As a food allergy parent, traveling is never a small undertaking. Last week our family flew from NY to Miami for a week of fun in the sun (and rain). It’s obviously very stressful traveling with food allergy children, and we found this trip to Miami to be no different. While stress is always a part of travel, we flew Delta roundtrip, our experiences on the two flights were very different.
We prepared for both flights the same way. Our travel agent called the airline several days ahead of both flights to warn them that two of our children were allergic to peanuts (among other things). Next, I made sure to notify the gate agents of our situation and requested that the agents notify the flight attendants and allow for early boarding so that we could clean/inspect our seats. So far so good…
Once we boarded the planes however, the similarities ended.
Plane 1 – NY to Miami
As we boarded the plane, I mentioned to the head flight attendant that we had two food allergy children with us who were severely allergic to nuts and asked her to please announce it to everyone once boarding was complete. I explained that while I knew she couldn’t request people not eat foods with nuts, I felt that most people would appreciate the severity of the situation and be considerate. Her demeanor made me feel like I was a nuisance to her and she coolly told me that she would not make her announcement until it was time for food service. I asked her right then and again when the doors closed to please make the announcement before takeoff.
Nuts can produce airborne particles that have enough protein to kill and airplanes are confined spaces where air and dust particles get recirculated. I needed people to know right away…I was afraid that by the time she made her “standard” announcement after takeoff/before service it might be too late. Every minute was a potential exposure.
Despite the more junior flight attendants agreeing that my request was fair, the senior flight attendant refused. Her announcement came 40 minutes into the flight. Even then, it was barely a mention. While listing all the snack and beverage choices, she casually mentioned that peanuts were not an option because of food allergies onboard.
Plane 2 – Miami to NY:
The second flight started the same as the first – preparation, early boarding, etc. After that, the experience was completely different. As we boarded the plane, I mentioned to the head flight attendant that we had two food allergy children with us who were severely allergic to nuts and asked him to please announce it to everyone once boarding was complete. He nodded sympathetically and promised to do so. And that’s exactly what he did—before takeoff.
He complied with my request (while we were still on the ground) and announced that there were two children with severe nut allergies on board and that they would therefore not be serving nuts on this flight. Amazingly, he also firmly requested that for the safety of my children, no one consume any food products that contain nuts.
We were blown away…
I never asked him to request people not eat foods with nuts…I thought that would be asking too much. But this amazing person understood the dangers and believed that most people would appreciate the severity of the situation and be considerate. He went above and beyond our expectations.
To me the nuances were critical. Going to Miami, the announcement was made well into the flight and as part of a long message. Going home, the flight attendant made the announcement before takeoff and it stood alone, with an additional request that no one eat food with nuts.
Suffice it to say, we felt Delta handled themselves much more sensitively on the flight home and I expected more out of them on the flight to Miami.
For Food Allergy Parents:
If you have done this for a while, you know the drill. But for parents who are still figuring all this out, here are some traveling steps:
- Pack snacks your child can eat
- Let anyone involved in your travel know early and often about your children’s food allergies, and what that means for you (hotels, airlines, people who will be hosting you, etc.)
- Don’t be afraid to speak up for your child
- Say thank you to everyone who helps keep your child safe
What Do You Think?
Is it asking too much to expect airline employees to make extra announcements? What are your allergy traveling success stories or cautionary tales?