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Passenger Claims Delta Air Pilot Refused to Divert Plane As She Suffered Life-Threatening Anaphylactic Reaction to Nuts Served by Flight Attendants

Passenger Claims Delta Air Pilot Refused to Divert Plane As She Suffered Life-Threatening Anaphylactic Reaction to Nuts Served by Flight Attendants

A woman who suffers from a severe nut allergy claims a Delta Air Lines pilot refused to make an emergency medical diversion when she suffered a serious anaphylactic reaction on a recent flight which resulted in her having to self-administer two doses of life-saving epinephrine.

Sara Metzger claims Delta denied and then delayed access to emergency medical treatment during flight DL888 from Atlanta to Portland, Oregan on April 17 after the pilot allegedly ignored the advice of the airline’s medical services team and Metzer’s own medical action plan.

In an eight-page official complaint filed with the Department of Transportation (DOT), Metzger’s attorney claims her client was fortunate to have survived “blatant and cruel discrimination and retaliation” at the hands of Delta.

Metzger suffers from a life-threatening almond allergy, and she says she has a history of severe allergic reactions to airborne allergens. Before boarding her flight in Atlanta, Metzger warned the gate staff of her medical issues and requested that almonds not to be served on the flight.

The gate staff acknowledged her request, but after departure, the flight attendants announced that the inflight snack service would include almonds.

Metzger says she immediately alerted the nearest flight attendant to her allergy, and the crew discussed either providing a buffer zone of several rows on either side of her or just swapping out almonds with a different snack across the entire plane.

Around 15 minutes later, however, Metzger began feeling unwell. She could feel her throat beginning to swell, and as she got out of her seat to seek help, she noticed passengers in the immediate rows in front and behind her snacking on almonds that had been distributed by the flight attendants.

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Metzger managed to self-administer a dose of epinephrine that she had brought with her while the flight attendants paged for a medical professional to assist.

A cardiologist who happened to be travelling on the flight came forward and offered to assist, but Metzger says she told everyone that the plane needed to land as soon as possible so she could get access to specialist medical help. Delta’s ground-based medical services team are also believed to have advised the same plan of action.

But the cardiologist allegedly disagreed and claimed there was no need to divert the plane. Metzger was taken back to her seat, where she says her condition started to worsen, forcing her to administer a second dose of epinephrine.

Delta’s medical team again advised that the plane should land as soon as possible, according to Metzger, but the pilot allegedly sided with the cardiologist and carried on to Portland.

Even once the plane was on the ground, Metzger says Delta denied her access to medical treatment by first letting all the other passengers deplane before letting the EMTs board. Metzger had to be transported to the hospital for emergency care.

She now says she “was afraid she would die mid-air without access to emergency care” and claims Delta violated the Air Carrier Access Act by interfering with her allergy action plan and delaying her access to emergency medical treatment.

Metzger is calling on the DOT to slap Delta with a fine and order the airline to improve staff training to prevent a similar incident in the future.

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In a statement, a spokesperson for Delta told us: “While we, unfortunately, cannot respond to this specific event, passenger safety is Delta’s top priority, and our crew are trained and prepared to respond to onboard events as they occur.”

In 2016, allergy sufferer Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died after she ate a baguette that contained sesame during a short British Airways flight. Flight attendants helped to administer two EpiPen injections and carried out CPR on the 15-year-old.

Despite their best efforts, however, she died before the plane could make an emergency landing. British Airways faced criticism over a decision by flight attendants not to use a defibrillator on Natasha because it was located at the opposite end of the plane from where she was sitting.

View Comments (6)
  • Passengers should make their own health related accomodations. And dont eat the food served on any flight.

  • If you have the possibility of becoming very sick from something in the air you would be taking your own risk by choosing to fly. A person that chooses to fly volunteers to spend time in a confined space that you have no control over. Further you are at the mercy of all the people who are on said plane and have zero control on every single one of them. I suffer from claustrophobia so should I be allowed say three rows to myself? Smells make me nauseous so should I ask the airline to make sure there are zero smells on the plane. I am constantly exposed to perfumes, BO, and stinky foods when flying. If you could be killed by nut dust in the air the last place you should be is in an Airplane.

  • Something doesn’t sound right about this. Delta only has a peanut allergy policy, and does not make accommodations for other nut allergies, except to not serve almonds to the “seat set” where the passenger is sitting as a courtesy if requested. Staff are specifically trained to make no further adjustments to the service. If a passenger insists on not serving almonds to others, then they’re supposed to be evaluated by medical experts available by phone on whether or not the passenger will be allowed to fly. The reasoning is apparently medical experts say there is no risk to passengers with other nut allergies so long as they do not consume the nuts themselves. Given this information it seems unlikely that the same medical experts available to the airline, that were contacted by the crew in flight would recommend an emergency landing for an allergic reaction to almonds.

  • Metgzer has no right to expect a plane full of people to be deprived of their snack just because she says so. The same is true when it comes to landing the airplane in a location other than it’s scheduled destination. The idea that all the other people should be delayed with a medical landing is extremely selfish. Delta should have a consent form for someone like Sara Metgzer to sign, saying they will be financially responsible for the thousands and thousands of dollars incurred by Delta for making an unscheduled landing.
    Sara Metgzer anticipated a problem as evidenced by her supply of epinephrine. The woman obviously believed operation of the Delta flight should revolve around her. Very sad anyone could be that selfish of a person!

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