I myself have a severe peanut/legume allergy. While on vacation 3 days prior, I experienced an allergic reaction at a restaurant despite being abundantly clear about my allergy. I ended up in the ER after needing my Epi-Pen. So needless to say, I was nervous about flying. I was still on steroids from my reaction when we boarded our flight. US Airways allowed us to pre board and wipe down our seats. I was not the only one with a nut allergy but no announcement was made about restricting nuts. As the plane was still boarding and I was sitting with my 3 kids and husband, the woman in the same row opened up 2 peanut butter sandwiches and gave them to her two kids. My husband is a physician and I am an RN. My husband immediately spoke up and nicely asked if she wouldn’t mind putting the peanut butter away since I was so allergic. I could smell the peanut butter and got scared. We offered her all of our snacks (which were plentiful). She told us that I needed to carry an Epi-Pen and use it if I was so allergic and she was not going to take the sandwiches from her children. My husband told her that using an Epi-Pen at 30,000 feet is obviously not ideal and that is something we would avoid if possible. I honestly felt humiliated and different, singled out for my allergy and put at the mercy of a callous woman. Some passengers overheard us and offered to switch seats. I took a man up on his offer despite this causing him to be separated from his girlfriend and cousin.
The flight attendants were wonderful, letting me know that they continue to be amazed at the stupidity and ignorance and rudeness of people when dealing with allergies. One attendant told me how her son was nut allergic and recently needed his Epi-Pen and another told me how she herself has food allergies. BUT THERE WAS NOTHING THEY COULD DO. In my switched row was an EMT from Orlando who talked about how moronic people can be when it comes to not understanding food allergies and that one of an EMT’s biggest fear in an anaphylactic reaction while in the air. The girlfriend and cousin of the man who switched with me were nothing short of amazing people. They rallied around me when I felt helpless. There was also a man in the row behind me who was angry with the lady for not putting away the peanut butter and approached her row and stared her down. Being made to stand out and feel different for my allergy was a very humiliating experience. I am thankful for a wonderful group of passengers and crew.
My husband wanted to buy a drink for the man who switched places with me. When he went to pay for the drink that the man ordered, the crew refused to take our money, saying it was on them. They too were appalled at the behavior of the woman. Of course, since they have no policy to assist allergic passengers, so they were limited in how much they could help us.