We had just finished an amazing vacation at Disney World! A haven for people with food allergies! There is no place that handles allergies better than WDW! We flew to Orlando on miles and on our return flight we were upgraded to first class! We were very excited- how special for the kids! Upon checking in, I informed the airline of my daughters severe tree nut allergy and she told me it was “no problem,” and she would inform the airplane.
When we boarded the airplane, I immediately spoke with the head flight attendant- who told me she was aware and “not to worry, we don’t serve peanuts.” I advised her that my daughter has a TREE nut allergy. She explained that they are required to serve heated mixed nuts in first class but that they would not serve them to us. I explained that my daughters allergy is very severe and that I was uncomfortable with that. She told me it is American Airlines policy to serve them and that there was nothing she could do. She then asked me if I had an Epipen. I told her that I had several and that I am actually a pediatrician but the point was not to have to use them- especially 37 thousand feet in the air with no medical back-up. I asked if we could please ask the other first class travelers to skip their mixed nuts and was told that is not possible. She then said “at least you are a doctor and you know what you are doing,” and “because you are a doctor, you could crack the emergency medical box if you needed.” I was obviously upset and asked if we could please switch back to coach, where they don’t serve nuts and she told me it was to late and we needed to sit down so the plane could take off. When I expressed my frustrations, she said: ” Don’t worry, you should see how fast a plane can land in a medical emergency.” We had wiped our seats down as usual. My daughter was so nervous, she didn’t eat a thing- not even the food we had brought with us.
As we were exiting the plane in New York, I noticed my daughter scratching her belly and legs. I immediately checked her and she was covered in hives. They resolved with Benadryl, and she did not have a systemic anaphylactic reaction and thank goodness she is fine. BUT, this is simply unacceptable. AIRLINES NEED TO STOP SERVING NUTS! All food allergies can be dangerous and we need to be vigilant to protect ourselves and our children, but nut allergies are different because they can occur from the oils on objects or in my daughters case, through inhalation. I have to say, I really don’t understand why an airline would take this chance. A plane is an enclosed system, with recycled air 37K+ feet in the sky. They don’t have medical personnel on board and per the flight attendant referenced above, they don’t have Epipens on board. They rely or hope to have a medically trained passenger on board to help- which may or may not be the case. What would happen if someone had their first reaction ever on a plane and did’t have their own Epipen? I think the flight attendant is wrong, as fast as a plane may be able to land, it wouldn’t be fast enough and that person could die. Even with an Epipen, there is no guarantee. People do not need to eat nuts to survive their flight- people would adjust to having pretzels or nut free trail mix etc…
As both a mother and a pediatrician I am committed to changing this and making air travel safer for people with allergies. I am writing a letter to the president and CEO of American Airlines, I am signing the petition on this website and I am not stopping there. I am contacting the American Board of Pediatrics, the American Medical Society and FARE (food allergy research and education) for their council and aid. Thank you for creating this website and allowing us to share our stories. Together we can make a difference and make travel safer.