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Susan Myers has spent many hours preparing for her family’s upcoming trip to Disney World – shopping for the best flight options on Travelocity, researching hotels, and planning activities. And in the course of all planning, the well-being of her eight year-old son was at the forefront.
Her son faces life-threatening allergies to peanuts and tree nuts.
The Myers family never leaves home without epi pens and prophylactic antihistamines, and calculating daily risks is a part of normal planning. As a regular course of action, the family researches the best ways to mitigate those risks – avoiding certain restaurants where the likelihood of nut contamination is higher than average and finding out about snack options in advance of situations where they do not control their own food.
And so it seemed like a routine call to American Airlines to be certain the airline would not be serving peanuts as a snack, much like she and her husband had done before flights on other carriers in the past. Instead she was surprised to told by an agent that while peanuts are not served in coach, first-class passengers are served warmed nuts on board and that would not change based on a passenger request.
Hoping for clarification, Myers’ husband called the airline and was told the same thing – that there was no possibly of tree nuts not being on the flight.
Myers then took to Twitter
American Airlines policy on nut allergies is published on AA.com:
American recognizes that some passengers are allergic to peanuts and other tree nuts. Although we do not serve peanuts, we do serve other nut products (such as warmed nuts) and there may be trace elements of unspecified nut ingredients,including peanut oils, in meals and snacks. We do not have in place procedures that allow our flight crews not to serve these foods upon request of a customer. We do not provide nut “buffer zones”. Our planes are cleaned regularly, but these cleanings are not designed to ensure the removal of nut allergens, nor are our air filtration systems designed to remove nut allergens. Additionally, other customers may bring peanuts or other tree nuts on board. Therefore, we cannot guarantee customers will not be exposed to peanuts or other tree nuts during flight, and we strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.
Myers believed the family might still be accommodated though through American’s special assistance policy:
Within our Reservations Department, an exclusive team called “Special Assistance Coordinators” facilitates your travel. Specially trained to arrange for the special needs of customers with disabilities and/or medical conditions, they document your reservation concerning your special service requests to alert our airport staff. In certain circumstances, if you have requested special assistance at the time of making your reservation, they will contact you by telephone prior to departure to ensure all advance medical paperwork requirements or special assistance requests are arranged. For this reason, it is helpful to have a valid, complete telephone number available within your reservation.
The Myers asked for some type of reasonable accommodation for their son and when refused, suggested a fee-free change to another airline with a more accommodating policy, since they booked their flights on Travelocity where there was no policy disclosure. The other airlines they considered – Southwest, Delta, and United – all have published policies that range from “possible” accommodation to “definite” accommodation.
Susan Myers feels that it’s time for a change. The family (via Myers’s brother-in-law Chris Yates) has launched the hashtag #AACutOffYourNuts with the hope of exposing what they feel is an archaic position on inflight snacks. They believe the time has come for a change to American Airlines policy on nut allergies.
They stand a good chance of catching viral attention with their catchy campaign, based on these statistics from the Food Allergy Institute:
- According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011.
- Every 3 minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency department – that is more than 200,000 emergency department visits per year.
- Teenagers and young adults with food allergies are at the highest risk of fatal food-induced anaphylaxis.
- Peanut and tree nut allergies, which also tend to develop in childhood, usually are lifelong. In the U.S., approximately three million people report allergies to peanuts and tree nuts. Studies show the number of children living with peanut allergy appears to have tripled between 1997 and 2008.
What do you think readers? Has the time come for airlines to change the tradition of serving nuts in flight? Should American Airlines have a sound back-up plan to accommodate both concerned parents and first class passengers with an alternative snack? Sound off in the comments below….