I am an individual who has a severe allergy to all nuts and nut products. Not only cannot I not ingest them, but I am not able to be around them. Any airborne nut or nut product sends me immediately into anaphylactic shock. Anaphylactic shock as described in a medical dictionary is "a severe and sometimes fatal systemic reaction in a susceptible individual upon second exposure to a specific antigen after previous sensitization that is characterized especially by respiratory symptoms, fainting, itching and urticaria." This allergy is very serious and can lead to death. An Epi-pen is an auto-injector of epinephrine, which I carry with me at all time in case I experience an allergic reaction; however, this is a temporary treatment until I can get emergency medical care.
Traveling for me can be hazardous due to many airlines serving nuts on flights. Prior to traveling, I always personally call the airline to make arrangements for the aircraft to remove all nuts and nut products. In the past, this has never been a problem. I flew to Beijing China on Northwest Airlines and they were more than understanding about my nut allergy. Originally, the menu for first class included a salad that with a dressing that contained walnuts. Upon my request, they changed the salad dressing. The flight crew was attentive, and made sure I had my Epi-pen in the seat pocket in front of me. I instructed a flight attendant how to use the Epi-pen should an emergency occur. Fortunately, there were no problems.
I recently planned a trip from Chicago, O'Hare to London, Heathrow on American Airlines. I telephoned American Airlines to explain my allergy situation and make arrangements for there not to be any nuts served on my flight. Naturally I was concerned, because this was an international flight with nowhere to land to seek emergency medical attention in case I experienced an allergic reaction. The American Airlines service representative informed me that they serve mixed nuts in the first and business classes. I went on further to explain that I cannot not eat nor be around any nut product. The representative told me that they to do not make any exceptions for people with nut allergies because they "advertise" to their passengers that they will receive mixed nuts. In order for me to travel on American, I had to have a written authorization from my doctor. Of course my doctor did not sign authorization because traveling with nuts on my flight was out of the question.
I was shocked by American Airlines lack of customer service and care for human beings. I contacted several other airlines, and they all indicated to me that they would accommodate me as much as they possibly could. I was very much looking forward to my vacation, but since the risk was so high, I had to cancel my trip. My ticket will be refunded, however I have to go through a process, which I think, is ridiculous considering what I have already gone through.
It seems to me that the airlines have enough competition through airfare wars, and after a disastrous last year for American, you would think that they would do anything within reason to please a passenger. I believe that my request was within reason and not a difficult one to accomplish. Peanut allergies and nut allergies in general are not that uncommon. Many people suffer from this allergy and most don't know the severity of it.
I do know one thing, neither I nor any of my family members will ever fly American Airlines. I hope others with this allergy are now aware of American's inflexible and absurd policy.
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