Traveling with a child who has a peanut allergy requires planning and taking precautions to avoid unnecessary risk.

An article in Forbes Magazine details the recent difficulties of a family from England on their way home via Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida.

One Family’s Bump in the Road

The family of four, including one child with a peanut allergy, asked American Airlines for the same accommodation given them on their flight to Florida from England. On their U.S. bound American Airlines flight a pre-flight announcement was given, recommending passengers avoid eating nuts while on the plane because a fellow passenger had a peanut allergy.

When the family asked the Fort Myers gate agent for the same announcement on their return flight, a conflict ensued. The gate agent “persistently questioned” the parents about their child’s allergy and determined the child was a risk to the other passengers.

It was decided by the airline representatives that the child must have a doctor’s certificate stating he was fit for travel and would not die during the flight. The family’s tickets were canceled. This was done in front of other passengers, and the parents reported they were “made a spectacle.”

Getting Over the Bump

Two days later with a medical certificate in hand, the family boarded a plane for Chicago where they had a connecting flight to London. They were informed that pre-flight announcements regarding nuts would not be made although the airline covered part of the family’s layover hotel expenses.

“We cannot guarantee a peanut free environment with or without an announcement,” said an American spokeswoman. “An announcement can create a false sense of security and does not eliminate risk.”

American Airlines does not serve peanuts on its flights. However, the family had contacted American Airlines before leaving England and were told pre-flight announcements concerning the allergy would not be a problem.

Preparing for Problems, Advocating Change

While many families having a member with a peanut allergy frequently travel without running into frustrating airline snags, the incident at Fort Myers brings up three points to consider:

  1. If you plan to fly and someone in your family has a peanut allergy, consider taking a letter from your doctor stating that the allergic individual is medically cleared for takeoff.
  2. When humans interact there can always be some difficulties. Since American Airlines on the family’s flights to the U.S. provided pre-flight announcements, clearly some problems can arise when one airline employee is maybe a stickler for company policy or does not understand PA management. He or she might even cause a hassle out of genuine concern for passengers.
  3. As more people become aware of the lifestyle challenges facing families with a peanut allergy, the more likely resistance to accommodation will lessen. If enough concerned people regularly voice their perspective on peanut allergies – via letters, phone calls, the Internet – people may become more aware of the issue.

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