Ok, I don’t rant often, but …
As a mother of a child who has severe food allergies, it just doesn’t make sense to me why others do not take it seriously. Keep in mind, I manage a school, so I am able to see both sides of the coin; how hard is is to regulate, and how seriously we need to take it in order to keep our students safe.
My 5th child was diagnosed with severe food allergies when she was just five months old. It changed our world. She was literally the first patient her pediatrician had ever had with food allergies. He had no idea how to deal with it, but by the time she was eight, he was an advocate of educating others about them. When my daughter was young, it was nearly impossible to even find someone who would watch her because they were afraid of her food allergies. I get it. I remember the first time I left her alone overnight…that was when I finally agreed to a cell phone! It was scary.
I remember putting her in school for the first time, in the 2nd grade. THAT was scary. What if someone touched her after they had eaten peanuts? What if they breathed on her? I remember reading an article once about a 15 year old girl who died from of a kiss from her boyfriend who had eaten peanuts earlier in the day; she never told her boyfriend she was allergic.
From a very young age, I worked hard to teach my daughter to advocate for herself. Don’t touch things that don’t belong to you; don’t hold hands with other students. Don’t kiss anyone or let them kiss you. Don’t share food or drinks. Don’t eat anything if you haven’t checked yourself to make sure it is safe; not everyone understands how to read food labels for ingredients. It’s too dangerous.
Today, more people are aware of food allergies than every before. Food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children in the US. There are now laws mandating that food be labeled clearly. More and more facilities/vendors are peanut free; or at the very least, have a space that is peanut free. Restaurants are more aware of what they are serving than ever before.
But…when it comes to air travel…..
I remember the first time we ever traveled by air with my daughter. We carried her onto the plane, wiped down everything she could come into contact with, and put a crib sheet over the seat she was sitting in. We flew Southwest because they did not serve peanuts on the flight that she was on. We tried to take the first flight out to make sure it was as safe as possible, but if we could not, the flight attendants were always nice and checked for any loose peanuts when we flew with them.
We haven’t flown in a few years. But recently, one of our dear friends booked a flight for her as a gift for her 16th birthday present. I was not too concerned since their website states, “Inflight food offerings may contain trace amounts of nut ingredients, or may have been processed in facilities that also process nuts. In addition, we are unable to prevent other passengers from bringing nuts and/or products containing nuts onboard our flights.” To me, this meant that although they could not prevent others from bringing nuts on the plane, they would only be serving foods that may contain trace amounts. So, as long as she doesn’t eat a nut, or someone next to her doesn’t touch her after eating nuts, she would be ok.
Not so the case.
I will say that their staff was very nice for her flight to her destination. They allowed me to go to the gate with her. (This is at their discretion since she is now 16.) Once we arrived at the gate, we informed them of her peanut allergy and that she was carrying epi-pens and she would be wiping down her seats. They were very nice and let her board first. I stayed to make sure she got off safely.
And a good thing! Because the next thing I knew, they were calling me over and letting me know they were going to de-board her from the plane. Their reasoning was that her peanut allergy was too severe and they were contacting medical to see if they would approve the flight. Twenty minutes later, she got approval to fly. They put her on the back seat and the flight attendants took excellent care of her.
And they served peanuts on the flight….not food with trace amounts, but the actual peanuts themselves.
Fast forward to today:
A) The man at check-in refused to let an adult go to the gate with her even though the flight was delayed because she is 16. He was also made aware of her peanut allergy and he said he would let them know AND that he had changed her seat to make it more safe for her.
B) He didn’t tell anyone AND he didn’t change her seat.
My vent? I understand policy and procedure. It’s not the airline’s fault my daughter has a peanut allergy. HOWEVER, the airlines should very clearly state on their website that they SERVE peanuts on their flights so that their customers can make INFORMED decisions before they hand over their money AND THEN get kicked off of the flight because it isn’t safe. Family kicked off flight over peanut allergy
My bigger vent? With food allergies ever growing, why aren’t they taken more seriously? Public schools in Nevada now have to carry epi-pens just in case a student goes into anaphylaxis. My daughter’s school FASA has had to use the school epi-pens multiple times on students who do not carry an epi-pen or did not even know they needed one.
One would think that with the millions of people that fly every day, the airlines would take peanut allergies more seriously and just not serve peanuts, or at the very least, on flights that have customers with peanut allergies on them.
I am an even bigger fan of Southwest airlines these days. They have no problem announcing to the other passengers that there is a passenger with a severe peanut allergy on the flight and that no peanuts will be served; and they offer an alternative (pretzels) when it comes to these flights.
Meanwhile, after four hours of sitting in an airport by herself because she is considered to be an adult, my daughter’s flight just got cancelled. She’s not old enough to book a hotel room by herself, and she won’t be flying out until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest.
Thank goodness for fantastic friends who have no problem waiting in the freezing cold until the airline could finally make a decision about the flight. Thank you, fantastic friend, for waiting as she makes her way out of the airport to the warmth of your car and I’m sure, a warm hug, because you are careful of her food allergies.