Two recent cases raise the question: How far should an airline go to accommodate passengers with special needs?
Before her scheduled flight from Denver to Newark on August 31, Lianne Mandelbaum says she did what she always does prior to boarding: She called her airline to ask if the crew could accommodate her son, who has a severe peanut allergy, by making a brief announcement about his condition and asking passengers to refrain from opening or eating peanuts on board. The person she spoke with told her to inform the gate agent on the day of the flight, something she’d done before a number of flights previously, when crews made announcements about her son’s allergy every time. This crew, though, refused to alert other passengers about the issue—as Mandelbaum watched a family of five, also booked for Newark, scarf down nuts in the gate area. Faced with the difficult choice of boarding a plane she knew would be filled with potentially hazardous nuts or staying on the ground, Mandelbaum says she had no choice but to skip the flight. She planned to drive all the way home, from Denver to New Jersey, until a family member arranged for a private flight instead. “We were incredibly lucky to have him do this,” she says, “but what about the families that have no options?”