Woman Sues United Airlines Over Peanut Allergy Drama

A Sacramento woman is reportedly suing United Airlines after she allegedly received assurances that her peanut allergy wouldn’t be a problem during flights to and from Orlando, but it was a problem – a big one.

List of Airline Nut Policies

Flight Diverted, Woman Hospitalized

After a fellow United passenger began munching on peanuts (brought from home), Alisa Gleason’s severe nut allergy kicked in and she felt like she couldn’t breathe, likening it to “having an anaconda around your lungs.” Her reaction was so severe the pilot wound up diverting to an airport in Missouri where Gleason was hospitalized for two days.

Airline Nut Policies: No Guarantees

FareCompare contacted United for comment but a spokesperson for the airline told us they do not comment on “pending litigation.” United does not serve pre-packaged peanuts on its flights, but as its website policy on nuts makes crystal clear, total avoidance is probably impossible: “We cannot guarantee that a flight will be free of nuts, including peanuts.”

Southwest – a seemingly nut-friendly airline (its blog features a peanut logo and is titled, Nuts about Southwest) says while it is concerned about allergic passengers and if alerted in advance will make “every attempt” not to serve peanuts on flights, they make no guarantees.

JetBlue says it doesn’t serve peanuts (and has no immediate plans to do so), but they can’t guarantee nut-free planes either. JetBlue will however offer a full refund to “customers for whom these conditions make it impossible to travel.”

One of the main obstacles facing airlines that might be inclined to create nut-free zones? Other passengers.

Dept. of Transportation – ban on peanuts?

Airlines Can’t Control What Passengers Eat

As United points out, airlines cannot control what food passengers choose to bring onboard. The airline further states, “We cannot offer nut-free zones, or remove any onboard products based on individual customer requests.”

However, in the report about Ms. Gleason’s lawsuit, she claimed a United representative told her by phone that they could “make an announcement” over the plane’s PA system alerting others to her nut allergy. This was not done apparently, though it’s by no means clear if it would have stopped any nut snacking.

Advice to allergic passengers: Read your airline’s website carefully. If it says no guarantees, believe it. And consult your physician.

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Published: May 30, 2013