Why it’s nuts for airlines to serve nuts.

With our family trip to Florida only a few days away, I’ve been thinking long and hard about how things are going to work out with our two food allergy children on the flights.  Luckily, it seems as though Delta Airlines has a pretty fair policy in place which should very helpful.  From Delta’s website:

When you notify us that you have a peanut allergy, we’ll refrain from serving peanuts and peanut products onboard your flight. We’ll also advise cabin service to board additional non-peanut snacks, which will allow our flight attendants to serve these snack items to everyone within this area. Gate agents will be notified in case you’d like to pre-board and cleanse the immediate seating area.  Unfortunately we still can’t guarantee that the flight will be completely peanut-free.  Note that some snack products on board may be processed in plants which also process peanut products.

So we will of course notify them ahead of time and appreciate tremendously that no nuts will be served on our flights to and from Miami.  Still, it has me wondering: with the alarming growth of food allergies, why haven’t airline completely stopped serving nuts on all of their flights.

Here are some thoughts as to why it’s nuts for airlines to serve nuts:

  1. Planes are confined spaces.  Air and dust particles get recirculated.  Nuts can produce airborne particles that have enough protein to kill.  Bad combination.
  2.   Allergic reactions can happen in seconds and prove fatal if not properly treated very quickly. An allergic reaction on a long flight can easily be catastrophic.
  3. It’s pretty easy to replace nuts with snacks that have no nuts.  No one will die from not having nuts for several hours.  But someone can die from snacks that have them.
  4. Compassion/common decency.  We have enough stress in our lives.  Do people really care if they’re served nuts on a plane?  Will they even realize they’re missing it?  It means everything to us.  Our kids’ lives are at stake.
  5. Numbers.  There are a lot of families that have food allergy children.  Millions.  And unfortunately the problem is getting worse.  We are pretty much at the point that airlines will do well for themselves and draw customers by advertising themselves as nut-free.

Hopefully common sense will soon prevail. In the meantime, we should continue to push the issue by contacting airlines and urging them to update their policies.

BTW, here’s an article about why they serve peanuts on airplanes to begin with (along with some other interesting tidbits).

I’d love your feedback. I’ll repost some of your thoughts.

  1. Maria

    I read your article with interest as I recently returned on an easyjet flight where I experienced an immense allergic reaction – just short of needing medical intervention. I had no idea what was happening and why I was having this reaction until we left the plane and my 12 year old daughter informed me that the people in front of us had been eating nuts constantly throughout the 3 hour flight. As you can imagine this has terrified me as I had become lapse in my assumption that I would not be affected after years of reaction free flying.

    I have looked up the allergy advice of airlines we will be flying on this year and they state to inform their staff at gate, or in one case, just as we board. Delta seem to be ahead of the game in offering to wipe surfaces but they are not offering to make announcements asking other customers not to eat nuts. At least the two airlines I will be flying with do offer this although with the proviso that they cannot guarantee this will happen.

    I wonder what we can do as I still think we live in a world where people think nut allergies are imagined. I am scared of public transport now and I am a 45 year old woman dealing with her own allergies. I cannot imagine what it must be like as a parent, although my 12 year old daughter appears to be developing an allergy but only to almonds.

    It is a scary scary world

    Thanks for sharing your story

    • Maria,

      Thanks so much for sharing. I’m so happy you are OK and feel terrible you went through that! I just came back from Miami with my family…we flew Delta. I just posted a blog about our experience.

  2. Christina

    #4 is what gets me the most. People are SO … just plain CRAZY about their “right” to eat nuts. I don’t get it! You’d risk killing a child over having a different snack?? Let me know how you live with yourself after that happens.

    And we stopped people from smoking on airlines because it affected the health of those around them, why not the same with allergies?

  3. Cee McDougall

    Thank goodness someone else is concerned. My daughter, grand-son and I flew home on South-West Airlines from Orlando to Buffalo last October 2015. A wonderful airline but they handed out peanuts immediately after take-off and as everyone ripped open the bags, peanut dust went through the filtration system and my 37-year-old daughter had an immediate reaction. The attendants administered to her and said they stopped giving out any more peanuts. However, the damage was already done. I spent some time writing to South-West Airlines, explaining that peanut allergies are taken so seriously at home in Canada that no peanut products are allowed in schools and that Disney is constantly questioning food allergies and sending the Chef out to discuss the ingredients in their dishes. S-W was very accommodating in their research into the situation but the end result was NO CHANGE TO ITS CURRENT POLICY. They made suggestions that we notify them ahead of time and they won’t pass peanuts out. However, they cannot ask customers not to bring their own or eat them on-board. They said to travel early in the morning as the plane has just been cleaned from previous passengers who enjoyed eating peanuts and wiped them on the seats, windows, etc. Why not substitute pretzels or biscuits instead. They gave me two (not even three) $150. vouchers towards our next trip. Big Deal – like I would intentionally fly S-W again and go through this experience with my family (especially my 10-year-old grandson, who witnessed all the breathing reactions and fear exhibited by his Mother). We had an Epipen, but sometimes one is not enough. Both our Doctor and Pharmacist said that this was very close to being fatal. I do not understand why South-West Air will not remove all peanuts and other life-threatening products from being served. Cigarettes were banned years ago. Wouldn’t it be easier than dealing with emergency landings, death and subsequent law-suits?

  4. I agree 100%. Why not pretzels. I am driving 15 hours one way this summer with my grandsons for that very reason. Severe Tree nut allergies! I have friends that always pack a nut mixture in their carry on for their flight so it would be hard to get away from unless the airline made it a NO NUT policy on their flights. I could not imagine having a severe reaction in air.

  5. Hi, I have to say that even if the airlines completely remove peanuts from their equipment you will always have peanut allergens present anyway. Many passengers pack meals and snacks for the trip, and P,B&J sandwiches are common. I personally have a wheat allergy and cannot enjoy most snacks provided by the carrier’s so I always travel with my own supply of mixed nuts for nourishment during travel.

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