What could be more nerve wracking than preparing to travel 20,000 feet above land in a confined airplane with a severe nut allergy? I certainly can’t think of many things. The thought of being confined to such a small space with all of your reliance on a flight crew and complete strangers is absolutely terrifying. The good news – the allergy community is extremely proactive in pushing the airlines to higher safety standards. Though we still have a ways to go, progress is certainly being made and awareness is getting stronger. In due time, there is a good chance our skies will become nut free. But in the meantime and especially if you are traveling for the first time with a nut allergy or your child has a nut allergy, it’s important that you do your full due diligence to ensure your flight is as safe as it can be. The following steps will help guide you:
1. Find the Safest Airline
Finding the safest airline is similar to finding allergy free foods. You must read the label EVERY time you purchase an item. While food manufacturers are known for changing ingredients from time to time, airlines are also known for changing their allergy policies. Just because an airline policy worked for you in the past, does not mean it will be the same every time you fly. Each time you fly, research the food and allergy policies of all major airlines before determining which company you will fly with.
2. Book Your Flight Very Early in the Morning
The earlier you fly, the better. Most airlines clean their planes very early in the morning – before the first flight of the day. The last two trips I took departed around 7:00 am. My husband and I both immediately noticed the vacuum marks along each seat. The earlier you book your flight, the cleaner the plane will likely be (that means less nut dust).
3. Give the Airlines a Heads Up
Immediately after booking your flight, pick up the phone and call the airline. Ask to speak with customer service and tell them that someone in your party has a severe nut allergy. Make sure they write down “severe”. They should make a note on your reservation for the flight crew to review.
4. Communicate with the Flight Crew
Arrive early enough for your flight to touch base with the flight attendants. Keep in mind though that most flight terminals will be completely empty until 30-45 minutes before the flight takes off. I remember the first time we flew with my son I made the mistake of showing up to the terminal 2 hours before departure because I was so nervous. I ended up comforting a screaming baby for 1.5 hours because no one was there to talk to. When the crew arrives at the desk, be the first in line and remind them about the allergy. Ask them if they can serve other snacks on the plane that don’t contain nuts. It’s very important that you communicate this as soon as possible. When traveled from Boston to California, the flight attendants on our flight rearranged seating so that my son and I could sit in our own row. It was amazing and only possible because I was the first one in line when the flight attendants showed up at our terminal.
5. Pre-Board the Flight with Disinfectant Wipes
Ask the flight crew if you can pre-board the flight to wipe down your seat with disinfectant wipes. As the first one on the plane, you will have the opportunity to scope out the state of the aircraft (are there nuts everywhere?) and clean the entire area surrounding your seats. This is a no-brainer.
6. Communicate with Your Fellow Passengers
Wait until everyone gets settled and comfortable in their seats around you. As soon as this happens, calmly stand up and politely ask the people in front of you and behind you to refrain from eating nuts on the trip. You will be surprised at how friendly and understanding most people are.
7. Pack your Benadryl and Epi-Pens
It’s absolutely vital that you remember to pack your emergency medical supplies and store them in an easy-access pocket within your carry-on luggage. If you plan to store your bag above the seats, take your emergency supplies out and place them in the pocket of the seat in front of you (don’t forget them on the plane!). And with airport security constantly changing, I take extra precaution by packing any relevant prescriptions/medical documents, just in case I run into any challenges at the security gate.
I hope these tips will help you prepare for your next flight. If you have additional advice for flying with nut allergies, please comment below. I will do my best to update this list as great tips come through. Safe travels my friends!
Help us make the skies safer!!!!
As a person with allergies or a parent who has a child with allergies, it’s critical that you and I continue to push the airlines to a higher standard. My good friend Lianne Mandelbaum has become an advocate for keeping our skies safer. Please support her efforts by signing the petitions on her site The No Nut Traveler. Also continue to follow and support FARE, and excellent resource for everyone in the allergy community.