"More Than An Inconvenience" – Film looks at flying with nut allergies

At long last, I’m pleased to finally be able to release this short film that looks at the issue of flying with nut allergies. For nearly two years, I’ve been waiting to have a meeting with airline representatives, and I wanted them to be the first ones to see this film. That meeting was held on Tuesday, Jan. 28th, 2014, in Washington, DC.

In the film, you’ll hear interviews from those who’ve had reactions on board flights and those who refuse to fly due to the severity of their allergies. My hope is that this film will create more understanding and empathy towards those like my daughter who have severe life-threatening allergies. Please feel free to pass this along to friends and family.

A press release announcing the film can be found on the media page.

58 thoughts on “"More Than An Inconvenience" – Film looks at flying with nut allergies

  1. Patricia Castrejon

    I carry Epipens and am allergic to shellfish and soy, and can’t have gluten, milk, or cheese. When we flew on Delta last October, I tried to request a gluten- or allergy-free meal, but it was not available, even on an international flight (Detroit-Mexico City)!

  2. Diane Cohen

    This was great! My daughter is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and we have travelled on airplanes several times. Can be very scary! Hope this helps spread the word!

  3. Dawn Cofini

    I’m not alone …. There is nowhere in this world worth seeing if I have to play Russian Roulette with my child’s life! As long as we are together as a family we will enjoy our vacations … In our car were he’ll be safe.

    1. Amy Wicker Post author

      I like the way you think, and you’re right, if you can take your trips by car, it’s much less stressful. The problem today is that so many people have family members spread all over the country that people need to fly.

    2. Carolyn Wertz

      Ive thought about this situation too, especially the fact that we have NO CONTROL over the random everyday actions of others. Why would I put my child at risk over a neighboring passenger’s peanut butter crackers packed for their child’s snack? Not worth the risk!

  4. Maria Perez-Zarraga

    I commend you on this great effort to get the attention of the airlines about this very real problem. I only wish the video had been more inclusive of other allergens. I have an adult daughter who is allergic to 7 out of the 8 major allergens, some severe, none mild. She has had anaphylaxis to dairy in the past, more than once. She now HAS to fly frequently for work; it is no longer just a choice.

    The problem of nuts on aircrafts is very serious, especially the warm nuts in First and Business, but the problem of dairy is even more prevalent because most of what people bring on board to eat has cheese which is highly aromatic. A lot of those meals they serve that release steam into the air which you mention in the video, have cheese. A great number of snack bags: Doritos, Goldfish, Cheetos, etc., when opened, release cheese aroma everywhere. I hope if something comes of this, they will think of other major allergens as well, especially those with a high probability of ending up on a flight.

    Thank you for this!

    1. Amy Wicker Post author

      Hi Maria — Thanks for your note. My daughter is anaphylactic to milk, eggs and all nuts, so I understand your concerns, but we have to try to meet in the middle. The idea is that we build a coalition to bring about positive change. We now take a mask with a charcoal filter on our flights.

  5. Patricia S Klewans

    Please send this to every airline in the world. I just had a young grandchild have to travel for 22hours wearing a mask because of stupid, thoughtless people who thought it was funny when asked not to eat nuts and said let’s throw these cashews at him & see what happens-flying across the Pacific, there is not any easy place to land when A person goes into anaflactic shock!
    My daughter was awake for the entire flight watching to make sure her child was breathing.
    It is a life threatening allergy!!!

    Please get this word out to the airlines.

    1. Amy Wicker Post author

      Thanks for your note. International flights are particularly difficult, and that was one topic that we discussed yesterday. Fingers crossed that we can make some progress. I’m sorry to hear about your grandchild because I can’t imagine the emotional impact that must have had on him and your daughter.

  6. Anthony Van Duren

    I recommend that Americans unite to boycott the airlines on National Aviation Day, August 19th, 2014. They just might wake up and listen when it hits their bottom line.

  7. Tonya

    Simple solution. Just remove nuts from airline menus. People with allergies to dogs also suffer when dogs are allowed in the cabin. There’s a simple solution to that, too.

    1. Jill

      Allergies to dogs do not cause anaphylactic shock, but many severe food allergies do, making them life-threatening.

      1. Sam

        Actually, animals can cause an anaphylaxis reaction or other severe reaction. It’s a real concern for those with allergies to cats or dogs who have to travel with an increasing number of fake and real service animals (because almost everything qualifies you for a service animal these days). It’s also a problem when the cabins aren’t cleaned much and Fluffy is allowed to travel in an under-the-seat carrier.

      2. CeCe

        This is true, however it is attitudes like this that cause problems for all of us. (Jill’s comment sounds judgmental.) As people with allergies, we need to stick together. I am severely allergic to dogs. I may not die if a dog is allowed on the airplane or sit in the seat before I get there or -worst case – ride under my seat, but I will be sick for several days and definitely suffer like Tonya mentioned, so why should it be allowed? I had traveled for years with no problems and now all of the sudden I see airlines promoting “bring your dog on the plane”. It is just another upsell for them, but for me it is definitely more than an inconvenience. Until we promote understanding for all allergy sufferers, we will continue to have problems for the ones who have life-threatening allergies..

        1. CeCe

          Maybe you are wrong about pet allergies not being life threatening – from http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2012/08/10/dogs-and-cats-vs-allergic-air-travelers-who-wins/:
          “Some people have allergic reactions simply from stepping inside a home where a pet lives, says Dr. Paul V. Williams of the Northwest Asthma & Allergy Centers around Seattle. On a plane, he says, “You can imagine what would happen if the pet was next to them.”

          Possible symptoms: swollen eyelids, stuffy nose, hives, facial swelling, throat tightness, wheezing, cough and low blood pressure. Worst case: anaphylactic shock, cardiovascular collapse and, in extreme cases, death. There doesn’t even need to be direct contact with the animal. Often, just touching a spot where the animal has been can trigger a reaction.

  8. Diane Bosak

    I pray the airlines listen. So easy to prevent a catastrophic allergic reaction.
    As the grandmother of a precious little girl that lives with this allergy every minute of every day i beg people to be aware and educate themselves on this problem.
    I watch the fear of her parents and my heart breaks. They live with this constantly, it never goes away. It is very real!

  9. Colette

    My son is allergic to peanuts &nuts. I am surprised that people are describing the allergic reactions and only taking antihistamine. Epi Is the only way to go. Why are they only asking about nuts when they are already on board? I have emailed, called airlines and only book with ones that have a policy in place. Great video but I think it’s misleading.

    1. Amy Wicker Post author

      Hi Colette —

      Thanks for your note. Help us spread the word that we need to know who those people are who’ve used epipens on planes. I know one family who almost lost their child on a flight, and the topic was too painful for them to talk about on camera. As much as I wanted them to tell their story, I also understood how difficult this situation must have been for them. We need everyone to communicate with either me or DOT about their allergic reactions. A study last fall indicated that most people who have reactions don’t even tell the flight attendants. So, if we can get people to talk about the issue and raise awareness, then that’s progress.

    2. Claudia

      I am 28 and have been allergic to nuts since I was fourteen and as time passed my allergic reaction is now deadly. I fly 2-4 times a year for the past decade and I have learn to carry face masks, gloves, 2 epi pens, 2 boxes of benedryl, the benedryl topical lotion and contact the airlines before hand.

      I hated Southwest until I contacted them a month before a trip for a different reason and somehow told the representative about being allergic to many things and she explained their policy. If you contact them right after purchasing a ticket and or a month before your trip they will put it in their system, that plane is not allowed to have nuts all day in the plane and they allow you to go in first and wipe down your seat and one all four legs of my trip they did do that and they pilot announce please no nuts in the flight at all or he would stop in the closest city to drop that customer off and that would delay everyone at least four hours to catch other planes, lost/late luggage, missed reservations and so on. And it was funny the way that pilot made everyone understand but I feel safe flying with them.

      I’m allergic to peanuts and all tree nuts, coconuts, pineapples and avocado. I am very conscious ever since I had a reaction on a overnight flight, the flight attendant didn’t understand and kept touching my shoulder and I was feeling like I was going to die. Worse flight ever.

    3. Heather

      Collette- we were pre-planned months in advance- and a full nut-free flight!
      My sons reaction was from the peanut dust residue in the ventilation system from the flight before us-
      His reaction stopped immediately following Benedryl- and I had 4 Epi-pens layer out ready with my fellow passenger on alert to help.
      This video is not for you to pass judgement on our stories but spread awareness.

  10. Jodi

    Thank you so much for taking on this process of educating the public and hopefully the airlines. How do we got them to change their food options?? What can we do?

  11. Juliet MacMillan

    My son has a severe peanut allergy and ever since I found out about the petition to ban peanuts from airplanes, I have been working hard to pass the word and get people to sign it. Could you PLEASE post a link to this petition right before you have the video so it is not missed? And/or make a mention of the petition in the video? At this time there are about 2,300 more signatures needed to reach 10,000. If you could, that would be Wonderful. Thank you!! ~ Juliet

  12. Julie

    I called delta prior to our flight and they noted the allergy and did not serve any peanut products. They allowed me to board first to wipe down the seat. The flight attendant made an announcement about a passenger with peanut allergies and to not eat anything containing nuts. I was SHOCKED with the reaction of the passengers – they laughed at the announcement! We have an issue with our society being very self centered and not caring for others well being. That came thru in your video as well. Lastly, a passenger behind me tapped the flight attendant on the shoulder and said ‘but these pretzels you are serving are made in a factory with peanuts’. The flight attendant came to me with it and I let him know that yes I was aware that us why I always travel with food. He was taking it to the head quarters in Atlanta to raise that concern that they need a safe alternative.

    Key messages for others with allergies:
    Speak up – let others around you know the issue and seek others to help keep the person safe

    Bring meds – have a couple of epis, Benadryl, inhaler, etc

    Bring food on board safe for the person.

    Thank you for taking this stance so all can have the freedom to travel.

  13. Karen Vergoni

    My 16 month old grandson has a peanut allergy. With so many nut allergies today, the airlines should not serve nuts on planes. It is just that simple. Pretzels are a good alternative and do less damage to people and to their planes! They are less greasy and a healthier alternative.

    This is such a no brainer it is hard to see why they have not stopped already.

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  15. John

    I was on a recent Southwest flight.
    The pilot announced they would not be serving peanuts on this flight because one of the passengers had a nut allergy.

    1. Sherry

      We flew Southwest last August and they made an announcement for my son who is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.

  16. Amy Richards

    Thank you for bringing more attention to this matter. My 11 yr old has several life threatening food allergies and flying is always so stressful for us. Some airlines like Southwest are excellent – others are not. I hope that industry wide understanding can help make the accommodations we need easier to get.

    1. Ron Richards

      Seeing my sons face every time we have to fly, crushes me. Its so hard because people hear nut allergies and think sneezing and watery eyes. For but anaphylactic nut allergies these people don’t have a choice and one epi pen may not be enough to save a life in mid flight.

      I hope the airlines can make a stance for people with out a choice…

      My eyes were opened when my sons near death reaction happened as a baby and we live with it every day. I pray others don’t have to live with it as well for their eyes to be open to the fear to truley understand it too.

      A loving Dad –

      what is tough in life will make you stronger Jordan i promise and we are hear with you all the way…

  17. Donna Wayt

    REALLY!!! Is serving peanuts worth risking a life??? This is unacceptable and irresponsible of the airline industry!!! Nobody will die if they can NOT eat peanuts on a plane!!

  18. Brynn

    Thank you for making this video. We are frequent flyers and have a peanut and tree nut allergic son. So far, we’ve been lucky, but it’s nerve-wracking each time.

    Many people with no experience of food allergies seem to have difficulties understanding how serious they can be. I suppose because kids with food allergies look and act like any other child. Without seeing it first-hand, it must be hard for some to imagine the speed and severity of an allergic reaction.

    This is an impactful and emotional film trailer – I truly hope it wakes people up and encourages airlines to take the incredibly small steps needed to protect allergic people.

  19. Dana

    Thank you for making this issue come alive by videotaping passenger’s experiences. We’ve had our share of frightening experiences while flying with our pn/tn allergic daughter beginning at 18months old. She is now 15 and those same conditions exists. It’s amazing how a few simple solutions have become ladened with politics. Together, we need to create a larger voice for airline safety and change the narrow thinking of individuals and companies.
    Way to go Amy!

  20. Emily Blanck

    I am Ana to Peanuts. I never fly South west or Delta. I ALWAYS ask for an aisle seat so I only have one person to ask to not eat peanuts. And I always ask. I have sat In The bathroom for an entire flight. I carry face masks. I have sat with my hands folded to make sure I didn’tt touch my face. Where ever I touched would get hives.

    What is so hard about serving chips or pretzels? I have brought my own food on planes for 40 years. I don’t expect the airlines to feed me. I wouldn’t trust them. Thank you for making this film and fir advocating fur all if us’.

  21. Maria Van Dyke

    Thank you for working so hard on this issue and bringing it to the attention on a National Level. My son has a peanut allergy and I have to commend Air Tran and Southwest as both airlines refrained from passing out any type of peanut product when we told them we had an airline upon check in. I hope all airlines will be this accommodating. We shouldn’t have to restrain from traveling and showing our kids the world because of their food allergies.

  22. Daniella Knell

    I am a food allergy mom and 23 year flight attendant employee. We travel regularly and have fortunately not had issues. This video is educational and impactful! I think it should be a must see for yearly training for ALL airline employees coming in contact with passengers.

    1. Amy Wicker Post author

      Hi Daniella – Thanks for your kind note. Recently, I met with the Flight Attendant’s Association and asked them to consider showing this to all their members and using it during their training. I’ve not heard back from him yet, but I’m hopeful they’ll use it.

  23. Maryann Gates

    Great film! I hope people learn something from this! My daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and we have flown once, but the airline made a 4 row buffer around her on each side, and it was announced that if anyone in those rows has peanuts of peanut butter, to please move. They also announced that they would not be selling any peanuts during the flight due to a child having a severe peanut allergy on the plane. I wish ALL airlines were like that.

  24. Katie

    This video could not be more perfect. I’m 22 and have a fatal peanut and tree nut allergy since I was born. Flying has always been so scary for me and my family. Even as an adult I have anxiety attacks just thinking about getting on the plane. It’s so hard to explain to people the fear of flying. This video made me tear up. I have never reacted on a plane, thank goodness, but I have been treated horribly by airlines. Thank you for making this video, hopefully change will be the outcome.

  25. Robin

    Oh goodness, as I wipe the tears from my eyes and stop sniffling, I have to say I can’t thank you enough for creating this video. Traveling in particular is such a source of anxiety for me, because of my 9 year old’s peanut allergy. It’s so difficult to get other family members to understand. We have traveled w/in the US, and I do use a cover for his seat, and make sure to fly on airlines that I know won’t serve nuts, and just cross my fingers nobody sits next to us. Most of the time it’s ok, but the anxiety is just awful. The other issue I have run across is in the airports too: with Asian Food cooking, and Peanut Oil whipping through the air while we have to walk by to go to our gate–it’s just not right. Recently when I was traveling alone and in DC I had a gate next to Five Guys burgers–I think they are the ones who cook all in Peanut Oil. I just kept thinking, ok, I guess this airline, in DC is off limits for my son. How many more places will be off-limits to our kids? I could go on and on….anyway, thank you for doing what you are doing for all of us!

  26. Victoria

    Thank you so much for taking this on. Our daughter is 3 years old. Her first exposure to peanuts at 18 months old put her into immediate anaphylactic shock. We have chosen NOT to to fly – however it would be very nice to one day fly without fear of her life. It seems so simple the actions that should be taken to protect the lives of fellow human beings. I applaud this effort because really things are not so simple – and unfortunately we have real cause to fear for our lives should we choose to fly with allergies.

  27. Ethan Evans Cummings

    I don’t understand first-hand the difficulties but this is definitely an issue that should be acknowledged by everyone. Thank you, Amy. This video is perfect.

  28. Lars Arne

    This is a big problem all over the world. I live in Norway, and it’s also a problem here. I got my allergy at the age of 26, on a plane. Ate some peanut chocolate bars, and got anaphylaxis shock in air. The flight personel got mad at me, and didn’t want to help me. I almost died on a plane, but I had enough adrenaline in my body to hold out for 1 hour, when the plane landed I collapsed on the runway. My body was all stiff, and my face, mouth, tung and trought was all closed up. The baggage people called the ambulance and helicopter and got me to the hospital in the north of Norway. Pretty darn scary to fly sometimes, the biggest problem is people that don’t understand how server it is, and in Norway it’s not so common to have server nut and peanut allergy. I always email the airline after ordering a flight, so that I have it in writing. I flying to the US this summer for a work trip, hope it’s not gonna be problematic.
    PS: have traveled a lot the last year’, without any big problems, except for when I travel in France. The flight personel and cabin personel do have a BIG problem with all other language except their own national language. They almost don’t speak English, and then trying to explain the I have a allergy for peanuts that can kill me if someone on the plane opens a a snickers or anything else with peanuts is hard. Hope it’s possible to got the peanuts and nuts of the planes. And for people with other allergies can have a safe flight all over the world.

  29. Becky Rich

    I also have severe peanut prophylaxis and have reacted on a China Airlines flight from the U.S. to Malaysia, when I first moved here 9 years ago. (That happened after TWICE asking whether they served peanuts and being told they would not, but would serve pretzels. My husband asked when booking our flight, and I asked again when checking our baggage.)

    We were misinformed because they DID serve peanuts but fortunately, there was a medical person onboard, who quickly injected me with an epi-pen I carried.

    Since then I have flown several times from Malaysia to other places and always carry with me a note from a local doctor stating how life threatening my allergy is. Most of the time, the stewardess I show my note to is very kind and the airline refrains from serving peanuts. But flying is very stressful for me and I’ve had to endure those who just don’t understand, so I can identify with the others who have written similar comments.

    It will be nice when a person can travel without fear. Thank you for trying to help us.

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  32. Alice

    Is it possible to make it any more explicit, perhaps in one of those end visual notes that none (I think none, based on what I heard) of the reactions illustrated were to ingestion of the allergen — all were to environmental exposure? As you know, that’s one of the misconceptions we have to fight the hardest.

    Also, I have a physical copy of a terrible letter from United claiming that they hold no responsibility for my safety as an allergic individual. If you want cannon fodder.

  33. Erin Kelly

    This is a major issue I have been dealing with on a regular basis the last few years. I am anaphylactic to soy, peanuts, tree nuts, and seeds, and although I have never previously had an airborne issue with any of my allergens the fear and possibility that I may causes me great anxiety and stress. travel back and forth from NY to LA about once a month because my mother lives one on coast and my dad on the other, and because of the custody arrangements I have to spend a certain amount of time with both my custodial and non-custodial parent, which means I have to travel regularly. Traveling to and from the opposite sides of the country is not feasible by car, so flying is my only choice. Because I travel roundtrip typically once a month that is 24 flights a year, just to go back and forth between my homes, that’s 24 trips that I have to mentally and physically prepare for, especially because I travel by myself, and that does not include the additional flights I take for vacations. I normally make the flight attendants aware that I have food allergies, but many times they just want to tell me a story about someone they know who has food allergies. As much as try to remain calm and relaxed during the typically four and a half to six hour flights, doing so seems impossible, and I end up pending the whole flight worrying that I may have a reaction, checking the time and distance to go until I can finally get safe air to breathe. I know that many airlines are beginning to attempt to be more accommodating, some of them now ask if passengers have severe food allergies during the booking process, choosing not to serve peanuts during flights, but there is only so much that passengers and flight attendants can do to prevent other travelers from bringing food that contains allergens onto the plane.

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  36. Daryl Van Horne

    I am angry at the stupidity of those who do not accommodate people, especially children, with anaphylactic fears from food allergies on airlines, especially peanuts, other nuts, seeds, oils, etc.
    How careless is that attitude when they don’t recognize the seriousness of the possible fatal reaction people can have.
    I applaud the airlines that at least acknowledge the disability and make some alllowance, or at least try to help clear the area, or let the parents do so.

    For those who are so spoiled, and self-centered, that they don’t want to stop feeding their fat faces with peanuts, other nuts, and food items that threaten the lives of others, would be well advised to be careful. The fear and frustration of those parents and guardians of allergic children, might not be as forgiving as you think, where their child’s lives are concerned. I know I would not be forgiving at all.

    As for those of us, who are very concerned to get this message out to everyone we know, including the agencies who don’t recognize the dangers either, let’s make it our business to straighten out those few ignoramuses in front of everyone on the plane, when they make a fuss, so that maybe they’ll learn to pay more attention. Also, do what you can in your dealings with all airlines, and airline personnel, to make them aware of the seriousness – of which they may not have previously been aware.

    If the idiot still wants to be selfish, ask the offender if he would like to fly outside the plane.

    If you own or control a business that deals with airlines, make them aware that you might consider withholding your product from them, or not using their services until they smarten up.

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