We have consistently been treated inconsistently on United as it relates to my sons incredibly severe nut allergy. We are professional people and never get emotional or rude, but not knowing how to best protect your son is unnerving and unfair. Employees on many flights who clearly don’t want to be inconvenienced by our issue have treated us poorly. We’ve tried every approach, calling ahead, arriving early, etc. Nothing helps. The stress this inconsistency brings on is unexplainable.
This incident, it was particularly unkind. Christmas day, I was told United’s policy to serve nuts cannot be altered or changed. We explained our situation and the severity and offered many solutions (buying snacks for anyone in our vicinity who had an issue with the nuts, asking people ourselves if they minded the nuts not be served to protect our son, etc). We were not given any solutions. We were told it is United’s policy to serve nuts and they would no be considering any accommodations to make our travel a little less risky.
I spoke to five people on Christmas day and was offered nothing more than an option to fly at 7p where the plane was not that full and my son could have a buffer row. 7p is the option offered to a family flying to see family on Christmas? This was offered by a Supervisor who did not reveal himself, only said via another manager that I could discuss with the flight attendants and it was ‘up to them’ if they wanted to help us. Exhausting.
As the situation continued, the flight attendant was clearly uninterested in offering any help. I excused myself and let her know my son’s allergy is life or death and the lack of partnership is a bit astonishing, but that I had run out of energy and needed to get home to my family on Christmas. They seem to take some pride or pleasure in saying “United’s policy is that we can’t guarantee a nut free environment”. That isn’t a policy and God himself can’t guarantee a nut free environment. I am well aware of that and it is a stress I live with every day.
The pilot overheard the words ‘life or death’. He said nothing but apparently called the earlier referenced supervisor. The two of them stood outside the plane door. Two representatives from the airline approached me and escorted me off the plane (from my seat). During this lengthy exchange–The supervisor said it was not “his call” but he wouldn’t let me fly if it was. The pilot, who was nice enough, said I had to stop saying the words life or death to describe my son’s allergy. I politely declined that suggestion. It is life or death. He allowed me to fly after about fifteen minutes of talking down to me as my family waited on the plane. Again they offered no help or compromise. At this point, I told him I was my son’s advocate and I wanted to keep him on the flight. As the captain’s parting words, as he took notes on his phone he said “okay, if you are saying you are happy to have your son locked 25 thousand feet in a tube with no outside air and a nut allergy with nuts is okay with you. I’ll let you fly.” Imagine saying that to a mother, on Christmas day.
I sent a recap to the airline, as I had many times before. For the first time I filed a complaint with the department of transit. I heard back from both saying they investigated my situation and found that all policies were followed. Mainly because they offered the 7pm flight switch. I’ve contacted United repeatedly to explain that I was not looking for anything from the airline, but I would like to share my perspective. No response.
Saying you can’t guarantee there are no nuts on the plane and having no stated guidelines for compromise with customers with food allergies is ridiculous. Negotiating with a range of professionals in the flight attendant community for your child’s safety is not a process. There are many reasonable accommodations an airline could make to make families like mine feel safer in flight. If you state the options for compromise, then all employees have them as reference. The families are aware of those options prior to flight. If we aren’t happy with them, we don’t have to fly. But to not know and be treated inconsistently and rudely just isn’t right.
If a child with an oxygen tank or cancer were treated this way, it would be front-page news.