We flew Southwest on 9/21/22 and 9/23/22. I had already heard the rumor from other food allergy parents that they would no longer be allowing food allergy passengers to pre-board as of 9/22, so I made sure to read up on their new policies. On 9/21 we had no issues pre-boarding our flight from Midway to Long Beach Airport. I did notice that they were using the new “extra time” designation when calling upon passengers to board.
Upon our return home, we flew out of LAX. When I approached the gate agent, sure enough he told me that pre-boarding was no longer allowed. He kept saying “no más, no más”. Now I don’t know if this was because he assumed I was Hispanic but that’s a completely different issue.
I then asked him what my options were and he stared at me blankly and said “what do you mean?” I then proceeded to explain that we needed time to wipe down our seating area to ensure my son’s safety. He then said “ok I can give you extra time” and reprinted our boarding passes. My issue here is that he was NOT going to offer extra time if I hadn’t asked. Even though he knew we were an allergy family. Had I not read up on their policies ahead of time, he would not have offered any assistance at all. I feel for families that are blindsided by this new policy and encounter gate agents that are not helpful and act like they are being inconvenienced.
When it was time to board, the same gate agent called for the extra time group. We approached and were waved away. He continued calling over the intercom and said “last call for extra time, there was a lady that wanted extra time.” At that point I waved my hands and said “I’m right here, in front of you, trying to board.”
The whole experience felt dismissive and it was very frustrating. We have other options for flying however we fly to CA for medical treatments for my son’s allergies every 2-3 months and Southwest has always been the most affordable and convenient option for us. I hear about how accommodating and kind other airline employees are to food allergy families. I hope that Southwest reconsiders their policy and also how they train their employees.
Food allergies are not an inconvenience, for many of us this can be a life or death situation. Southwest does not monitor what food gets eaten on the plane and they don’t clean in between flights. On a recent flight there were open Snickers wrappers left behind in the seat back pocket in front of us. Also, peanuts are not the only dangerous allergen. In our case, any trace of peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, sesame, peas, chickpeas, and lentils can cause my son to go into anaphylactic shock. An emergency would mean making an emergency landing and that would certainly be more of an inconvenience to all passengers and staff than simply treating us with respect and allowing us the time that we need to calmly assess and clean our seats. It’s not too much to ask.