Category Archives: Uncategorized

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against United Airlines

Summer 2015 –

A California woman loses her court battle against United Airlines that stemmed from a life-threatening allergic reaction she had on board a flight. In May, a U.S. District Court judge in Sacramento threw out the claims that Alisa Gleason had filed stating that her charges of negligence, emotional distress and breach of contract were preempted by the Airline Dergulation Act, a 1978 federal law that removed government control over the airlines. In his ruling, Judge Morrison England wrote that Gleason’s claims relate to the services of an air carrier and are therefore preempted by the Airline Dereguation Act.

Gleason, who has a life-threatening peanut allergy, boarded a flight from Florida to Chicago on United Airlines on May 28, 2011. Before the flight, she asked United employees to make an announcement for passengers to refrain from eating peanuts on the flight; United agreed. However, once on the plane, United crewmembers on the flight refused to make that announcement as promised. In fact, one flight attendant allegedly said to her, “What do you want me to do about it?” when she told him she had a peanut allergy.

One hour into the flight, Ms. Gleason started experiencing an allergic reaction. She had noticed that someone four rows behind her was eating peanuts. She took Benadryl and an inhaler to no avail and her reaction worsened. She went to the bathroom, and a flight attendant ordered her out. She took out her inhaler, and allegedly was told by the flight attendant to put away the “nail polish” because the odor might disturb other passengers. Flight attendants and a passenger who was a nurse told the pilot that Ms. Gleason may not survive all the way to Chicago, which was 40-45 minutes away, as she was lapsing in and out of consciousness and experiencing stridor. The pilot made an emergency landing in Missouri. Ms. Gleason was treated at a hospital in Missouri for two days in intensive care.

Although the judge dismissed the lawsuit, United nevertheless received a lot of negative publicity, especially in the food allergy community. A few lessons can be learned to prevent such an incident like this in the future. First, if a passenger is showing signs of an allergic reaction, make sure the passenger is treated with epinephrine as soon as possible. Every on-board medical kit has epinephrine. Early treatment can mean the difference between life and death and can often prevent the situation from becoming worse or dire.

Second, treat the allergic passenger with respect. Food allergy is a recognized disability by the Department of Transportation, so treat them with the same care as any other disabled passenger. Showing kindness and compassion can go a long way. Lawsuits are often brought because a person feels mistreated, and studies show that a little bit of kindness can often discourage a lawsuit.

Lastly, be consistent. If your airline has an allergy policy, make sure it is enforced. Make sure the customer service representatives know the policy in addition to every other crew member so that their promises are followed through by the flight crew. The seeming randomness of how policies are enforced or not enforced contributes to the passengers’ frustration and makes them more likely to take action against the airline.

By: Laurel Francoeur, Attorney and Founder of the Allergy Law Project, an advocacy group for individuals with food allergies. Author of “Flying with Food Allergies”.

Airlines Upgrade Safety by Receiving Food Allergy Training

Summer 2015 –

When airline executives now receive disability training, food allergies will be a part of that discussion, thanks to Open Doors, a non-profit advocacy group for people with disabilities.  Due to the growing prevalence of food allergies, the Chicago-based organization began to include the information in its training program beginning in January.

“We have included severe nut allergies in our education programs and recognize that severe nut allergies can be fatal,” said Executive Director Eric Lipp.  “Our approach is to establish a consistent minimum policy that all airlines can follow that calls on them to instruct their flight crews to make an announcement when a passenger has a severe nut allergy.”

Lipp acknowledges that airlines can’t prevent passengers from bringing nuts on board, but says an announcement could discourage passengers from opening nut packages.

“It’s really a shared responsibility.  Passengers with nut allergies should make sure they take all preventive arrangements before boarding, including having an epinephrine auto-injector and wiping down seats from previous passengers.  We are hoping that airlines will step up and establish higher standards when it comes to dealing with severe nut allergies,” added Lipp, who notes that many airlines today routinely include an epinephrine auto-injector in their on-board medical kits.

The organization, founded in 2000, advocates on behalf of all persons with disabilities so that they may have the same consumer opportunities as everyone else. They aspire to teach businesses how to succeed in the disability market, while simultaneously empowering the disability community.

By: David Brimm
 

My Journey with Airborne Nut Allergies

Summer 2015 –

Five years ago, I boarded a flight from Chicago with my husband and two daughters, one of whom has asthma and life-threatening nut allergies, to attend a family member’s wedding in California.  Twenty minutes after take-off we began smelling nuts—within seconds my daughter started to react.

I grabbed the epinephrine, nebulizer, and Benadryl and started medicating my then 5 year old.  After several terrorizing minutes of not knowing whether she’d go into full anaphylactic shock, her medicine kicked in, and her symptoms slowly subsided.

There are no words to adequately describe my fear of being in the sky at 35,000 feet and watching my daughter react to one of her deadliest allergens.  That day…we got lucky.   What caused my daughter’s reaction—a couple sitting several rows in front of us opened a can of mixed nuts.

We are not alone on this journey of navigating air travel and life-threatening allergies to the inhalation of nut proteins.  There are others who have had similar, even worse, reactions on board flights.

Nearly three years ago, Alisa Gleason of Sacramento went into anaphylactic shock on board a flight when a woman sitting several rows away from her opened a bag of peanuts.  According to published reports, Gleason said as soon as she inhaled the airborne peanut proteins, it felt as though her lungs collapsed.  “Every time you breathe, it closes in and doesn’t open,” she said.  The plane diverted and made an emergency landing in St. Louis where Gleason spent two days in ICU.

Last August, a 4-year-old girl went into anaphylactic shock. On this flight, the flight attendants made repeated announcements about a passenger with life-threatening allergies to peanuts and requested that such products not be opened.  Sadly, a passenger, sitting several rows away from the girl, opened a bag of nuts.  The girl stopped breathing and luckily survived after being revived by epinephrine.

The plane was diverted to make an emergency landing.

While we don’t know exactly how many passengers have had airborne reactions to nuts on airplanes since there are no reporting requirements, there are steps airlines can take to safeguard passengers who have life-threatening allergies to nuts.

  • First, allow affected travelers time to pre-board flights for wiping down seats, seat belts, tray tables, and surrounding areas.  Residue from previous flights can trigger a reaction.
  • Second, make pre-flight announcements requesting passengers to refrain from eating nut products due to passengers with life-threatening nut allergies.  Passengers should be made aware that if nuts are opened and eaten on the aircraft there is a possibility that the plane may need to be diverted from its existing schedule and route to make an emergency landing.
  • Third, establish a nut free section or buffer zone around allergic passengers. (How large that zone needs to be should be determined by nut allergic passenger and flight crew).
  • Finally, carry epinephrine auto-injectors and train flight personnel — Case in point, there’ve been two situations within recent months where medical personnel had difficulty using epinephrine supplied in airline medical kits on individuals who were in anaphylaxis.

While scientific evidence is not where it should be when it comes to proving that airborne reactions to nuts can occur and can have detrimental results, there is some data that reinforces the health impacts of airborne nut allergies.

Leading food allergy researcher Dr. Kari Nadeau of Stanford, says one has to be careful of saying there is “absolutely no risk” of airborne anaphylaxis given the information we have already.  Nadeau points out that data exists from aerochamber studies that may be helpful in determining the risk of airborne reactions.  During these aerochamber studies, people with allergies breathe in certain particles and wait to see when they get symptoms.  According to Nadeau, one can infer some degree of an allergic reaction in the average food allergy patient on an airplane. (Please see information below for specific data)

In November’s Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology,  Dr. Hugh Sampson, one of the lead authors of “Food allergy:  A practice parameter update – 2014” states “the primary exposure to a food allergen for most patients is through ingestion, although some patients can exhibit symptoms after skin contact or inhalation of aerosolized protein.”

During a taped interview several years ago, Ann Munoz Furlong, the founder of the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (now FARE), discusses the dangers of airborne reactions.  Furlong said individuals have died after inhaling their allergen.  She spoke specifically of one man who died after inhaling shrimp and another girl who died as a result of inhaling chick peas. Munoz said, “if you’ve got people opening nuts on a plane, for some individuals it will cause a reaction.”

Think about the risk of physical exposure to passengers with severe allergies when a passenger is sitting in such close quarters with other passengers.   Case in point, college junior Zac Chelini was sitting at the airport waiting to board his flight when a woman sitting next to him opened a package of trail mix which included nuts.  Chelini says the mix spilled everywhere, including on himself.  He immediately went into anaphylaxis, and had to be rushed to the hospital where he received multiple shots of epinephrine.  One wonders what would have been the outcome of this exposure had he been on a plane at 35,000 feet.  No doubt, he would have been protected from this type of exposure had he been sitting in a buffer zone on an airplane.

One thing we know for certain is that no two allergies are alike, and no two reactions are alike.  We also know that when airlines take the proper precautions, onboard emergencies can be avoided and lives are protected.  Please take action now to create a safer flying environment for all passengers, because even one life lost to anaphylaxis is too many.

By: Amy Wicker

Airlines That Went Above and Beyond – WestJet

Summer 2015 –

When it comes to accommodating passengers flying with nut allergies, Canada’s WestJet Airlines has set the gold standard.   Since 2011, the company has operated under a unique, well-organized peanut and nut allergy-conscious policy.  The amount of information and detail that they provide passengers with is unparalleled.  From the filtration system to cabin cleaning and food manufacturing processes, WestJet aggressively addresses anything that might trigger on-board nut allergy reactions.    Notable guidelines from the policy include:

  • Carrying epinephrine auto-injectors on board all aircraft
  • Not serving nut-based products to customers (although the airline cannot guarantee that onboard snacks do not contain trace amounts).
  • Requesting that guests seated within two rows of an allergy sufferer not consume food products with nuts
  • Making a public address announcement prior to take-off informing all customers that they are traveling with a peanut or nut allergy sufferer, and asking them to refrain from opening or consuming peanuts or nuts during the flight.

We caught up with the Public Relations Manager for WestJet, Robert Palmer, via email to check in on the success of the four-year-old policy, and to see how Canadian travelers have responded to what might some might consider an inconvenience.

According to Palmer, in 2014, of the nearly 2,100 events on WestJet aircraft that required the services of MedAire, an in-flight medical services provider, only 56 of them were considered serious and allergy-related (about 2 percent). The majority of allergy-related incidents, Palmer said, appear to have been caused by food (usually consumed before boarding), bug or animal bites, interactions with pets or certain cleaning chemicals on board, as well as some miscellaneous cases. Most were treatable by antihistamine or similar medications. WestJet operates approximately 180,000 to 200,000 flights a year, serving about 20 million people.

Here are the highlights of the conversation Allergy Safe Travel had with Palmer:

Allergy Safe Travel: Has WestJet had to make any emergency landings due to allergy-related incidents since you put this policy in place? Have those occurred any less often since you implemented your policy?

Robert Palmer: No. To the best of our knowledge, we’ve never had to divert or make an emergency landing for an allergy-related event, although we do divert aircraft in cases where there are other potentially life-threatening medical emergencies on board (e.g.. heart attacks, strokes, etc.).

AST: What kind of response have you gotten from non-allergic customers regarding this policy? Are they mostly compliant in making sure allergy sufferers are in a safe environment?

RP:   Although we don’t “track” reactions to various policies, it would be difficult to assess with complete certainty the responses we’ve received. Anecdotally, I don’t think we’ve really had any response one way or another, but that is probably due to the fact that we do not serve nuts on our aircraft. Generally speaking, when I fly (50-75 times per year) I don’t see guests bringing them on board very often. This doesn’t surprise me, given the overall heightened public sensitivity around nut-related allergies. There may be some difference between Canada and the U.S. here, since some U.S. airlines still serve nuts and the overall public view may be different.

AST: Have you faced any backlash to this policy from customers? If so, could you describe a particular incident?

RP: No, not to my knowledge. Again, I believe Canadians are accustomed to this heightened awareness.

AST: Is WestJet incurring any sort of extra financial burden from being peanut/nut allergy-conscious?

RP: No, at least not directly. Our strict requirements for our vendors to adhere to our allergy approach likely create more expense for them, however.

AST: In general, is it difficult at any level of the company hierarchy (from executives to flight attendants) to implement such a policy? What are some of the challenges an airline faces when it decides to do so?

RP: WestJet’s corporate culture is one based on care and our approach to allergies is a natural extension of that culture. There was support at all levels of the company when we took this approach.

AST: Has the airline considered expanding this policy to be more accommodating for customers with other allergies?

RP: No, not at this time.

AST: Do you see WestJet as a model that other airlines should follow in this regard, and do you expect your competitors to follow suit with similar policies in the coming years?

RP: No one solution will fit every situation, and what one airline does may not necessarily work for another. We are pleased with our approach, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable suggesting that others should follow.

Palmer also wanted to add: “One trend I came across that I felt I should mention is the number of allergic guests who did not have their EpiPens with them on board. I was surprised to see how often these guests had put them in their checked baggage, which is obviously not accessible while in flight, rather than in their carry-on baggage. We always recommend that guests who require (or may require) medication always keep it with them.”

WestJet’s full policy can be read at the following link: http://www.westjet.com/guest/en/travel/special-arrangements/special-needs/allergies.shtml

By:  Andrew Brown

Aimee: Our Hero in the Sky

Summer 2015 –

We salute American Airlines flight attendant Aimee of New York for going above and beyond to protect food allergic passengers.  Aimee, who frequently flies internationally, explains to her food allergic passengers that she understands their issues, and she’ll do what she can to help them.  This includes informing passengers who are seated in nearby rows about the individual’s allergy.  Aimee says she’s never had push back from the other passengers, and the food allergic passenger is always appreciative of her efforts.

Aimee understands food allergies first-hand since her son is allergic to dairy and nuts.  She had hoped that she and her family would be able to take frequent trips around the world, but her son’s allergies make that difficult to do.

When it comes to flying with allergies, Aimee says it’s all in the approach you take with the flight crew. “Don’t act like it’s a panic situation.  When you get on the plane, pull a flight attendant aside and calmly explain the situation.  Make sure it’s not during a crazy time,” said Aimee.

This 20-year-veteran says she believes the airlines need to be proactive and work with their food allergic passengers.   “This is about passenger safety and making sure that everyone stays safe while flying,” said Aimee.

AST would like to note that Aimee wished to keep her identity anonymous due to company policies.  We appreciate her candor and hope that one day talking about  going above and beyond to protect an allergic passenger will be encouraged by airlines.  Thanks to Aimee for sharing her story. 

By: Amy Wicker

Holiday Travel May See Increase in Allergic Reactions Aboard Planes

November 13, 2014 – As the holiday travel season approaches, more families will be flying.  With the increase in travel comes an increased risk among travelers with food allergies, especially those allergic to nuts.  To that end, we’re encouraging airlines, food allergic travelers and the traveling public to take extra precautions.  This warning comes after four airline passengers went into anaphylaxis on board planes during the summer travel period.   Three of these flights had to make emergency landings.

Even after these incidents, and their impact on operating costs, airlines and government officials are still struggling to find the right solutions.   Just last week, I attended the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Disability Forum in Washington, DC.  This conference looked specifically at how the flying experience could be improved for those with disabilities.  What pleased me the most was that food allergies are finally becoming part of that discussion.

We’re not asking airlines to make big concessions to keep allergy passengers safe.  We simply are asking that airlines make an on-board announcement that passengers should refrain from opening nuts or nut-based snacks for the duration of the flight.

We would also like to see airlines create a buffer zone within the plane that disallows any nuts or snacks with nuts. Here again, the key is for flight crews to be educated on the health implications of an anaphylactic reaction and to allow them the flexibility they need to work with all passengers on board a particular flight.

Here are some travel tips for individuals who are at risk from severe nut allergies.

  • Carry epinephrine auto-injectors / inhalers / Benadryl
  • Use seat cover and wipes to cover or remove any nut residue from other passengers
  • Wear a mask if you may have airborne issues with nut proteins.
  • Think about sitting in the last row of the plane then you’ve only got three rows of passengers in front of you to contend with.
  • Carry extra snacks that don’t contain nuts to mollify other passengers
  • Be forewarned that you may at some point need to leave your buffer zone to use the bathroom or get off the plane.  Be sure to take wipes and/or put on mask when you leave buffer zone.

For those who are traveling without allergies, I always encourage them to eat their nuts or nut products before or after their flight.  There’s no guarantee that flight crews will make an announcement for nut allergic passengers, and the last thing anyone wants to happen is for someone to go into anaphylaxis and for an emergency landing to occur.

I think we can all agree that every life deserves protection.  Until we have a cure, we need to all work together to make this happen.

Have a wonderful, safe holiday season.

Safe Travels

Amy

Flying Not An Option … Have you thought about Amtrak?

June 10, 2014 — Our family only flies when absolutely necessary, usually to see relatives.    Recently, however, we’ve been thinking more about Amtrak because in many ways it seems like rail travel might be a safer and easier way to go compared to airline travel if you are dealing with food allergies.  For example, if someone is eating nuts around you in a train car, at least you can get up and move to a different car.

I decided to see what else I could find out about rail travel by calling an old friend of mine who is Amtrak’s spokesperson.  Marc Magliari has worked for Amtrak for many years, and he was more than willing to provide me with tips and ideas on how to make rail travel safe for food allergic passengers.

Magliari’s first piece of advice is to pay a bit extra to get a sleeper car if you’re going to be traveling overnight.  With your own sleeper car,  you’ll be less apt to be impacted by what others are eating around you.  He recommended getting a sleeper car at the end of a hallway, which is prone to less foot traffic.

Keep in mind that while Amtrak cleans the sleeper cars and provides fresh, clean sheets, you may be contending with upholstery and carpeting that may contain food proteins or nut particles from previous passengers.  In terms of ventilation, there is an air exchange on each sleeper car, so it is possible that if someone is eating nuts in a nearby room there may be some airborne risk if you happen to be in the same rail car.

If you’re traveling a shorter distance and you don’t need a sleeper car, and another passenger is eating an offending food, Magliari recommends asking the conductor if you or the other passenger can be re-located to a different car.  Magliari notes that often your request can be accommodated.

In terms of dining options, I was pleased to learn that they have all of their  menus online.  Even better, they have all the nutrition and ingredients listed, including allergens.  The only issue I have with this information is that it is a bit outdated.  The ingredients were last updated in May 2013.  If you decide to order something off of the menu, just check with the food server to make sure that none of the ingredients have changed.  They do offer vegetarian and kosher meal options as well.

If you’re like us and need to carry your own food, you should bring your food in a cooler.  Magliari says they’ll provide ice for your cooler, and they’ve got electrical outlets in the sleeper cars so you could bring along a hot plate if need be.

If there is an emergency onboard, Magliara says the train will meet EMS personnel in the next town.

If there are family allergies to pets, you should be aware that dogs and cats are now allowed on trains between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois.  The Illinois Department of Transportation asked Amtrak to try out the pilot pet program which runs through November 2, 2014.  Magliari says there will be at least one car that is pet free.

Based on this information and our own allergy and asthma profile, here’s what I would bring along on an Amtrak trip:

  • Medicine, of course, including Auvi-Q
  • Portable Nebulizer
  • Pillow, sheets and/or seat covers
  • Small air purifier (if in sleeper car)
  • Mask
  • Food/Snacks
  • Cooler and hot plate
  • Wipes

If you’ve already taken Amtrak, please let us know how you found the experience.

Safe Travels —

Amy

By the way, the cheapest time to travel Amtrak is in the fall and in January and February.  Book early, and you’ll get a better rate.  There are different types of sleeper cars based on where you’re traveling and on which rail line.  Be sure to check their website for additional information on the types of sleeper cars that are available.

You can find additional information on Amtrak’s pilot pet program by visiting http://www.amtrak.com/carry-on-pet-pilot

 

 

 

 

 

Fly Safe: My Top Ten List

May 12, 2014 — Of course, my fondest wish is that an emergency kit to reduce food allergic reactions onboard planes would be unnecessary if airlines stopped serving or allowing nuts on flights.  Until that happens, if you have a family member with a nut allergy you probably have your own “emergency kit” that you bring on board.

I have my own, ranked from preventive measures to those measures required to treat an on-board reaction.  Here, in a “nutshell,” is my list.

1. Wipes to try and disinfect seat handles, cushions, serving tray and the seat pocket.

2. Mask to diminish airborne nut particles which could trigger an allergic reaction.  http://icanbreathe.com/store/honeycomb1.html

3. Seat Cover that can be placed over the existing seat cover which is probably contaminated with nut residue from previous occupants.  http://www.planesheets.com

4. Safe snacks/meals that allow family members to enjoy on-board dining without worrying about nuts or ingredients with nuts that could trigger an allergic reaction.

5. Airborne nut allergy sash; or anything else that is wearable and that alerts passengers to your nut allergy.  This is almost always effective since it is a non-confrontational way to cause nearby passengers to think twice before opening a bag of nuts.  https://thesashcompany.com

6. Extra snacks for passengers who may have brought a snack that contains nuts.  It’s amazing what happens when you offer someone an alternative snack.   Typically, it’s appreciated.

7.  Auvi-Q (or epipen). You probably use one or the other, but my preference is the Auvi-Q, which essentially “talks” you though the treatment process.

8.  Single dose Benadryl.  I love these and am thrilled that they are back on the market.   Check your local Walgreens.

9.  Steroids that are prescribed by a physician.

10. Portable nebulizer with albuterol (or inhaler) to aid breathing should an allergic reaction occur.

For those of you who are sensitive to airborne triggers, whether or not it’s nuts, you may want to consider bringing your own oxygen supply on board the aircraft.  Check out Oxygen To Go, a company based in Wyoming which supplies individuals with portable oxygen concentrators.  I’ve tried contacting the airlines to see whether they would they provide this for us, but they have refused.   http://oxygentogo.com

The last thing to bring along is a smile and an attitude of gratitude.   I find that I get farther when I make a request with a smile on my face.  Also, if the flight attendants agree to set up a buffer zone, be forewarned that you may be at risk if you have to get up during the flight to use the restroom or exit the plane, especially if you have contact or airborne allergies.  We found this out the hard way with my own family.   So be sure to wear a mask and/or gloves when you leave the buffer zone.

Lastly, if you’re being given a hard time by a flight attendant or crew member and are threatened with being removed from the plane, ask to speak with the pilot.  Only the pilot has the authority to ask you to leave the plane, according to a senior executive at the Flight Attendants Association.   A flight attendant does not have this authority. 

I got a great piece of advice from fellow food allergy mom and attorney, Laurel Francoeur, author of  “Flying with Food Allergies:  What You Need to Know.”   She told me that she always tries to arrive at the gate early so she can speak with the pilots before they board the plane.  According to Francoeur, the pilots tend to be more sympathetic to her cause when she speaks with them beforehand.

It’s time for vacations, so to ensure that your trip can be enjoyed by all, preparation and prevention of food allergic reactions will help ensure you arrive at your destination happy and healthy.

Safe Travels —

Amy

 

Swiss Air’s Allergy Friendly Policy

April 28, 2014 —  My husband and I traveled to Switzerland several years ago to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos.  The country is beautiful, the people are very pleasant, and since we both previously had lived abroad, we talked about the possibility of living abroad again with our family.  But, when you have a child with asthma and severe food allergies, you don’t think these things are possible.  

But after hearing Swiss Air’s announcement last week that they had become the first airline to receive an “allergy-friendly” designation, I may have to reconsider my thinking. 

When I first heard about their special designation, I wasn’t all that excited or impressed. That was before I spoke with Swiss Air’s inflight development executive Jan Trachsel. Now I’m reconsidering my position, and I’m thankful they’re making an effort to better accommodate their allergic travelers. 

The first thing that Trachsel told me was that their allergic passengers are the experts — they’re not –so they’re going to listen to their passengers and try to accommodate them as best they can.

“This is a learning curve for us.  We will constantly be adapting and changing.  Communication is key,” he said. What a refreshing thing to hear, especially by an airline executive. I just wish some American air carriers felt the same way.

I asked him what arrangements they would make for us if I were to fly with my daughter who has contact and airborne allergies to all nuts and dairy.  Could we expect an announcement?  A buffer zone? What exactly would the airline do to help protect her?  He said each individual case is going to be different based on the severity of the individual’s specific allergen or trigger.   He said they wouldn’t make a cabin wide announcement, but they would create a buffer zone, the size of which would depend upon the severity of the allergy and the comfort level of the passenger.  Trachsel mentioned a situation that came up a few months ago when one of their snacks which contained nuts wasn’t handed out until passengers were getting off of the plane.

Compared to U.S. airlines which serve food products with eight major food allergens, Switzerland has 14 major allergens which include mustard, sesame and celeriac, for example.  How could an airline possibly create a comprehensive policy that deals with 14 major allergens?

“We will be handling these situations in a discreet kind of way,” said Trachsel.  “The nut issue is quite a controversial topic.  We’ve tried to get rid of all peanuts and dishes which contain peanuts, but we can’t ban all nuts,” he said.  Swiss Air is asking passengers not to bring peanuts on board the flights, but if their non-allergic passengers don’t visit the Swiss Air website when making their reservation they won’t necessarily see the request.

In terms of food service, they’re working with their European food suppliers to make sure they’re certified gluten, peanut and lactose-free.  They’re also looking to expand their offerings from US food manufacturers as well.

“Again, this is a first step,” said Trachsel.  “We want to make sure we have transparency throughout the entire production process.”  In addition to their food offerings, customer service personnel and flight crews have received a brochure on the top 14 allergens and medical training.

While in the process of writing this blog post, I received an email from a woman who spoke with Swiss Air about flying with peanut and tree nut allergies.  She was informed by a Swiss Air representative that they couldn’t accommodate a child with a peanut or tree nut allergy.

I immediately contacted Trachsel about the incident and he quickly replied that this should not have happened.  Obviously, not everyone at Swiss Air has been educated on their new policy.  Trachsel has reached out to this person and is hoping to remedy the situation.

While I am disappointed that Swiss Air has not been more forthcoming with the information they’ve provided on their website, perhaps this had something to do with the comfort level of their attorneys regarding liability issues.  I’m definitely more hopeful about where they’re headed and what’s to come.  No doubt, they’ll show their American counterparts how to get the job done, but that requires all of us with family members with severe nut allergies to be vigilant and press our cause whenever we can.  If enough voices are heard, change can come.

Safe Travels —

Amy

 

First Airline Receives Allergy Friendly Designation

ZURICH AIRPORT, Switzerland, April 16, 2014 — In May, Swiss International Air Lines Ltd., (SWISS), will introduce a number of ground/ inflight products designed to enhance the air travel experience for allergy sufferers. These innovations will include new alternative (lactose- and gluten- free) food and drinks, along with cabin interior changes.

SWISS has teamed up with the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) to offer its guests an even more individualized service product for travelers with allergies. New onboard all SWISS flights will be lactose- and gluten- free food and beverage alternatives such as lactose-free coffee cream and a lactose-free version of the popular SWISS chocolate bar.

Depending on the length of the flight, SWISS guests with allergies or other intolerances may further request special snacks (candy bars, yoghurt or cakes) that address passenger allergies, and pay full regard to their conditions.

At present, allergy sufferers will be able to order special meals tailored to their needs in all seating classes on long-haul services and in Business Class within Europe up to 24 hours before their scheduled departure. From the U.S., SWISS offers long-haul flights to Switzerland in First, Business, Economy classes of service from Boston, Chicago, New York, Newark, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

SWISS is making allergy-minded modifications to its cabins, too. First and Business Class passengers will be offered pillows stuffed with synthetic materials as an alternative to the down-filled version. SWISS is also ceasing its use in the cabin of decorative flowers and air fresheners that might cause nose and throat irritations; and the on-board toilets will now feature soaps that are gentle on the skin.

“We have seen a steady increase over the past few years in our customers’ need for an air travel environment that pays due regard to any allergic conditions,” explains Frank Maier, SWISS’s Head of Product & Services. “So we’ve been working with ECARF (the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation) to provide a concrete response to these demands to make everyone’s air travel experience as pleasant and problem-free as possible.”

“The numbers of people suffering from allergies have been increasing throughout the industrialized world for several years now,” adds Professor Torsten Zuberbier, the Director of Berlin-based ECARF.  “Over 30 percent of Europe’s population are directly affected by one or more allergies – not to mention those indirectly affected, such as their families. Yet only around 10 percent of sufferers get the right medical treatment; and allergies are still often not taken seriously, even by the sufferers themselves.”

SWISS is the first airline in the world to meet the ECARF criteria for ‘allergy-friendly’ airlines. As a result, SWISS can now place the ECARF seal of approval on its service product range.

To book a SWISS flight, visit www.swiss.com or contact your local travel agent.

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While I’m pleased to see this announcement, I don’t believe Swiss Air’s efforts go far enough for passengers with severe food allergies.  Are they willing to make an announcement for someone with either peanut or tree nut allergies?  Are they willing to create a buffer zone?  Since they now have their “allergy friendly” designation, perhaps they will take these steps for someone with severe allergies, but can I count on it?  Online, Swiss Air says they cannot guarantee a nut free flight nor can they control what passengers bring on the aircraft. In my mind, there’s still too much ambiguity to fly Swiss Air, but I would certainly consider it if they could provide us with additional information on how they would handle a nut allergy.

With regards to the lactose-free and gluten-free foods they’ll be offering, I’m waiting to learn more from the company about how these products are manufactured.  Until we know more, I would encourage passengers with either life threatening allergies or celiac disease to bring their own food on board the flight.  I’ll pass along more information as I get it as well.

In the meantime, we should thank Swiss Air for acknowledging this growing public health concern and for taking these steps which are bound to help many.

Happy Spring.  Safe Travels  –

Amy