British Airways is becoming the first major airline with an official policy asking passengers not to eat nuts in flight.
The updated allergy-friendly policy took effect February 18, 2016.
Passengers can still carry nutty foods and snacks aboard. But they will be asked not to eat them if they are sitting near a person with that allergy during the flight.
When a passenger says they have a nut allergy, flight crews will make an announcement, said an airline spokesperson.
Crews will “make an announcement on board to inform customers and to ask those in the vicinity to refrain from eating nut products,” the spokeswoman told Forbes.1
British Airways does not serve peanuts on flights. They do serve some foods containing tree nuts.
There have been several reported incidents involving food allergies on U.K. flights:
- August 2014: On a flight to the U.K., a child suffered a severe allergic reaction. A fellow passenger ignored warnings of the flight crew not to eat nuts and opened a package of peanuts.2
- October 2014: A father claimed British Airways staff bullied his family off a flight when he requested they not serve nuts because of his young daughter's allergy.3
- August 2015: A United Airlines flight from Dublin to the U.S. flew back to the airport. A four-year-old Irish girl suffered a severe reaction after eating a cashew.4
In early February 2015, after a debate, the British House of Commons decided not to create national food allergy regulations for airlines.
This British Airways policy change is a voluntary one. More information about the policy is available on their website at ba.com.
There are no mandatory policies about peanuts or food allergies on American airline carriers. Each airline is free to have its own procedures. Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation for a list of the food allergy policies of the major U.S. airlines.
There is a bill pending in the U.S. Senate called the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (S. 1972).
The proposed legislation includes these requirements:
- Airplanes stock epinephrine auto-injectors – at least one for an adult and one for a child.
- Air carriers change policies about the use of epinephrine during emergencies in the air, as well as other purposes.
- A U.S. agency report to Congress on airline policies for accommodating passengers with food allergies.
- Trained flight crews to recognize the symptoms of severe allergic reactions.
- Trained flight crews to administer epinephrine auto-injectors in case of anaphylaxis.
Learn how to keep your family safe while flying. Watch our webinar, Flying with Food Allergies, with Matthew Greenhawt, MD, MBA, MSc, and Laurel Francoeur, JD. They cover issues related to flying: legal restrictions; disability issues; TSA regulations; peanut dust and inhalation studies; and how to prevent allergic reactions on airplanes.
1. Ted Reed, "British Airways Says It Will Make Announcements To Help Passengers With Peanut Allergies," Forbes, February 14, 2016.
2. Rhiannon Edwards, “Ryanair bans passenger after girl suffers nut allergy reaction,” The Telegraph, August 14, 2014.
3. Chris Kitching, "British Airways 'bullied' family of girl, 5, with severe allergy into leaving plane after father asks airline not to serve nuts during flight," The Daily Mail, October 13, 2014.
4. Sam Griffin, "Family of nut allergy girl are removed from flight," Irish Independent, August 20, 2014.