Preface by No Nut Traveler Lianne.
It is my steadfast advice to never accept an airline meal no matter the assurances. Mistakes happen, recalls happen, ingredient lists are often unavailable and it is not clear what the food allergy labeling guidelines are in the air. Staff are not trained in allergy cross contact. Having said that, many folks with food allergies are not told to avoid airline meals by their physicians. Often travel is not discussed in appointments. People often find out the hard way as did this young woman. The rudeness and behavior of this crew is simply unacceptable.
I was flying alone on 5/2/2023 to Copenhagen to visit a friend at the end of my senior year of college. The flight was cancelled the night before, but I had spoken with the same flight attendants both nights about my nut allergy. Because the flight was rebooked, Delta placed me in “Delta One” as opposed to economy- closer to first class where everyone is offered nuts. Because of the closer proximity, the main flight attendant asked me to move to economy because it would be further away from the nuts. I do not have an airborne allergy, so I told her it would be fine for me to sit where I was. I was able to preboard to wipe down my seat, but when I asked if they could suspend serving nuts on board, she told me that wasn’t an option. She also wouldn’t make an announcement regarding my nut allergy.
When the flight attendants started service, I again asked them if anything they were giving me had nuts, and the flight attendant serving me wasn’t sure if anything was nut free. There was one pasta that had allergen information, a pesto pasta, that she thought would be nut free. I was concerned that a pesto would very likely have nuts, but the allergen information on the packaging only listed milk, wheat, and soy. I was also served a caprese salad and bread with the pasta, of which the flight attendant assured me did not contain nuts.
About 15 minutes after ingesting the food, I noticed my throat start to tighten. I immediately took 2 Benadryl and notified the main flight attendant. I asked her to see the allergen lists for everything I ate, because I was sure I had eaten nuts. She told me I was having a reaction because I was sitting too close to where nuts were being served. I told her I wouldn’t have a reaction like this from anything like that, and she told me she would look for allergen lists. I was there alone, but luckily was free Wi-Fi on board, so I was in communication with my parents when I noticed this tightening.
There were no “barf bags” in seats next to me, so I asked for a few in case I needed to vomit. I then went to the bathroom and vomited three times. The main flight attendant didn’t come back for an hour, even when I hit my call button multiple times, so I got up to find someone else to ask. Eventually, a flight attendant told me there was no information on board and couldn’t confirm if I ate any nuts. Instead, amid a severe allergic reaction, she made me pick through another meal and show them where the “nuts” were, as they thought I didn’t actually eat any nuts. She again told me my reaction was because of the proximity to the nuts in first class. She then accused me of “doing this on purpose”, “this” being having a severe allergic reaction alone on an international flight. And I informed her I wouldn’t like to be having an allergic reaction either, and I would never intentionally risk my life… She told me they will be landing the plane in Dublin, and I told her that wasn’t necessary because my symptoms were improving (and my parents agreed). The next time I saw any flight attendant was 7 hours later when the plane landed, and I disembarked. Not one flight attendant nor pilot checked on me one time during the flight.
Delta does not have any allergen information on international flights leaving America. The in-flight crew were hostile, accusatory, and not well informed on how to treat an allergic reaction. I will never fly Delta again, after this being my second bad experience with nuts aboard. In June of 2022, my Southwest flight was cancelled, and I rebooked on Delta same day, where I informed the flight crew of my nut allergy (I specified both peanuts and tree nuts). I was sitting towards the back of the plane, and when the flight attendant asked me if I would like almonds or pretzels, I was shocked. He told me I only was allergic to peanuts and not tree nuts, and I told him I am absolutely allergic to tree nuts as well and asked how many people around me had received almonds. Luckily, not too many had chosen almonds, and I was able to make it home without a reaction.
It’s scary enough having an allergic reaction on a flight but being blamed for my reaction is unacceptable. I was terrified as it was, and that was unnecessary stress and anguish for a 21-year-old girl to face, alone. Delta needs to retrain their staff to be much more sensitive to allergies.