On our second round trip flight with our multi-allergic (peanut, tree nut, dairy, egg) son, we found once again that your experience is entirely dependent on the flight crew that you happen to get on a given flight. We previously flew Delta, and while they have a more fleshed out policy and are slightly more consistent, our experience still depended on the flight crew, ranging from empathetic help as we tried to get situated to threatening that we might be kicked off our next flight for taking too long to pre-clean.
On United, they do not serve peanuts. We booked this flight prior to my son developing a tree nut allergy, so I didn’t think about it when I booked the flight. They do not offer pre-boarding, though since our son is young we were able to pre-board with families. The first flight, the stewardess was very accommodating and while they will not make an overhead announcement, she politely informed three rows ahead and behind us to refrain from eating nuts as a courtesy. They refused to do this on our connecting flight.
On our return flight, I was shocked to see they were serving nuts in first class. I voiced a concern with the front crew, and they asked where he was sitting. When I replied, “the back,” they said, “well, he’ll be ok.” When I got to my seat I spoke with the attendant in the back of the plane, who was completely rude to me. I asked in my most polite voice possible whether he could radio the front and simply confirm whether or not they would be serving nuts. I explained my son’s allergy. He replied that hadn’t I already asked (?) and it would be fine. He also said that first class people are entitled to what they want (!). I responded that we all breathe the same air. Despite his sour attitude, he did radio to the front. When I asked what he said, he would not give me a straight answer whether or not they would be serving nuts and said I would be fine. I was getting irritated at this point since it is not his responsibility to determine whether or not my child will be medically fine or not, and I simply wanted a yes or no answer whether they would be serving nuts or not. Since I could not get the answer from him, I worked my way up to the front of the craft (people still boarding at this point), where I finally contacted a sympathetic flight attendant. I once again tried to confirm simply whether or not they would be serving nuts. She said they had a protocol and she’d let me know.
Just after we took off, she finally came back and said that they don’t prohibit nuts all together on United, but given my concern they would be happy to refrain from the service on that flight. I was overjoyed. She said she could only imagine the worry I was under and if there was anything else she could do to let her know. I was so amazed at her empathy! This was in stark contrast to the rudeness and unfair treatment I received from the attendant at the back of the craft! On our connecting return flight, as we boarded, once again I saw that they were serving nuts in first class, and voiced my concern to the attendants. The head attendant simply said that their policy was not to serve peanuts, and they would be serving nuts, so be sure to have my epi-pen handy. She was also rude and once again it underscored the lack of education and consistency that one can encounter on air travel. I wish there was better education and more empathy among flight attendants. Thankfully, although my son had severe rashes after traveling, he had no further allergic issues on board.