We have traveled often and have seen a pleasant progression of awareness both among the general pubic and the airlines that nut allergies exist. Yet I see the value of a consistent policy by the airline to avoid confusion in flight.
In August we were flying on a United flight; my daughter and I both on the isle seat, across from each other. The flight attendant took our lunch order and we explained that neither of us would be eating because of her nut allergy. The flight attendant asked what type of allergy we explained anaphylaxis. The flight attendant quickly mentioned this to the two other customers sitting next to both of us at the window seat. She asked if they would switch seats with either of us -so that my daughter would be less likely to be exposed to nuts. Sadly, both customers refused. Both my daughter and I were surprise but very respectful as we understood the customers might not be familiar with nut allergies and anaphylaxis to nuts. The customers might not have been familiar with the concept of buffer zone and how this may have protected someone with a nut allergy. Was it our job to have an educational seminar mid flight?
United’s new policy of asking passengers if they will not eat nuts near the allergic passenger was clearly not applied here. No buffer zone was even entertained. Instead of asking the passengers near my daughter is it ok not to serve you nuts, it would have been much easier to just say we won’t serve nuts in this area. This would take the onus off us to educate all those around us. It of course be much easier to have a national policy on this issue from the Transportation Safety Board or a clear and adhered to policy by United Airlines to avoid these unpleasant and hazards and simply unnecessary interactions.
I hope one day we would have a policy that we can identify that we have a nut allergy and it is announced; this way, customers don’t have to relocate themselves mid air and every one on the plane knows what is going on. It also would be great to have a clearly labeled meal so you absolutely knew if you could eat airline food.
I look forward to simple policy decisions that are evidence based to provide safety to nut allergy kids and adults so that they may fly safely.