Summer 2015 –
Before taking a cross-country flight on American Airlines, Robin Van Duren went online to review the airline’s policy on food allergies. The policy stated that the decision to make an announcement informing passengers about a nut allergy would be left up to crew members. She was given the same information when she called to book her tickets. Comfortable that she could get their cooperation, Van Duren bought tickets, arrived at the airport and informed the flight crew at check in. Once on the airplane, after takeoff, the flight crew refused to make an announcement. Crew members showed Van Duren their flight crew rule book indicating they could not make an announcement. The policy shown and verbalized to Van Duren prior to departure differed greatly from what they were now being told. “The flight attendant whispered to me that she understood how serious the problem was but that the airline had hired people to watch what the flight attendants do. If she made an announcement she felt she would get fired,” said Van Duren.
To Van Duren and her family, it appeared as though the airline had different policies. “We felt very unsafe, uncared for and discriminated against. The gate people basically told us we fly at our own risk and if we don’t think it is safe, then don’t fly,” she said. Van Duren now questions how they can fly safely when policies are not consistent.
A side note: AllergySafeTravel has received numerous reports of flight attendants refusing to accommodate nut allergic passengers for fear of losing their jobs.
Nancy Myrick was caught in a nightmarish flying experience when she took her severely allergic 9-year-old son on a flight from Dallas to San Francisco. As was her custom, she asked if she could board early and wipe down her and her son’s seats in case they had peanut residue. The airline had let her do this on other flights, and since her son had had a reaction on a previous flight where no peanuts were visible, she knew it wasn’t an unreasonable precaution to take.
After some resistance and rude comments by suspicious flight attendants, the crew and ticket manager reluctantly let her board first so she could wipe the seats. Once they boarded, a girl next to them opened a bag of nuts. Myron suggested they move seats. When she asked a flight attendant if they could move, the crew member shot back: “Well, you can just get off the plane and get another flight.”
When the flight attendant called for the ticket manager to come back on the flight, she realized this wasn’t just a suggestion. In the meantime, the girl sitting near Myrick and her son had realized the issue and put away the peanuts, so Myrick suggested that they simply sit back in their original seats. But the ticket manager, refusing to hear anymore, told her to get off the plane. “All I could do was get my things with my sobbing child and get off the plane.” Myrick and her son were thrown off the plane very publicly and were told to wait at the doorway for 20 minutes. In the end, they were allowed to get back on board the plane while everyone watched. “I was afraid of missing a flight or getting arrested if I even raised my voice,” said Myrick.
By: Alexander Nitkin