Traveling is stressful. Flying with a family member who has a food allergy is even more stressful.
My son has a Tree Nut allergy and like any food allergy mom I made sure to do my due diligence before we boarded our recent flight.
I called the airline to ask about their policy regarding food allergies. The conversation went like this.
Me: My son has Tree Nut allergy. What is your food allergy policy when boarding?
Airline Rep: We no longer serve Peanuts on flight.
Me: Well, that’s nice, but he’s allergic to Tree Nuts, not Peanuts.
Airline Rep: What’s a Tree Nut?
I was speechless. As a huge airline company who preaches to be allergy friendly how did they let this kind of knowledge slip through the cracks?
Needless to say the conversation did not end well and I ended up calling TSA to get the rest of my questions answered.
To feel extra safe I got a letter from my son’s allergist requesting us to pre board to wipe down any surfaces.
The day of the flight I walked up to the gate attendant and told her about his allergy. She gave us the okay to pre-board by selecting he had a peanut allergy. I found out that this particular airline only acknowledges Peanut allergies in their system as the gate attendant said “it’s all the same thing.”
For the record, a Peanut is a Legume not a nut and IT IS NOT THE SAME THING.
As we walked up to pre-board another gate attendant said “peanut allergy” and once again I had to correct her by saying Tree Nut.
That was the last time someone asked about his allergy. The gate attendants did not mention it to the flight attendants and the flight attendants did not mention it to the passengers on board.
Once in flight, the flight attendant handed out snacks. One was Cheese Ritz Crackers that “may contain peanuts” and the pretzels were packaged in a facility with Peanuts and Tree Nuts. The airline had him flagged as a Peanut allergy and the flight attendant handed us snacks that may contain peanuts! If he was a Peanut allergy kid would this scene be any different? I doubt it.
There was zero communication between the airline employees. Is it the parents responsibility to alert the flight attendants? Should I have held up the plane and passengers to educate the flight team on his food allergies? I’m not 100% certain on the protocol, however, I would think that there would be a way to flag the correct allergy and that the boarding team would communicate effectively with the flight team.
This happened on both our flights; one out of Pittsburgh and one out of Ft. Meyers, Florida. Thankfully, our son was okay for both.
Please, if you share this post for any reason let it be to inform society that a Peanut is not a Tree Nut.
When we returned home I sent an email to the airlines customer service team. Here is there response: You indicated that your reason for contacting us is regarding a disability-related service. Depending on the nature of your correspondence and regulatory requirements, it may take up to 30 days before you receive a response.
According to the Food Allergy Research and Education website 5.6 million children under age 18 have food allergies.
The number of kids suffering from food allergies is constantly rising. Why are companies not getting behind this health crisis? I am very surprised by the lack of consideration from corporations not taking the time, money, and effort to fully understand food allergies.
As I wait the approximately 30 days for a response I will continue to educate the public that a Peanut is not a Tree Nut and food allergies are not the same thing. They are extremely different and different people have different reactions. It’s up to me and food allergy moms everywhere to keep talking until someone listens.