Just leaving the house with a food-allergic child can be stressful and scary, but traveling and flying on an airplane can be a downright nightmare for parents. It shouldn’t have to be that way, though. With planning on your part and good food allergy policies on the part of an airline, you can travel safely and with minimal stress. It pays to do some research before you book a flight, check airline policies and make sure the airline and its crew know you are traveling with a food-allergic child. To get you started, here are some of the policies regarding food allergies for top U.S. airlines.
United Airlines strictly does not served packaged peanuts as snacks on their flights, but the airline also does not guarantee that peanuts or other allergens have not been used in any of their meals or snacks. The airline’s policies also state that it can never guarantee an allergen-free environment or prevent other customers from bringing nuts and other allergens on a flight. The airline requests that you notify a flight attendant of your allergy but will not guarantee that it can provide a buffer zone.
Delta has a policy specific to peanuts, which states that with advanced notification peanuts can be eliminated from snack service on a flight. The flight attendants will serve everyone on board non-peanut snacks. The airline will also allow you to pre-board so that you can clean your seats and surrounding areas. Even with these policies the airline cannot guarantee an allergen-free environment. While booking the flight, you can complete a form to notify the airline of your child’s allergy. To pre-board, make sure you notify the gate agent just before the flight.
The allergen policies for American flights are limited. The airline does not serve peanuts but does serve nuts and will not accommodate any requests to refrain from serving any particular food. The airline will also not create buffer zones and does not allow pre-boarding to clean seats. It goes without saying then that American does not guarantee a safe environment for food allergic children.
JetBlue flights do not include peanut snacks, but the airline will also not guarantee that snacks served are 100 percent peanut-free. It also cannot guarantee other customers will not bring peanuts on board. The airline does, however, create buffer zones upon request. Notify the head flight attendant, and he or she will create a zone one row ahead of and behind you. JetBlue will also allow you to pre-board for cleaning and will offer a full refund if you deem the environment unsafe for your child.
Like most other airlines, Southwest cannot guarantee an environment completely free of peanuts, but it will attempt to help customers with allergies. You can notify the airline of your child’s allergy when you book the flight. Notify the gate agent or a customer service representative ahead of the flight, and you will be given a form to give to the flight attendant. This will tell the attendant that you need special accommodations. The airline also recommends that you book an early morning flight as the planes are cleaned most thoroughly at the end of each day.
Flying with an allergy can be harrowing, but it can also be safe. Know your airline’s policies and take advantage of any accommodations offered. Be prepared with safe snacks and epinephrine injectors, and if the environment seems unsafe, it’s better to cancel and rearrange the flight than take the risk.