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Food allergy education, advocacy, and support

Flying

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As you’re probably aware, flying the blue skys already has enough stressors; you may be thinking “why would add more stress to the trip by flying with a food allergy?” Soaring high above the clouds with a food allergy can be a pleasant experience. Here are some tips* for an uneventful event…

Do Your Homework

Before booking your flight, read the airline’s allergy policy. Many airlines post their policy on their website – find it by using the search function using the term “allergies” or “peanuts.”

Check the Airline’s Snack Offerings

For individuals with peanut/tree nut allergy, try to choose an airline that does not serve complimentary peanut/tree nut snacks with the beverage service. (Some airlines will serve a non-peanut/tree nut snack, such as pretzels, upon advance request.) This will greatly decrease the risk of exposure to peanuts/tree nuts during the flight. Keep in mind that no airline will ever give you a guaranteed peanut- or tree nut-free flight.

Notify the Airline of Your Food Allergy

When booking your flight, notify the reservation agent of your food allergy, and ask if your information can be forwarded to other personnel such as the gate agent, catering/food service, and flight crew. Reconfirm your food allergy at every opportunity with the ticket agent, and again with the flight attendants.

Understand Policies for Carrying Medication on Board the Aircraft

For security purposes, keep your epinephrine/adrenaline in its original packaging and have your emergency plan with your medication. It is also recommended that you have your epinephrine prescription, and a travel plan or letter from your doctor confirming your food allergy and indicating you need to carry your medication and food/drinks with you. Consider wearing medical alert identification indicating your allergies.

Inspect Your Seating Area

Ask the gate agent if you may pre-board the plane in order to inspect/clean your seating area. Wipe down the seat to help prevent contact reactions or inadvertent skin contact with food particles or spills. Eating food off a contaminated surface area could lead to accidental ingestion of allergens through cross-contact. Since some airlines are cleaned at the end of each day, consider choosing early morning flights, where the chance of seats containing crumbs or food residue is minimized.

Avoid Airline Food

Never eat airline food; pack your own food. However, you may want to check with the airline to see if there are any restrictions as to which types of food you are allowed to bring on board or to your destination.

Keep Your Epinephrine With You

Always keep your epinephrine/adrenaline with you; do not store in the overhead bin. Let others you’re traveling with know about your allergies so they know what to do in case of an emergency on the flight and where your auto-injector is.

Notifying Other Passengers

Consider informing passengers sitting in your area about your food allergy. Keep in mind, however, that the airline will probably not make an announcement to the other passengers, and that passengers can eat food they have brought onto the aircraft.

Respect the Flight Crew

Be courteous and polite with the flight crew. They are there to help you and we need to help educate them about food allergies without making unrealistic or unnecessary demands.

Always Be Prepared

Never take a risk with food, especially when in the air away from access to medical help.

Send a written complaint if you are dissatisfied

If the airline does not live up to its promise, or if you feel you have been treated unfairly by the airline, it is important for you to submit a complaint (by letter, e-mail, online form) to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division (ACPD), the federal agency that keeps track of air travel problems experienced by consumers.  The ACPD has a special complaint website containing the complaint form, mailing address, and/or online submission form for you to use.

Please send a copy of your complaint to the airline’s CEO and to FARE.  It should include the following:

  • Your name, address, and contact information
  • The name of the airline
  • The flight number, flight date, and origin and destination cities
  • If possible, a copy of your airline ticket or online reservation
  • A description of the alleged discrimination
  • A description of any contact with the airline’s complaint resolution official (CRO).

Airlines generally have at least one CRO available at each airport who has the authority to resolve complaints on behalf of the airline. CROs generally come into play if a passenger feels he or she is the victim of discrimination while at the airport (for example, not being allowed toboard the plane on account of a severe, life-threatening peanut allergy). Although it is a good idea to contact the airline CRO while at the airport, it is not necessary in order to file your written complaint with the ACPD.

By law, airlines must respond to all complaints of alleged disability discrimination within 30 days.  However, if the incident occurred more than 45 days ago, airlines are not required to respond.

This content was created by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Alliance