I’M GOING to dash this off very quickly as I don’t have a heap of time but am too angry not to rant. In short: we are travelling, as we often do, with BA in Europe this summer and, as you may or may not know, our 18-month-old Sid is severely allergic to – among other stuff – nuts.
I know from previous experience that BA is uniquely unhelpful when it comes to dealing with nut allergy onboard. Their website clearly states (as if this gets them off the hook) that they will not make cabin announcements and won’t ban nuts from flights. Privately, crew have told me on more than one occasion that this has been deemed a ‘human rights’ issue – laughable, this, but apparently it may be against the human rights of passengers who wish to eat peanuts to ban them from doing so. Words fail.
In the past we’ve been lucky enough to get cabin crew who have flouted the ‘no announcements’ rule, or at least asked the people sitting around us to refrain from eating nuts for the flight (a hardship, no doubt, but thankfully fellow passengers have mustered the courage and stamped on their own hopes and dreams to oblige).
We have had amazing treatment from other airlines, notably Monarch, which, advised in advance of nut allergy, was very happy to veto nut products from sale onboard for our flight and make an announcement to boot.
Just recently, Delta Airlines announced a new policy to protect peanut allergy flyers – namely to create a “buffer zone” three rows in front and three rows behind. When notified of a peanut allergy, they will refrain from serving any peanut products on board and provide extra non-peanut snacks to keep everyone happy. Travellers with peanut allergies will also be allows to board early to give their seating area an extra clean if they so wish. See here for more.
All of this in mind, I thought I would send BA an email cataloguing Sidney’s allergy and the fact he carries an EpiPen and is under the care of a paediatric allergist, in the hope that they might adopt discretion and agree to ditch peanuts, at least, and even better nuts in general, from the on-board catering. I would be happy to provide a doctor’s letter if that would help – I can understand they might need proof we aren’t self-diagnosed loonies. This is the response I have just this minute received, in full:
Dear Ms Baracaia
Thank you for your email regarding your son’s nut allergy, and his journey with British Airways.
Unfortunately we are unable to guarantee completely nut/peanut free flights on any of our services. Some snacks provided to all customers onboard could contain these items.
I have to advise you that we are unable to make a cabin announcement to other passengers requesting them not to eat such items – it could be that some passengers might not understand the announcement due to language difficulties and so could eat nuts/peanuts they have brought onto the flight, or that some customers still wish to eat those they have with them.
I have commented your booking regarding your son’s sever allergy, however this is still not a guarantee that the cabin crew will be able to assist on the days you travel.
If you are still concerned about your son’s fitness to fly then you are recommended to discuss your travel plans with your doctor. If, after this discussion, you or your medical practitioner have any concerns about your fitness to fly, then the BA Passenger Medical Clearance Unit can be contacted on +44 (0)208 738 5444.
I am sorry if this news disappoints you.
Setting everything else aside, I honestly don’t understand how an airline would not want to mitigate the risk of having a passenger on board who might require urgent medical treatment – not least a passenger who is less than two years old. We are very well aware of the risks and otherwise, thanks, Claire; I am very well informed and very careful and have full medical advice on pretty much every damn thing we do. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t provide a great deal of peace of mind to know that the airline we are travelling with, and the crew on board, are doing everything they can to ensure as safe an environment for our son as possible.
Claiming that some passengers might not understand is a cop-out. There are never any guarantees but to know that BA isn’t wilfully doling out nuts to passengers would be a great help – as would trying to communicate to as many onboard as possible the situation. That alone would minimise risk.
I don’t suggest that anaphylactic attacks are a common occurrence on flights, but even a skin reaction can be deeply distressing, not least for a child, but for us as parents, too, of course. An aeroplane is a uniquely closeted environment where escape is impossible and help not always at hand.
Citing language barriers, human rights and other bilge to justify a wholly bull-headed policy is a disgrace, if you ask me. Unfortunately we will still be flying BA this summer as we have no other option for this family holiday and seats are already booked and paid for. Thankfully we will be sharing the aisle with no-one else but close family, who I’m sure will be able to restrain themselves from whipping out a Snickers.
I will be going armed with Milton’s sterilising wipes, EpiPens and antihistamines to hand and hope that our cabin crew have a modicum of understanding and sympathy enough not to wave peanuts around us.
But shame on you, British Airways.