The End of Peanuts on Planes? Airlines Face a Battle Over Nut Allergies
Having a serious allergic reaction at 30,000 feet can be life threatening. (Photo: Thinkstock)
After two young girls had life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to nuts mid-air in separate incidents on recent flights, a debate on nut allergies and air travel is heating up.
Though major airline carriers are always reviewing their policies, when it comes to nut allergies, they seem satisfied that their current policies are working. Many airlines no longer serve peanuts and most say they are willing to make accommodations for passengers with allergies.
Still, “There are no federal guidelines for airlines,” when it comes to accommodating the safety of passengers with nut allergies, says Lianne Mandelbaum, the mother of a child with a nut allergy and founder of the website, NoNutTraveler.com.
In the absence of federal directives, the airlines are left to set and enforce their own policies, and what passengers encounter when flying is a mixed mag – both among airlines and on different flights within the same airline.
It’s something activists from food allergy organizations, to medical personnel to parents of kids with allergies and sufferers themselves are trying to change.
Lianne Mandelbaum and her son Josh. (Photo: Lianne Mandelbaum)
Mandelbaum for one, is working overtime. She’s currently gathering signatures on a petition calling for airlines to institute a passenger bill of rights and working with politicians (like New Jersey senators Cory Booker and Joe Kyrillos) to get federal guidelines in place.
“We are asking for the ability to pre-board and wipe down the seat,” explains Mandelbaum. “We also want it to be standard that once they informed of the allergy, the crew will create a buffer zone three rows in front and three rows behind the allergic person where they will not serve any nut products and ask customers seated those rows to refrain from consuming any that they have brought onboard.”
The truth is, airlines cannot guarantee nut-free flights – even non-nut foods may be processed in facilities that also handle nuts, and it’s not possible to prevent passengers from bringing nuts on board themselves.
Mandelbaum says she is not trying to ban nuts from planes. She just wants fair and sensitive policies.