I think it’s about time all commercial airlines begin to implement ‘new rules’ (pun fully intended) when it comes to accommodating customers with severe-allergies. Recently, singer Dua Lipa tweeted at United Airlines saying, that her sister’s nut allergy was overlooked and dismissed by their flight attendant who claimed:
“[United] is not a nut-free airline, so if [you] have an EpiPen [you] might have to use that as we can’t not serve other passengers in your section nuts”.
According to Lipa, no announcement was made to surrounding passengers of her concerns, and she and her sister were simply told, just they wouldn’t be served any nuts:
I can’t believe i’m on a @united flight rn and I told the steward that my sister was severly allergic to nuts and his reply was “we’re not a nut free airline so if she has an epi pen she might have to use that as we can’t not serve other passengers in your section nuts”
— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) July 25, 2018
As mentioned in previous articles I’ve written, I suffer from a severe-nut allergy and I find this particular situation incredibly frustrating. If the flight attendant took Lipa’s request to heart and made an announcement to the cabin, I would like to think that surrounding passengers would have complied and refrained from eating nuts as common courtesy. However, he didn’t even make the effort to inquire whether or not this request was able to be fulfilled.
Additionally, simply saying “Use your epipen if needed” is a callous remark as maybe at that point her sister could have already suffered from an allergic reaction that may have prematurely resulted in the plane being diverted for an emergency landing (and honestly nobody wants that!). Although no airline can guarantee an allergen-free environment as mentioned by United in their response, there can be a greater effort at the federal administrative level to incorporate regulations for all airlines to follow instead of leaving these decisions solely to corporate services. Perhaps the in-flight crew needs to be extensively educated in these matters and given further training in handling these circumstances.
Many airlines do in-fact have procedures in place that accommodate passengers with severe-allergies, but oftentimes these steps aren’t enough for a passenger to feel completely safe. Funny enough I’ve heard many argue that people like me shouldn’t even fly considering how risky it could be. It is a risk I agree, but it is also the airlines’ responsibility to ensure their customers feel safe when traveling, that is after all, I hope, their main concern. If all services shared a common-ground concerning this issue, then they together can create more visible options that allow passengers to feel that they have done everything in their own power to ensure that their trip is smooth. United ultimately apologized in this instance, but a new policy of at least making people aware may need to be put into place.
We apologize for this situation, and would like to find out more. Can you DM with your confirmation number, please? ^LF https://t.co/Y6hG6uklaR
— United Airlines (@united) July 25, 2018
Oftentimes, when I am not able to sit next to my brother or parents, I find it really difficult to ask a stranger to not eat their snack as I feel embarrassed or ashamed. But importantly, because Dua Lipa used her platform to share her experience with the world, it becomes easier for people like me to feel more understood. As a result this discussion not only helps those who suffer from an allergy in the long-run but also every passenger on board who wishes to arrive at his or her destination more quickly and efficiently.
Just to Clarify:
My position is not to eliminate nuts altogether, but rather to make people aware that this can be an issue while on board. It would be in everybody’s best interests and perhaps the airlines’ best interests to minimize the issue through education and perhaps even assigning “buffer” zones if necessary (like Air Canada). We don’t want anyone panicking over a swollen eye and causing an unnecessary diversion! That’s just a pain for everyone involved.