

Did Japan's ANA Airlines Really Give a Single Banana as a Gluten-free Meal?


Image: CC–yamaguchi yoshiaki

Celiac.com 05/04/2017 – Japan’s ANA airline is catching some public relations heat this week after reports that a man flying from Tokyo to Australia received a banana instead of the gluten-free meal that he booked in advance.

London resident, and celiac disease sufferer, Martin Pavelka flew All Nippon Airways flight from Tokyo this week, a nine-hour flight.

Numerous media have reported Mr. Pavelka’s plights in glaring terms, such as the Independent’s alarming headline: Man Given Banana as Gluten-free “Meal” on Nine hour Flight, with the equally sensational sidebar: Londoner flying from Tokyo to Sydney was handed a banana as the gluten-free inflight “meal.”

However, a closer reading shows those claims to be pretty misleading.

The fact is that Mr. Pavelka did receive his specially-ordered gluten-free meal at dinner, shortly after departure. The banana was part of the breakfast meal, the second meal service for the flight, which is where the trouble began for Mr Pavelka, who said he was “expecting something more substantial.”

“All other passengers were served full breakfast meal consisting of eggs, sausage, mushrooms, bread, and yogurt,” Pavelka told the Standard, while all he received was a single banana,” which though “definitely gluten free…did not keep me full for very long.”

So, let’s add this all up. On a nine-hour flight, Mr. Pavelka received his special gluten-free meal for dinner, and then about 5 hours later, about 2 hours or so before landing, he received a banana in lieu of a full breakfast? But he wanted more? And he’s angry with ANA because of this oversight?

And this is somehow a news story?

In the account given by the Standard, Mr. Pavelka’s first words to the flight attendant were “is this some kind of joke?” Not exactly diplomatic language. Nor, by the Standard’s account did Mr. Pavelka ask for anything more, such as a yogurt, or additional fruit?

Clearly Mr. Pavelka received less food at breakfast than the other passengers, but the food was gluten-free, as was his earlier dinner.

Reports that the banana was the only gluten-free food ANA provided Mr. Pavelka for the entire nine-hour flight are simply wrong. ANA in fact provided Mr. Pavelka with a gluten-free dinner. The Standard managed to bury that important detail in paragraph ten of an eighteen paragraph article, while the Independent slipped it into paragraph seven of a thirteen paragraph article.

The paragraph in the Standard reads: “Although he had been given a larger meal the previous evening when his flight left, Mr Pavelka said he was expecting something more substantial for breakfast.”

Yet, somehow, the Standard published the story under the fact-mashed title, “Londoner who ordered gluten free meal on nine-hour flight is given a single banana to eat with knife and fork.”

Such obfuscation, presumably in search of readership, does little to provide clarity on the actual details, and much to cause doubt and confusion about what are actually fairly simple, if inconvenient, facts to a fairly mundane, and not-altogether newsworthy, story.

Basically, when you cook it all down, this becomes less of a story, and more of a big, gluten-free nothing burger.

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Jefferson Adams

Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.

He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.

View all articles by Jefferson Adams

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Published at Thu, 04 May 2017 15:30:00 +0000

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