Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Peanuts, Politics and Airline Travel

Many of you have probably already read about Northwest Airline's new merger with Delta that results in their decision to serve peanuts again on Northwest flights.

In a letter quoted in the CNN article linked above, Northwest said that they would serve peanuts since they are backing the peanut industry, represented by Delta, a Georgia-based company. It's kind of like serving cheese on an airline owned by a Wisconsin outfit--let's serve snacks that benefit the home state!

I understand the politics of this in theory, but as someone who was happy airlines seemed to be taking peanuts off the snacks list, it's disappointing. All you really get are about 8 peanuts in a airline snack package--why even bother? Clearly the decision was political, not medical and it doesn't look as though this decision was made from a customer service point of view. Previously Northwest didn't serve peanuts; pretzels were their snack of choice.

I wonder if the recent peanut allergy backlash has something to do with this decision as well. There's no way of knowing, but it shows that we need to speak up when you fly, now more than ever. Consumers can help change policies, but not if we stay silent.

FAAN has some very reassuring and helpful tips on their site dealing with airline travel. Please read it, including the sidebar links. You'll find tips on everything from what to do before you fly to how to deal with the flight crew if things go wrong. Also, as most medical experts agree, the risk of an in-flight reaction is low if you don't actually ingest peanuts or tree nuts. Everyone should read this before booking your next flight. Here are a few highlights:

1. Bring your own snacks. Don't let allergic individuals eat the airline food. Ever. That's the best way to stay safe.

2. Try to take the first flight of the day or as early as possible. Early in the day, the flights are cleaner. Planes are not thoroughly cleaned between flights, but they are overnight.

3. Make your reservation over the phone and speak to a live person; don't book online. You have a better chance of having your allergy needs put in your reservation order if you talk to a rep.

4. Ask to board early, so that you can clean your seating area. A note from your doctor would be helpful here and be polite, but firm. There's no reason they shouldn't accomodate this request; put on your best smile and go for it.

5. Bring something to cover the seat. A beach towel or something like it would be good. This will offer an extra layer of protection from peanut residue.


Elaine said...

Great tips. Their customer service stinks.

Col said...

Thanks for the heads-up. I sent a note to NWA expressing my disappointment, since we have used them frequently (and safely!) for air travel until now.

finnyzia said...

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