In Part 1 of this series, I highlighted my experience flying gluten-free alone with my 10 month old daughter.
In Part 2, I’ll talk about my trip flying on All Nippon Airlines (ANA) between Tokyo Haneda Airport and Chicago O’Hare Airport. Again, I was flying with my egg and gluten-free daughter when she was 18 months old.
Part 2: All Nippon Airlines (ANA)
- Adult Gluten-Free Meal
- 27 Allergen-Free Baby Meal
- Tips for traveling on ANA with a baby
I requested our meals over the phone about two months before our flight. The Gluten-Free Meal (GFML) is available to reserve through your booking online, however the Allergen-Free meals must be reserved over the phone.
Unlike JAL, who clearly posts their customer service number, ANA took AT LEAST 5 clicks to find the customer service number from the special meals page. Each time you think you’re going to get to the number, they re-route you to another page with questions about your inquiry type. It was very frustrating and I ended up calling the first number I could find.
Again, I tried to reserve the baby bassinet and bulkhead seats for our trip, as my daughter was within the weight and age requirements. When I inquired about the seats, they said that my daughter “may be too active” for the baby bed (because of her age?), and wouldn’t let us sit in the bulkhead. This gave me a lot of stress as a parent trying to fly solo with an 18 month old, as I was really counting on the space and bed.
I called customer service ONE MORE TIME 24 hours before our flight. Pro tip: they usually open the unreserved bulkhead seats within 24 hours of departure. This time, the customer service agent was VERY helpful and blocked out seats on our outbound flight so we could have three seats to ourselves. He also was able to secure us the bulkhead bassinet seat for our return flight with zero issues. I can’t guarantee this will work for anyone else, but persistence worked in my favor.
ANA Gluten-Free Meal (GFML)
After my great experience with the JAL gluten-free meal, I had high expectations for my flight with ANA.
Our flight in the winter was LONGER than in the summer due to headwinds and I was dreading any extra hours I had to spend trying to keep my daughter happy on a plane. On our 13+ hour flight from Haneda to O’Hare I was served two full meals and one VERY INTERESTING snack.
Though the food was slightly less flavorful than JAL’s, it had great portion sizes, variety of side dishes, and tasted good. All pretty much what you’re looking for in airplane food.
Full stomach: check. Eat your veggies: check. Tasty: check.
+ Good variety of meals and side dishes
+ The quiche for breakfast was delicious and a nice treat
+ Halal/vegetarian/gluten-free rice crackers were served with refreshments
+ On the return flight we got delicious Udi’s rolls and a nice sandwich on sliced bread.
– The flavors were a little bland, but overall not bad
– There was one VERY STRANGE mystery snack of fruit jelly rolled in corn tortillas. I kept eating it because I was so perplexed. It didn’t taste BAD, but it was so confusing I’ll count it as a con. (If you have any insight as to what it is supposed to be please LET US KNOW!)
– On the way back, they didn’t serve me the gluten-free rice crackers and served me the same as everyone else, I wasn’t sure if they were safe or if they had made a mistake.
– Reserving over the phone was easy, but hard to find the number itself to call
27 Allergen-Free Baby Meal (ABML)
My daughter has a moderate egg allergy and is high-risk for Celiac Disease, so she required a gluten and egg-free meal. As with JAL, ANA doesn’t provide a gluten-free meal for babies traveling on laps, but after reviewing the information, the 27 Allergen-Free Meal seemed appropriate for our needs.
This meal is NOT labeled as gluten-free but is WHEAT-FREE along with 26 other allergens according to the Japanese allergen labeling system. (Our blog post about the allergen system and packaged food in Japan)
The “meal” came twice during our flight and it consisted of a can of juice, a fruit jelly cup, and a jar of vegetable and rice puree. On top of the two meals, we got a large bag of maple cookies AND a bag of sugar candies.
+ The airplane staff were very thorough when asking about my daughter’s allergies.
+ On the return flight, they had warmed up one of the jars of baby food and put it in a tray. (Something I didn’t request but was happy to see)
+ The ingredients of the allergy meals are clearly listed on the ANA site. This includes what types of starches and sweeteners are used.
+ They provided two “meals” during the flight
– The food provided was only jarred or packaged
– Aside from the jarred puree, everything else was very sweet. We got two cans of juice, two fruit jellies, a big bag of cookies AND a monstrous bag of candy.
– The big bag of candy gets its own paragraph. Because who thinks it’s a good idea to give a BABY a huge bag of candy? I’m not saying people shouldn’t give babies sweets etc. etc. BUT who thinks it’s healthy and a good representation of your company to be like “here baby! eat all this candy!”
Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Some of these are repeated from my previous post about flying on JAL.
- USE THE LUGGAGE ALLOWANCE! Lap babies can get their own suitcase (same size and weight as economy class passengers), stroller AND child seat to check-in for free!
- The ANA baby bed:
- The bed had clasps on the cover that made it easy to fully open and shut to get my baby into.
- BUT the Velcro was so worn out the flap kept falling and it was hard for me to hold my sleeping daughter AND hold the flap open to get her into the bed. A nice passenger next to us saw me struggling and held it open for me.
- The bed is nice and deep and made of a soft material.
- The sheet they used to cover the bed kept getting tangled every time my daughter tried to roll over and would wake her up. She ended up being a fish in a net multiple times.
- The customer service agents seem to use their own discretion as to who is suitable to use the baby bassinet, even if there are bulkhead seats available. So maybe be a little more insistent when calling if they try to turn you down? As long as your child is under the age and weight limit, I don’t think they can actually stop you from reserving it.
- Haneda Airport had an amazing play area in our terminal. It was so great to let my daughter run around in a clean and safe space before the flight.
- ANA was far less stingy about the toys they gave out and ended up giving us one of everything on the flight home.
- BRING EXTRA FOOD:
- Unless you are ok with your child eating only cookies, juice, jelly, and CANDY on the flight, it may be wise to bring your own food.
- My suggestions are gf bread, baked sweet potatoes, applesauce pouches, or a container of plain noodles.
- ANA flight attendants were very friendly and helpful on both of our flights and would happily assist passengers with children.