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.
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.
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.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.