Should peanuts be banned on planes? Mid-air emergency sparks debate

 abc.net.au  7/18/2017 1:18:16 AM 

Updated July 18, 2017 11:43:14

Opinions are divided on whether peanuts should be served on planes, after a Melbourne toddler suffered a dangerous allergic reaction when many packets were opened at once onboard a Singapore Airlines flight.

The airline is reviewing the incident after Chris and Hong Daley spoke out after travelling home from a holiday in Thailand.

They had asked for a nut-free meal for their son, Marcus, who suffers from anaphylaxis. But they had not expected other passengers to be served peanuts as a snack.

They said hundreds of the nut packets were opened at the one time, and minutes later their son became severely ill.

"He started vomiting, his eyes were starting to swell and he couldn't speak properly," Mr Daley, who is a doctor specialising in respiratory issues, told the ABC.

He said the family was carrying four pens of adrenaline and other anti-allergy medication, but feared a similar incident could proved deadly for someone else.

A number of airlines, including Qantas and Air New Zealand, have banned peanuts from all flights, while some European companies are completely nut-free.

Their story led to strong debate about what, if any, responsibility passengers and airlines have towards people with severe allergies, with hundreds of people weighing in on social media.

Many Facebook users supported the family's push for a peanut ban on all flights, saying it was a small price to pay:

"This boy's reaction is something that concerns us all - what if he died? - and airlines should take notice. There's no need for nuts on a plane."

- Pamela Davis

Another woman said she was more than happy to go without nuts if it meant protecting a young child:

"We boarded a plane a few years back and before we took off, they announced over the mic their was a child onboard who had a serious allergy to nuts and asked that no one ate any on this leg of the flight.

"From what I saw, everyone was happy to leave the nuts in their bags to protect the child."

- Debbie Johnston

Airline policies:

  • Emirates: Nuts are served on all flights, and Emirates says it cannot guarantee peanut-free meals
  • Etihad: Nuts may be served on flights and people with severe allergies should bring their own food
  • British Airways: Nuts, but not peanuts, are served. But passengers are asked to inform staff of allergies and they will stop serving nuts in the cabin
  • Swiss Airlines: Doesn't serve peanuts but unable to guarantee nut-free meal. Passengers are asked not to bring them on board.
  • Qantas: Doesn't serve snack peanuts on flights or in lounges, and minimises the use of peanuts in inflight menus

But others said it was up to parents, or those with the allergies, to take proper precaution.

"If the child is that sensitive it's the parents' responsibility not to place the kid in an environment that could be risky, so next time don't fly on a plane, drive to your destination."

- Rhonda and Steve

"If your child is that allergic, maybe you need to figure out a different way to travel."

- Marshall Smith

One person detailed their recent experience while flying with Virgin, which served both pretzels and almonds.

"I am allergic to almonds and suffer anaphylaxis. Being in that confined space made me extremely nervous.

"Given the prevalence of nut allergies these days, I was genuinely shocked they served these rather than just pretzels. It wouldn't kill people to just have pretzels but it might kill me if they have almonds."

- Katt As

A woman who has suffered a peanut allergy her whole life said she takes extra precaution during flights but tries to deal with it.

"I'm 53 and was born with peanut allergy. When people start eating packets of peanuts on flights, I put a napkin over my face and ride it out."

- Anthea Kerrison

One man said his experience showed some airlines need to take allergies into consideration.

"On a recent Air Iceland flight we were asked to not eat peanut-based foods and they didn't serve anything peanut related. So some companies do that protocol."

- Michael Casey

Someone else had a similar experience flying from Iceland.

"I was on a flight recently, from Iceland to London, and the cabin crew made an announcement asking passengers not to open any nuts, as someone on board had an allergy.

"Perhaps if the parents had mentioned their child's allergy, rather than just ask for a nut-free meal, the airline could have done this as well."

- Toni Benjamin

Others said removing peanuts during flights was fair enough given the circumstances.

"Peanut allergy can be so severe just the smell of it can cause a reaction, sometimes, especially in kids those reactions can kill. Fair enough on land you can move from the smell and get some air but not on a flying tin can.
"It's fricken peanuts for gods sake. They aren't a human right."

- Cheryl Walton

Singapore Airlines apologised to the Daley family for the distress they experienced during the flight and said as soon as cabin crew were aware of the situation they stopped handing out the packets.

But in a Facebook response to a comment from a friend of the family, the airline said:

"[E]ven if we do not serve the peanuts as a snack, we do not have any control over passengers consuming their own snacks or meals on board, which may contain nuts or their derivatives."

- Singapore Airlines

Topics: allergies, health, thailand, melbourne-3000, australia

First posted July 18, 2017 11:18:16

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