Note from Lianne (No Nut Traveler)- it is my steadfast advice to never take an airline meal, no matter the assurances. Staff are not trained in food allergy or cross contact. Lists are not readily available and recalls happen. Risk vs.reward. IMHO no meal is worth it. Regardless, the staff reaction is utterly unacceptable.
Passenger Testimonial: I was flying from Newark to Tokyo in Economy on May 12, 2023.
I requested a vegetarian meal, but they ran out, so they brought me a meal from a different class. I have a severe allergy to pine nuts. There were no ingredient lists available to review potential allergens in this meal. I did not know the meal had pine nuts, and neither did the flight attendants.
I had a severe reaction and became itchy all over and had trouble breathing. I grabbed my EpiPen and went to tell the flight attendants something was wrong. (At this time, I did not know I had eaten pine nuts). The flight attendant said she did not know how to administer EpiPens (administering EpiPens is basic first aid). I informed the flight attendant I have a severe, life-threatening allergy to pine nuts. I was lucky a doctor on board who noticed what was happening and came to help and administered the EpiPen.
The flight attendants then checked the allergy list and we learned the meal I ate did have pine nuts. However, it took time to find the allergy list, because they did not know where it was. One EpiPen shot did not stop my reaction. My oxygen level dropped, and I blacked out. The doctor administered a 2nd shot epinephrine. I was also given an oxygen mask to breathe. The doctor seated me in the flight attendant seat because it was easier to monitor my vitals while I was seated. The flight attendant kept complaining about this and saying passengers are not allowed in that seat. The doctor said he needed Diphenhydramine HCl from the medical kit. The flight attendant said we needed permission from the pilot. She called the pilot and said he was on his break, and we would have to wait. Time is incredibly important in food allergy situations, so this further endangered my life. When the reaction was under control, and I returned to my seat the doctor requested that I bring the pulse-ox monitor to my seat so he could continue to monitor my oxygen levels in case the reaction came back a 3rd time.
The flight attendant was against this because she was worried, I would take it off the plane which would create headaches for the staff. The doctor insisted I bring it and a I returned it at the end of the flight. At no point did I feel like the airline staff treated my reaction like a life-threatening emergency. They seemed more concerned with the seat I was sitting in, interrupting the pilot, and losing their device than with my health. If I was not seated next to a doctor, United Airlines’ abysmal food allergy policies and emergency response would have resulted in my death. I filed a complaint with United and they said they were not breaking the law or violating any of their policies. This is concerning because in my opinion, their policies are dangerous to passengers with food allergies.