Group Files Complaint About American Airlines’ Allergy Pre-Boarding Policy

Image courtesy of Andrew W. Sieber

In many cases, airlines will do everything they can to accommodate passengers with severe allergies: from refraining from passing out complimentary peanuts to allowing travelers to board early to prepare their spaces. But one group claims that American Airline’s policies aren’t so accommodating, filing a federal complaint against the carrier.

The Dallas Morning News reports that nonprofit advocacy group Food Allergy Research and Education filed a federal complaint against American last week asking the Department of Transportation to investigate the carrier’s policy of not allowing passengers with severe nut allergies from pre-boarding planes.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines must offer pre-boarding to passengers with a disability who self-identify at the gate as needing additional time or assistance to board. This, the group contends, includes passengers with severe allergies.

According to American’s own policies, the carrier — which doesn’t serve nuts, but doesn’t prevent fellow travelers from bringing them onboard — does not allow people with nut allergies to pre-board.

The airline also notes that its planes are “cleaned regularly, but these cleanings are not designed to ensure the removal of nut allergens, nor are our air filtration systems designed to remove nut allergens.”

As such, the company says it is not able to “guarantee that customers will not be exposed to peanuts or other tree nuts during flight,” continuing that it urges “customers to take all necessary medical precautions to prepare for the possibility of exposure.”

However, Food Allergy Research and Education claims this isn’t possible as the airline won’t allow those with allergies to pre-board to wipe down their seats and tray tables.

“We aren’t asking them not to serve nuts or restrict people from serving any type of food,” the group tells the Dallas Morning News. “All we want them to do is simply to remove the pre-boarding restriction for people with food allergies.”

While the group notes that the wording of the Air Carrier Access Act doesn’t specifically mention those with nut allergies, the Americans With Disabilities Act does cover those with severe allergies, giving precedent for accommodations.

It’s unclear exactly why the group is singling out American, as the Dallas Morning News reports that other airlines have varying, but similar policies.

For instance, Delta Air Lines — which serves peanuts — will arrange pre-boarding for those with allergies and will refrain from serving the snack if passengers onboard do have allergies.

Southwest Airlines, which also serves nuts, won’t do so if someone on board is allergic. However, the carrier doesn’t specify if it will allow for pre-boarding. United Airlines doesn’t serve peanuts and doesn’t make reference to pre-boarding.

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