Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fear of Flying

This whole American Airlines debacle has made me think about the true feasibility of flying with my young family at any time in the near (or not-so-near) future. It doesn't sound very appetizing - especially when your child has a severe peanut allergy.

I mean, if these airlines don't even have their wiring up-to-date, how the heck can I expect them to provide a "peanut-free zone" on their plane?? It's pretty scary.

My family has not flown a lot but when we have, it's been pretty disappointing to see the way food allergies are handled (or more accurately, not handled). We've always told the booking agent about our daughter's peanut allergy and been given the line "yeah, yeah, we know all about peanut allergies, we don't serve peanuts, it's not a problem." This was American Airlines, BTW.

So then we get on board. American does not serve peanuts. But it does have "snack packs" available that DO contain other nuts. Also, on one flight, peanuts were encrusted along the sides of our assigned seats , so I had a little clean-up job to do. Once we were up in the air, I heard a mother turn to her young son and say "I brought your special peanuts." I wanted to turn around and say "Lady, let me tell you what you can do with your special peanuts." But a mid-air fracas is not what I was after. People on airplanes LOVE peanuts. They love them. As my 2nd grader would say "They love them so much they want to marry them."

In doing some research for a "flying with food allergies" article, I came across a Southwest Airlines message board devoted to people's favorite peanuts served on Southwest. (Incidentally, most passengers vote for the honey roasted.)

You would not have believed the comments posted in response to passengers who had family members with nut allergies. One smartmouth said that peanut-allergic people need to charter private flights and "not make our lives a living hell."

A living hell?? Really. Just because you don't get peanuts for a few hours? Well, there's proof that everything really IS relative.

I know that I need to do a better job of making sure that we have a "peanut-free" portion of the plane to sit in. Clearly, I need to make a nuisance of myself with every ticket agent, flight attendant, etc.. But I have to say, are people fearing terrorism more while in flight, or the loss of their precious peanuts?? I wonder.

I mean, come on, even baseball stadiums are offering peanut-free zones now, in some cases, or offering "Peanut-Free" day at the ballpark. And these are BASEBALL stadiums. Every 7th inning they sing: "buy me some PEANUTS and cracker jack." And yet, they're willing to be flexible!!

There is no corresponding "peanut" song for airlines, of course. If airlines did have a song, may I volunteer to write it? How about "Give me some peanuts and cracker jack, then I'll have something to do while I sit for hours on the tarmac...." Or something like that.

How have others handled flying with food allergies? If you have some tips to share, I'd appreciate it.

My own are: bring Clorox Wipes for wiping down the seats. Ask to board early so that you can remove any peanut residue left over from previous flights. Talk to every airline staff member you see in order to make sure you get a peanut-free zone. Lastly, bring earplugs so you don't have to listen to your fellow passengers complain that they are being unfairly "peanut-deprived."


Anonymous said...


Best of luck to you and your child as you continue to negotiate this 'nutty' world. As a 30-something adult who has been allergic to peanuts and tree nuts all my life, let me offer two thoughts: 1. it's not easy 2. with a little extra effort, it is absolutely possible.

I faced many of the same challenges you mention on your site, but this one hit home because I can relate so closely to it. I spent 5 years traveling nationally and internationally (almost exclusively by air) for my job as a software consultant. I encountered many of the stares and comments that you mention. To the extreme of having one of my co-workers announce to all the other passengers on a Southwest flight that I was the reason they weren't getting peanuts.

The lesson I've learned is, I just can't care what they think or say. The vast majority of people are very nice about it and will understand (or at least hold their comments), but for those who want to voice their disappointment, I let it roll off my back. I know it can be harder as a kid to just take it on the chin, but seeing how you handle the situation will enstill the confidence in your child to face these challenges head on.

When my co-worker exposed me as the cause of the 'peanut-free' flight, I looked right at him and said, 'Thanks! That saves me from having to listen to people complain around me.' He and I joke about it to this day.

So keep being a pain and proud of it.

My only recommendation aside from the ones that you listed, is to take the first flight of the morning whenever possible. The planes are cleaned over night and the first flight of the morning is the one least likely to have reminants of past passengers. It also helps that people are less likely to complain about being shafted out of their peanuts at 8am.

Jenny said...

Thanks for your tips about flying early when the plane should be cleaner and people won't be craving peanuts (most likely). I will use that advice the next time we fly!

Thanks for visiting my blog--Jenny

Anonymous said...

Jenny, I have to say that I am "laughing" as I continue to read your blog.... we have the same name for a reason - we think the same when it comes to dealing with peanut allergy. My daughter and I went to Hawaii last month for a mini vacation, it was GREAT but let me just say, I aged 10 years on each flight, just too much to handle, as soon as I smelled a bit of peanut, I spoke out. I did not care, I was NOT going to let my daughter have a reaction in the mid air.

Jenny said...

Dear Anonymous--

Actually, thanks for bringing this up--Clorox wipes don't actually remove peanut residue.

You need soap and water.

BTW, If you have been as hostile to your fellow airline passengers as you were to me in your post, I'm not surprised that people are getting upset with you.

Everyone can learn to accomodate others' needs--no need to get snippy.