Essential Food Allergy Flying Tips
If you have food allergies, here are some steps you can take to minimize your risk (or your child’s) aboard an airplane.
Before you fly:
- Call the airline and ask about their allergy policy before you book your ticket. You don’t want to find out by surprise that peanut satay is being served on your flight to Hong Kong.
- Look at the airline’s website or call customer service to find out what foods are served or sold on board.
- When you book, make sure to tell the reservations or travel agent about your allergies, and what specific accommodations you need.
- Book a flight that’s earlier in the day, because the planes get cleaned overnight, and there is less likelihood nut snacks will be consumed in the morning. This means less chance of encountering the allergen on seats and in seat pockets, etc.
- Book direct flights if possible, so you’re not dealing with multiple planes and flight crews.
- Bring your auto-injectors and/or asthma medications with you onto the plane (do not check them). Security may require that these medications show a prescription label in the name of the patient/traveler.
- It’s wise to carry an official doctor’s note stating that the medication is required for severe allergies or asthma. See sample notes here.
When you fly:
- Tell everyone you deal with – the check-in agent, the staff at the gate, the flight attendants – about your child’s or your allergies. Even if the booking agent said you will be accommodated, play it safe and make sure everyone knows.
- Arrive at the gate early and talk to the staff before they’re too busy. Be clear, calm and polite.
- If concerned about contact with allergen residue from previous passengers, ask to pre-board and wipe down the seats, tray tables and armrests. You can also cover the seat with a blanket or a seat cover. Bring wipes to wash your hands.
- Bring your own food. Don’t eat meals prepared by the airline’s caterers, even if a flight attendant tells you there are no nuts or other allergens. You don’t know if there has been cross-contamination in the preparation. Bring extra food in case of delays.
- Keep medication with you; do not store it in the overhead bin.
- If someone near you is eating a food that is dangerous to you, politely explain your situation and ask if they would be willing to stop. If they are, say thanks and offer to buy them some food that is safe.
- Keep your hands out of your eyes and mouth.
- Have a plan for what happens if you react.
- If you are reacting to something, tell the flight crew. It is important that they know about your condition.
After you fly:
- If you had a good experience, make sure to thank the flight crew for their efforts, and tell them you’ll definitely fly with the airline again. Write a letter to the airline (copying the company president), expressing your appreciation, and noting that you will certainly travel with the company again and will encourage others to do so.
- If you have an unpleasant experience, write to the airline and politely explain what happened. Tell them that you and your family will think twice before flying with the carrier again. Also include information about what could have made your flight better.
- You can also lodge a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation or the Canadian Transportation Agency.
First published in Allergic Living magazine.
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- Flying Allergic by Jennifer Van Evra
- Scott McKenzie’s Rules for traveling with food allergies
- Travel Guide 1 -Have Kitchen, Will Travel
- Travel Guide 2 - Off to Europe
- Flying With Food Allergies – Allergic Living’s Essential Tips
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