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Airlines Face Lobbying from Allergic Travelers

Allergic travelers are getting more vocal about their rights, gaining some political support, and two new write-in campaigns are underway (one in the U.S. and one in Canada).

• In December 2013, the New Jersey Senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for commercial airlines to establish formal policies to accommodate those with peanut allergies.

“Even those with allergies who take all precautions before stepping on an airplane can still suffer critical consequences and need emergency care if exposed to peanuts in the cabin,” said Senator Joe Kyrillos (R, Monmouth), who brought forward Resolution 124.

His resolution commends the accommodations policies of JetBlue Airways and Southwest Airlines and urges other airlines to announce to passengers on the plane that there is a passenger on board with an allergy to peanuts. “The least we can do is have an announcement made for them on the flight,” he noted.

Lianne Mandelbaum and her son, Joshua

• Food allergy parent Lianne Mandelbaum has been working alongside Senator Kyrillos. After a negative flying experience with her 8-year-old son, who is highly allergic to peanuts, Ms. Mandelbaum decided it was time to start lobbying for better accommodations. She set up the website Nonuttraveler.com [1] and started a petition calling for the airlines to institute a “bill of rights for allergic travelers”.

The petition calls for:
• A standard practice among U.S. airlines of creating a buffer zone (in which no nuts can be consumed) of at least one row in front and one row behind the row where the allergic passenger is seated. Flight crew would ask passengers in this buffer zone to refrain from eating nut-containing products they have brought onboard. The crew would not serve any nut containing products within the buffer zone.
• The right for allergic passengers (whether children or adults) to report their food allergy to the flight crew without fear of being removed from the flight simply because of the allergy. (At present, this can occur.) Click here [2] to read and join the airlines petition.

Asked about the purpose of the New Jersey resolution, Ms. Mandelbaum said that it’s important that state senators have recognized the need for a consistent and fair policy to protect food allergic passengers on an airplane. “Our hope is this resolution will be picked up by a U.S. Senator who can champion our efforts on a federal level,” she said.

The negative experience that prompted her advocacy occurred in September 2013. The Mandelbaum family asked to pre-board as they usually do to wipe down the seats to remove any peanut residue. They also asked for an announcement that there was a child on board with a peanut allergy. These requests were denied; they are not official policy [3] at United Airlines. Ms. Mandelbaum further said that her allergic son became frightened when an airline manager said in front of the child: “If you think he’s going to die, don’t get on the plane.”

• In Canada, meantime, the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative, a food allergy advocacy organization, is trying to win more Canadian airline accommodations by getting individuals to submit petitions of signatures to their individual members of Parliament. read more [4]

See also:

Flying Into Stormy Skies with Allergies
• Air Travel & Allergies: 8 Factors that May Reduce Risk [5]
Comparing Airlines Chart: [3] Who Accommodates and Who Doesn’t

CAI Airline Petition

In the information on its campaign, the Canadian Anaphylaxis Initiative (CAI) references the 2010 Canadian Transportation Agency decision [6] that found peanuts and tree nuts present “an obstacle to mobility” for air travel for those with these allergies.

But the CAI is of the view that the main remedy from the ruling – a buffer zone around the allergic person (in which no one eats peanuts and/or nuts) – is not sufficient accommodation given the risks of a serious reaction high in the skies.

The group would like to see other risk-reducing measures, such as an announcement (as is done on the WestJet [7] airline) letting fellow passengers know there is a person on board with serious allergies to peanut and/or nuts and asking them to refrain from eating that food. It would also like to see flight crews trained for anaphylaxis emergencies and on the use of the epinephrine auto-injector. These points and more are included in its petition for a government “Policy to Reduce the Risk for Anaphylactic Passengers”.

How the Canadian Petition Works:

The CAI is asking Canadians who support more allergy accommodations in the skies to download the petition here [8] and collect signatures. Then turn your petition into your local MP and ask that person to  present it on behalf of you and those who signed in the House of Commons.

The CAI says: “When the petition is presented to the House of Commons, it will then be officially recorded into Hansard. The more petitions – the more attention to the issue. We expect petitions to continue to be presented for many months. It will be an on-going process.”

Learn more about taking part in this campaign here [9].