Nuts on aircraft

I was flicking through my Twitter feed earlier this week, and found this tweet from easyJet. I love flying with easyJet and they are definitely my airline of choice when booking trips home to see family or go on holiday.

This filled me with dread, as anyone with a nut allergy will know the feeling of flying whilst people are eating nuts around you. Not only are nuts still able to be eaten on aircraft, easyJet have started a new contract with a manufacturer to sell more.

To their credit easyJet were nothing but helpful in their exchange with me, providing me with a link to their Support Pages for Nut Allergy suffer and provided me with an email address so I could mention it directly.

This is what I sent:

“With an increasing number of people allergic to nuts why have you started a new contract to sell nuts on your flights?
I’m a big fan of air travel and of flying in general. I love the quality of your website, booking and flying with you. You have wonderful staff. However the fact that you continue to sell nuts onboard your aircraft makes life difficult for people on your flights, myself included.
I saw your tweet today showing you are now selling “Liberation” nuts. I’m sure there must be members of your company who are allergic to nuts — In 1992 in the UK, there were 1 in 200 children, in 2002 there were 1 in 70, and this number is only increasing. This means that there could easily be at least 1 allergy sufferer per flight.
Being in an enclosed space where the air is recycled around the cabin means that nut particles circulate and are not restricted to just the immediate area of the person eating them. These nut particles are all that is required to cause an allergic reaction — people do not need to consume or touch the nuts themselves.
I am not being hyperbolic when I say that the smell of nuts — the touching of nut particles within the nose and mouth can cause breathing problems, severe discomfort or worse. This means that a flight, perhaps to go on holiday, visiting friends or family, a first flight by an excited child, instead of being a source of joy, becomes a source of immense discomfort and fear.
If this case [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2724684/Nut-allergy-girl-went-anaphylactic-shock-plane-passenger-ignored-three-warnings-not-eat-nuts-board.html] from 2014 shows anything, it is that a ban on having and eating nuts on your aircraft, not just selling them. I know it appears drastic and people will grumble, but I believe that the vast majority of people will understand and agree with the decision. It is for the safety of a small but increasing minority, people who would no longer be scared of flying.
Thanks,
David”

— Email to easyJet Customer Services

Nuts are currently suspended from sale in-flight if passengers tell cabin crew they have an allergy.

I strongly believe that cases such as this and this and this really should highlight the need to take greater steps to prevent people eating nuts on planes. I believe that people are likely to take the path of least resistance when on a flight.

  1. If there are no nuts being sold, people would buy crisps or other snacks, they would not even consider getting any after the first time they were told by staff that they weren’t being sold on easyJet flights anymore.
  2. If people bring their own nuts onto the plane with a nut allergy sufferer, according to the currently rules, a tannoy announcement would inform them not to eat them on this flight. At this point people would be breaking the rules, and generally people don’t break rules when there are good reasons for them!

I promptly received this email in response from easyJet Customer Services:

“Dear David,
Thank you for contacting easyJet with your concern about our nut products.
As easyJet does sell nut products onboard, passengers who suffer from anaphylaxis should notify the senior cabin crew member on arrival on the aircraft of their allergy so that they can suspend the sale of such products during that flight.
The cabin crew can also make an announcement requesting passengers to refrain from consuming any nuts whilst onboard the aircraft.
However, easyJet cannot forbid passengers from consuming food containing nuts onboard. Other products sold onboard may also contain traces of nuts and easyJet are unable to guarantee a nut free environment.
I will of course put your concerns forward.
If there is anything else I can help you with, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email.
Kind regards
Jane”

— Jane, easyJet Customer Services

I would ask easyJet to do what Ryanair did — ban the passenger from their flights for two years. It might seem harsh, but very quickly people wouldn’t bother. Taking that path of least resistance would probably make any passenger buy Pringles or bring something else onboard.

While there might not be much traction with easyJet, I just want to take this opportunity to arm people with the knowledge that you can speak up without embarrassment to the cabin crew who will prevent nuts from being sold on the flight. That should go some way to reducing the likelihood of serious reactions to nuts.

The last thing I would say; try a small amount of social rebellion. If you are going on a flight, please tell a flight attendant you have an allergy and not to sell nuts on the flight. If enough people do that on flights, the business sense for having them onboard begins to decline. You would be doing allergy sufferers like myself a big favour. Thanks!

Interestingly, since writing this article, I have flown on several easyJet and IcelandAir flights. Both have the same policy and both make announcements on the flights. In my experience I have sometimes forgotten to mention it when I’m boarding the plane and feel bad mentioning later, so I don’t. Now I make a conscious effort on each flight I take, so it eventually becomes second nature. However, I am happy with their implementation of their rules so far, and I haven’t been sat next to anyone who actually brings their own nuts and then goes against the announcement to eat them. So that’s something. Hopefully some day they’ll just stop selling them, but until then, this will have to do.
  • 19 February 2016

Originally published on 6 March 2015 at www.dcxiii.com.

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