I have a severe, airborne, anaphylactic latex allergy. I wear long sleeves and pants and a high-quality mask when I travel to avoid airborne latex proteins from shoes and other random, prevalent sources of latex.
In my opinion, Southwest Airlines(SWA) does not need to use latex balloons as part of their decorating which can put up to 6% of Americans with a latex allergy (CDC) at risk when they travel.
After encountering balloons at SMF on 10/23 and experiencing a significant allergic reaction as a result, my friend contacted SWA customer service (since I was tied up in training/work) and SWA agreed to remove the balloons in SMF prior to my return to Sacramento. (They did.)
When I arrived at the SWA check in at PHX on 10/28, there were several massive latex balloon displays. I called SWA customer service (800-435-9792) and spoke with Teresa. I asked her for help 1) checking my bag safely and 2) finding out if there were balloons at the gates to know if I should attempt to proceed. I told her that latex allergy was in my reservation [INVALID] her comment was something to the effect of “nobody really reads those notes.” She did seem very compassionate and wanted to help me. I was on hold for 40 minutes while she talked to her supervisor and others attempting to find someone to help me. She checked back frequently to let me know that she was trying to find someone to help me.
Ultimately, she told me (with disappointment in her voice) that there was nothing they could do to help me and recommended I do my best to avoid balloons and ask for early boarding. I then googled PHX disability services where “travelers with disabilities and medical conditions” are referred to TSA Cares (855-787-2227). I knew I could check my bags outside at the departure drop off safely, but I needed to know 1) if there were balloons at the SWA gates and 2) how to navigate the airport to avoid balloons.
TSA Cares told me they did not have maps of airports, had no way to contact the gates, and suggested I try to find a help desk. (Which to randomly wander the airport would be extremely risky.) I realize that SWA cannot guarantee a latex-free environment. However, they do not need to contribute to severe allergies by using latex balloons to decorate when numerous latex-free decorations are available. They also proved they were capable to accommodate severe allergy by doing so safely on my arrival into SMF, yet they did not do so for my PHX departure. I ask that DOT ban latex balloons in public transportation and hold SMF responsible for refusing to accommodate my disability in PHX.
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