Our daughter has a medically documented severe allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. Accordingly, we reserved a bulkhead seat for her and were assured by phone that a note to file was made regarding her food allergy. We also were told upon check in an announcement would be made to request a nut-free buffer zone and that an alternative to nuts would be served to the first class passengers sitting ahead of her. Additionally, Margo was traveling with several epi-pens and was comfortable using them in the unlikely event that she had a reaction during the flight. These arrangements were identical to those we had made over the years while traveling as a family (on multiple airlines) and had been implemented without incident.
She completed the first three segments of her trip without issues. On each of those flights, in accordance with the arrangements outlined above, a flight attendant made a request to those sitting in the vicinity of Margo to refrain from eating nut products and nuts were not served to the first class passengers.
However, on Flight 634, she was met with significant resistance prior to take-off when she attempted to confirm with the flight attendant the announcement regarding a buffer zone and that an alternate snack would be served in first class. She was denied the pre-arranged accommodations and was instructed to move to the last row of the plane because nuts were definitely going to be served to first class passengers. After the flight was in progress, the head flight attendant informed her that the decision to serve nuts to the first class passengers was reconsidered and a non-nut snack would be served instead. She was told she could return to her bulkhead seat; however, the flight attendance would not request the voluntary nut-free zone. She also informed this 15 year-old passenger that she could request that the pilot return the plane to the Phoenix airport where she could deplane for her own safety. As you can imagine this was extremely upsetting and anxiety producing for not only her but for those seated around her.
We understand that American Airlines cannot guarantee that passengers will not consume nuts on board its flights. However, American’s policy can provide that its flight attendants will make a simple announcement requesting that passengers voluntarily refrain from consuming nuts on board and eliminate serving peanuts and tree nuts on all of its flights to mitigate the risk for passengers like our daughter Moreover, by adopting these two simple changes to its policy it would have the affect of eliminating difficult decision-making from its flight attendants and pilots and return the risk assessment to the affected passengers while at the same time mitigating these very significant medical risks.
With significant statistics noting that food allergies affect up to 15 million people in the U.S. including 1 in 13 children, we are urging American Airlines to reevaluate its policy towards those with nut allergies. A change in policy would cost nothing to implement and would promote consistency throughout the airline.