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Another Passenger With a Potentially Life-Threatening Nut Allergy Discovers That Some Airlines Have Little Sympathy For Allergy Sufferers

Another Passenger With a Potentially Life-Threatening Nut Allergy Discovers That Some Airlines Have Little Sympathy For Allergy Sufferers

a group of airplanes on a runway

This is a topic I have covered a number of times, but I think it’s worth talking about again as travellers with potentially life-threatening airborne nut allergies keep on discovering that some airlines have very little sympathy for allergy sufferers and commonsense safety measures you may have come to expect won’t necessarily be reciprocated on all carriers.

The latest incident comes courtesy of British TikTok user Faye, who shared her recent experience flying with TAP Air Portugal on a short two-hour flight in Europe.

@fayeeeeeej i forgot so many more details but i ended up telling everyone on the flight myself. this has never happened before!!! #nutallergy #cabincrew #travelling #allergies ♬ original sound – Faye🌸

Faye suffers from an airborne allergy to walnuts, and she says she normally contacts an airline ahead of her flight to inform them of her health condition. The request is simple – don’t serve anything onboard that might kill her and inform other passengers to refrain from eating food they’ve brought onboard with them that could trigger an anaphylaxic reaction.

Ahead of her most recent flight, however, Faye forgot to email TAP Air Portugal before the flight, but she did let the cabin crew know as soon as she boarded. But rather than showing understanding and empathy for her condition, Faye claims the crew member showed little interest in her allergy.

In fact, the crew member refused to make an announcement to inform other passengers of the situation and said they would continue to serve food onboard regardless of whether or not it contained walnuts.

Faye’s pleas to get the cabin crew to make an announcement went unheeded and the crew told her it was her allergy was her responsibility – if she didn’t feel safe then she should get off the plane.

It sounds like a pretty brutal response, but it isn’t unheard of – especially amongst European carriers, where many airlines explicitly state that they will not ask passengers to refrain from eating their own nut-based snacks.

This type of situation seems to impact British travellers pretty hard because UK-based carriers are usually very accommodating to nut allergy sufferers, allowing pre-boarding to allow passengers to wipe down tray tables and seats, making passenger announcements, and not serving foods containing nuts if an allergy sufferer is onboard.

The contrast is pretty stark with many airlines that offer no real support for allergy sufferers and take the view that they can’t and won’t change their standard procedures for a small number of passengers.

We have, of course, heard many similar versions of Faye’s story in recent years. Last year, for example, a 27-year-old nut allergy sufferer said she was forced to spend €168 during a Eurowings to London in order to buy all the nut-based snacks onboard because the cabin crew refused to stop serving them to other customers.

And in 2022, a British nut allergy sufferer found herself booted from a Turkish Airlines flight after the crew decided it was safer to offload her rather than accommodate her needs.

Some airlines seem to suggest that so long as an allergy sufferer has an Epipen with them, then they’ll be okay, although that last line of defence is no guarantee – especially when the airline doesn’t carry an epinephrine auto-injector in their emergency medical kits.

In the United States, for example, airlines have only ever been required to carry epinephrine in single-use vials that have to be administered by a healthcare professional – effectively meaning that anyone suffering a life-threatening allergic reaction must hope that there’s an off-duty doctor on their flight.

Some airlines, including Southwest Airlines, have already voluntarily decided to carry epinephrine auto-injectors like EpiPens, although the latest FAA Reauthorization Act will now make it a legal requirement for all US-based carriers to carry auto-injectors in their medical kits.

The moral of this story is that the way that airlines handle severe allergies can vary massively, and sufferers shouldn’t take anything for granted.

View Comments (4)
  • When it comes to adults and children with severe nut allergies, they really need to take their own safety precautions in mind and not count on airline passengers or the airlines in general to cater to them. No one will take care of a person’s own life-protecting health needs more than a person themselves and/or their nearest and dearest loved ones. We already know the cleaning standards on planes are pretty horrendous quite often and lots of food brought on or eaten on planes has nuts of a sort to which some people are very strongly allergic.

  • Nut allergies after eating nuts or nut components in food is very real but there is a lot of hysteria about being in the vicinity of nuts. Studies show that nut proteins don’t float around from the serving bowl. Furthermore, N95 masks are effective in blocking even smaller particles.

    • Very right. There is much less hysteria about this here in Europe, perhaps this is the reason for the airline’s reactions.

  • I have a very real allergy to tictok’rs that whip out their phone anytime someone hurts their feelings. This goes the same for the media that make it a story rather than just allowing the poor persons friends to provide the needed sympathy and outrage.

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