In June of 2016, we traveled from Washington, DC (Dulles) to Keflavik, Iceland via IcelandAir. I alerted the airline prior to traveling of our daughter’s food allergies, and again at the gate. We were allowed to pre-board to clean our row. The flight attendants all seemed to be aware of our situation and were friendly. Once everyone was boarded, we were told to not hesitate if we needed assistance with anything. An announcement was made to the cabin that there was a passenger on-board with severe allergies to nuts so they would appreciate the consideration to not open products containing these items. Again, after take-off, the crew made another announcement asking everyone to refrain from opening products containing nuts and thanking everyone for their consideration. The flight attendants never pointed out the fact that it was our family. I did hear the people behind us discussing the items that they had purchased to bring onboard. They were trying to figure out if their hummus had pine nuts in it. But they never seemed irritated.
IcelandAir did have in-flight meals but nothing “contained” the allergens we avoid. They could not guarantee that the meal would be free of my daughter’s allergens. Totally fine with us as we were prepared and always bring her own safe food from home.
Several times during the flight, the flight attendants came to check on us. They were always kind and never seemed inconvenienced.
We then flew from Iceland to Milan, Italy via IcelandAir. The experience was the same as our last flight. Very kind flight attendants who were not overly attentive but let us know that they were there to help. We were able to pre-board and the same announcements were made to the cabin regarding a passenger with nut allergies, asking everyone be considerate and not open products containing nuts onboard.
Our next experience was when we flew from Rome, Italy to Cairo, Egypt via Egypt Air. I had called Egypt Air prior to flying to alert them of our daughter’s allergies. The customer service representative suggested we sit at the very back of the plane because although they did not serve peanuts on their aircrafts they do serve cashews to first class. I booked the last row possible. Customer service also told me to let the gate attendants know of the allergies and let them know that we should pre-board to clean.
I told the gate attendant that we arrived that customer service told us to alert them and we should be allowed to pre-board. I noticed that the aircraft would not be a ramp-style board but we’d have to be shuttled to the aircraft. My daughter was concerned and I told her that we’d just deal with it. Perhaps they’d let us be the first to board but not necessarily pre-board. The gate attendants were talking for a few minutes amongst themselves then they got on a walkie-talkie. We were shown the door and told to get on the shuttle. Our little family of four was shuttled to the aircraft alone. We were pre-boarded while the entire flight crew went over our needs with us. Even after I told them that we would not be consuming the meal, they still physically opened the few meal options they were going to offer to the passengers to make certain we would be okay with it. Nothing contained nuts, but could not be guaranteed to be safe for our daughter. As always, that was fine with us as we pack her food.
The head flight attendant discussed the issue of cashews in first class with us. She said that she would wait until the very end of the flight to offer them to her cabin and she assured us that it was just a small packet of a few cashews but she would keep the curtain drawn and they would never make it to the back of the plane. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times during the flight we were checked on. They really showed concern, even bringing my children puzzles and other activities that were sealed so I know they’ve never been played with. The flight attendants on Egypt Air could not have been better.
Our flight to JFK (New York City) from Cairo via Egypt Air was what I would have expected of an airline. I asked to pre-board but there was a language barrier so others boarded before us. Once the gate attendant figured out what we were asking, he immediately let us board. We had no issue getting the row cleaned. They did not serve nuts at the rear of the cabin. We were offered meals not containing our allergens, but we declined them as always. We had a safe flight but no extra precautions were taken by the crew for our safety. I feel that if we had an issue, they would’ve helped us remedy it. I wouldn’t hesitate to flight Egypt Air again because I do think that they are focused on customer service. I just think that there was a language barrier at the gate that prohibited the message from reaching the crew of what our situation was. This was also a very large, full aircraft. I don’t have any concerns about the way things were handled. I’m perfectly capable of speaking up if anything gave me pause.
Our experiences with these foreign airlines made me realize how far US-based companies need to come with their efforts for helping passengers with special needs. We didn’t expect a lot. It would be very simple to meet our needs. There needs to be a defined standard. I would recommend IcelandAir and Egypt Air based on our experiences.