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This is Nuts, No If Ands Or Buffer

Samantha Yaffe’s opinionated view of motherhood with allergies. This month, Sam has a distressing encounter with Air Canada’s new allergy policy.

“Sorry ma’am, but your son cannot board this plane if he hasn’t been cleared by our med desk at least 48 hours in advance,” says the airline employee at the gate in Miami. “It’s the new policy ma’am. Nothing I can do about it ….”

“Do you hear what you’re saying to me?” I respond, repeatedly, with as much restraint as humanly possible (I’m well aware that any hint of aggression will get me nothing but a personal escort out of Miami International and a byline on the Air Canada black list).

My eyes are welling, my voice is cracking, my hands are shaking. Honey is in the gift shop with the kids buying gum; a line is starting to form behind me as I’m facing what seems the biggest human rights moment of my life.

“It’s 2011. We’re in America. Do you hear what you’re saying to me?” I add to my mantra.

All I was looking for was a quick conversation with someone from the flight crew so I could let them know about Lucas’ allergies and see about a p.a. announcement. I wasn’t requesting Air Canada’s new nut-free buffer zone, which I already know requires advance medical clearance.

I attempt to clarify this point several times, but according to this employee, what I’m requesting is irrelevant. “Your son is not allowed to fly without advance medical clearance because of his peanut allergy, and it’s too late for that.

“I’m sorry, but that’s what the policy says, ma’am!”

Resistance – I’m accustomed to. Ignorance – I’ve come to expect. But shameless discrimination against my innocent 8-year-old boy? I’m sick.

For me, there’s nothing friendly about the skies except on the occasion when you get an obliging flight attendant who’s happy to make a timely announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating peanuts and tree nuts on the plane; who’s willing to not serve or sell our allergens on board our flight; and who possesses the common sense and basic sensitivity we allergy parents pray for every time we fly.

You don’t always encounter these angels of flight, but they are out there. Well, at least they were out there until our fair Air Canada was led by its regulating body, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), to adopt its nut-free buffer zone policy in late 2010. This is undoubtedly the cause for the anti-allergy confusion in Miami.

Ahh, Air Canada’s new buffer zone – the one “nut-free” row behind and in front of (but not beside) a medically approved allergic passenger, “set up in order to help avoid the risk of exposure.” Yada yada.

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