Two allergy sufferers say they were mistreated on recent Air Canada flights because of their food allergies.

Air Canada’s policy requires a 48-hour notice of nut allergies so that the airline can create a “peanut-free zone” around an allergy sufferer’s seat on the plane. The airline may also ask for documentation of the nut allergy. However, its policy regarding other, potentially life-threatening allergies is less clear and has been called into question recently.

Rebecca Lanyon, who has a severe allergy to strawberries, says she notified airline staff of her allergy when she booked her flight. She brought a doctor’s note as proof of her life-threatening allergy. The airline agreed not to sell products containing strawberry during her flight, and made an announcement to alert other passengers to her allergy.

However, on the return flight, staff at the Air Canada counter at the airport refused to let her board the flight because of her food allergy, even though she showed the same doctor’s note she had carried on the first flight. The airline’s agent insisted that she be medically cleared by their doctor before flying. She was forced to stay overnight before Air Canada finally agreed to accept her doctor’s note and let her fly.

Inconsistent Policy

Lanyon is furious that Air Canada’s allergy policy is written only to accommodate passengers who are allergic to peanuts. She complained:

“[It’s] discrimination over an allergy. Why is a peanut allergy more important than a strawberry allergy?”

Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah responded to the complaint by writing:

“It’s impossible in practice to create an allergen-free environment within an aircraft cabin… Crews will do what is operationally possible for customers with other allergens… However, we must look to balance the diverse needs of our 33 million customers who we serve each year.”

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