Daniel was diagnosed with a peanut allergy aged one and half. Subsequently also been shown to be allergic to other nuts and sesame. When diagnosed he suffered a severe allergic reaction but since then we have managed it well and he has only had mild reactions such as swollen lips, eyes and itchy mouth with occasional rash. He is now 11.
We carry 2 types of different antihistamine, a steroid and x2 epi pens at all times. I would like to state that every time we have flown in the last 10 years, all airlines have been helpful and we have never had a medical issue during flight. We have never been denied travel and never been requested to produce a certificate to say he is fit to fly.
Prior to travelling to the USA, we contacted AA and informed them of the allergy. We were told that it was no issue and cabin crew can make an announcement to inform other passengers. (We realize that no flight can be nut free but we like to minimize risk if possible)
There was never any mention of him being unfit to fly or a medical certificate being needed to say he ” wasn’t going to die”
He flew out to Fort Myers via Dallas from Heathrow on 26 December 2014 and there was no issue. On both flights announcements were made that there was a child on board with a severe nut allergy and it would be appreciated if passengers might refrain from consuming nuts.
On the return flight, from Fort Myers to Dallas, the gate agent was reminded of the allergy prior to boarding, but she persistently questioned us about the nature of the allergy and clearly did not understand the issues around it, which was both embarrassing and made my son feel awkward. She claimed he was a risk to other passengers. In front of all other passengers we were made a spectacle of, basically due to her misunderstanding of what we were saying and requesting. Our answers were misinterpreted and after contacting AA headquarters the decision was made to offload our bags and cancel our tickets until we produced a medical certificate to state he was not going to die on board the plane. This was despite the pilot coming off the plane and stating that in spite of the allergy, he was happy to accept Daniel for travel and to make an announcement. A medical certificate was faxed by a Dr to the gate agent straight away.
(Interestingly the flight was oversold and another family was immediately issued our cancelled seats by the gate agent)
We were sent to a hotel, the cost of which was only partially covered by the airline. The gate agent said she had booked us on flights home but we subsequently found out from AA this was not the case. We funded the rest of the 2 night stay, our food, hire car, phone calls etc. we also then had to arrange our own passage home with no assistance from the airline. My husband is self employed and lost 2 days pay, I lost 1 days pay, my children missed 2 days of school and I just made it home in time for an important medical treatment appt.
We spent 6 hrs. on the phone to AA trying to get our tickets reissued, which initially we were told, we would have to pay for. Finally, after speaking to several airline staff and supervisors, we spoke to a lovely lady called Grace who was shocked at our treatment and after a lot of time, issues and contacting several supervisors managed to reinstate our tickets. Our travel agent in The UK also got on the case and we finally flew home using AA via Chicago 48 hrs. later. We were told on boarding that no announcements would be made with regard to the nuts. On medical advice, Daniel was medicated with antihistamines to avoid any issues, however this is not the point.
At no time in the USA, prior to leaving Fort Myers, were we contacted with offers of help or support from the airline.
We have travelled for over 10 years with this issue and it has never been a problem.
For us, the issues are: if AA wishes to serve nuts and not make an announcement that is their choice. We would happily have used a more accommodating airline and avoided all this stress and upset. But they should have told us this was the case when we made them aware of the allergy in the UK prior to the trip. There are many other airlines we could have switched to. I fail to understand how they can allow the child to fly one way knowing of his allergy but deem him unfit to travel the other way. The second issue is the gate agent, who seemed totally uninformed about the nature of such allergies and in our opinion did not handle the issue in a sensitive manner.