Peanuts could be banned from all commercial flights due to concerns about passengers with severe allergies to the common airline snack, federal officials say.
A significant number of kids have been diagnosed with peanut allergies and some avoid air travel altogether on fears of a serious allergic reaction, according to the Department of Transportation.
And since reactions can even be fatal, the DOT is considering and welcoming comments on new airline peanut policies including a total ban on peanuts, a ban on peanuts only on flights where a passenger has specifically requested a peanut-free flight or establishing a peanut-free buffer zone around a passenger who’s allergic, the agency says.
Not having rules against peanuts on airlines could actually constitute discrimination, the DOT notes. While, generally, people with allergies aren’t considered disabled, if an allergen prevents a person from being able to breathe or otherwise function, the allergy is considered a disability, the agency says. According to the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are forbidden from discriminating against the disabled.
The DOT still has yet to consider the likelihood of an allergic passenger having a bad reaction from peanut dust particles in the air or what to do about passengers who bring peanuts on board flights with a passenger who is allergic and whether an automatic epinephrine injection is enough to treat a reaction.
The group will also consider whether to ban all foods that contain peanuts or peanut oil, like peanut butter crackers, for example.
Currently, travelers with peanut allergies can specifically request peanut-free flights, list a peanut allergy as a disability when flights are booked online and check in regarding a flight’s peanut-free status at the departure gate at Southwest Airlines (Stock Quote: LUV), for example.
Delta Air Lines (Stock Quote: DAL) says that, with notification, it will create a peanut-free buffer zone three rows in front and three rows behind the seat of a passenger with a peanut allergy, but it can’t guarantee a peanut-free flight.
American Airlines (Stock Quote: AMR) says it doesn’t serve peanuts but can’t promise other snacks won’t contain traces of peanuts and warns that other passengers may bring peanuts on flights. “We cannot guarantee customers will not be exposed to peanuts during flight and strongly encourage customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure,” the airline says on its Web site.
JetBlue (Stock Quote: JBLU) appears to be the only airline that openly offers a refund to those with peanut allergies who can’t be accommodated somehow on their scheduled flight. The airline says it doesn’t serve peanuts, but it can create a buffer zone around the allergic passenger as well.
Do you think you suffer from food allergies? The condition is often overdiagnosed, and an allergy testing overhaul is on the way, MainStreet reports.