Featured Story: Second-class passenger or second-class citizen?
I am a 25-year-old male living in Montreal, Quebec. I have been anaphylactic to all nuts since I was about 5 years old. I recently overcame my allergy to peanuts.
As you probably know, having an allergy is quite prohibitive. I have suffered from severe anxiety because of my allergy and have missed out on a lot in life because of it.
Not being able to eat and feeling anxious at certain restaurants, feeling uneasy in third-world countries, ruining a romantic first kiss by having to ask the girl if she recently had nuts, and sitting in a meeting with a huge client and having to awkwardly ask him to put away his nuts right before we start pales in comparison to the anxiety that I get when I am on a plane.
I'll start off with some good stories and then move on to some horror stories.
Air Canada, my national carrier, has gone over and above the call of duty to make sure that I am comfortable when I am on their flights. They create buffer zones, make announcements and truly make me feel like a prince. They have even stood up for me when other passengers have given them hell over not serving nuts. This is all at their own discretion. To the best of my knowledge, there is no airtight policy in place on how they should proceed when dealing with a passenger that has severe allergies. Nevertheless, I still would not consider eating their food, and even now I rarely eat my own in fear of having an attack in the air.
On the other hand, I avoid flying on American Airlines because they are not only inconsiderate, but also reckless when it comes to the lives of their allergic passengers.
I was once flying home from Mexico in first class. In fact, my family had 9 of the 14 first class seats. About 45 minutes into the flight, the flight attendant came out with a bowl of nuts. I was sleeping so my brother (the world’s best brother, who is extremely sensitive to my allergies) POLITELY asked the flight attendant if she could refrain from serving nuts because of my deadly allergy. She responded by saying the best she could do was not serve nuts to me… Are you kidding me? That's the best she could do? She would not even refrain from serving nuts to members of my family until they explicitly told her that they did not want the nuts. She said that nuts were a big part of the flight experience and that she could not take that experience away from other passengers. I then had to sit with a sweatshirt over my mouth for the rest of the flight because I was afraid of breathing in the air (People can have an attack from the smell). I undoubtedly had the worst anxiety that I have ever had. She also had the audacity to tell me that she hoped it didn’t deter me from wanting to fly on American Airlines in the future.
Having to put my sweatshirt over my mouth for hours at a time has become standard when flying on American or United Airlines. I always say to myself, what's it going to take? Someone dying and CNN covering it for them to finally put some procedures in place? I even spoke to a top executive at United who pretty much laughed in my face when I asked him to review their allergy policies. If only these people could spend one day in our shoes! I guarantee that allergies would be taken more seriously.
The lack of respect for my life does not only affect my flight experience; it has serious consequences on my life decisions. I have had to avoid certain dream jobs because of my fear of having to fly on a regular basis. Or, because I know that the company primarily uses American or United Airlines. The anxiety that comes along with it is just not worth it.
When I am forced to fly on United or American, I don't even bother calling the airline before hand or speaking to the flight attendant once I am on board. It's a waste of time. I now buy multiple snacks prior to boarding and offer them to flyers as the flight attendants attempt to serve the passengers nuts. This usually works because in reality, people don’t even like or eat the nuts. They are on the plane because they are cheap to serve. What the airlines don’t realize is that they could cause a fatality on the plane, which would inevitably hurt the airline’s bottom line, and also cause a slew of negative P.R.
I urge these airlines to realize that they are playing with people’s lives and in essence playing with fire - not only on board the flight, but with in the life choices that we have had to make in order to avoid putting ourselves in these terribly dangerous situations.