Attention to all travelers with food allergies

I’m a Portuguese citizen and I suffer from a life-threatening food allergy condition to peanuts and all kind of generic nuts. My food allergy can occur not only when eating, but also when in direct contact with the skin and when inhaling small particles of these ingredients.

I have travelled with 7 different airlines last year and I would like to share the experiences I had in all of them. But, before I do, let me tell you upfront: DO NOT travel with TAP Portugal Airline.

Air Canada: my food allergy came recently and I was unaware that I should warn the airline companies before flight departure. I have a medical written statement to carry on with me at all times an “epipen” (adrenaline) injection kit. I took a flight from Copenhagen to Toronto and warned only on board the flight crew of my food allergy condition. They were completely shocked I haven’t warned them before and took immediate action, warning passengers nearby to not eat peanuts or nuts and alerting them of my condition. They asked me if I carried my “epipen” with me. They also provided me with packaged food with listed ingredients, which fortunately did not contain nuts. The passenger sitting next to me also acted very concerned, telling me that she ate a bag of mixed nuts at the airport but she washed her hands and would not eat them anymore during flight.

United Airlines: I stayed in Toronto for just 16 hours to catch the next flight to Boston. When I got to the airport I went to a United Airlines office to warn them about my condition, but they told me I should have warned them 48h before to prepare a proper meal for me. Nevertheless, on board I have talked with the staff and they warned all the passengers of my condition using the microphone. The flight was short and they distributed a snack which had a list of ingredients which “may contain nuts”. Obviously, I didn’t eat it.

Spirit Airlines: I took a flight from Boston to Washington, sending an email on the same day of the flight to the airline company but they never answered back. When I sat on the airplane, a lady next to me pulled from her bag some mixed nuts. I immediately alerted her of my condition and she was very kind, putting the nuts back to her bag and cleaning her hands with a cleaning paper. The flight crew also warned all the passengers on board of my food allergy condition and did not distribute peanuts and nuts during flight.

Lufthansa: I took a flight from Boston to Copenhagen. At the airport, before departure, I warned the airline company of my condition and just like United Airlines, they told me I should have warned them before to prepare a proper meal. On board, the flight crew warned all the passengers using the microphone and told them expressively not to eat peanuts and nuts during flight. Unfortunately the meals they had did not contain a list of ingredients, but they had some fruit reserved for the flight crew which they kindly offered it to me as a substitute for the flight meal. They also asked me if I was carrying my “epipen” with me and gave me a card to ask for a special meal on a future flight: +49-(0)69–86799799.

Ryanair: I took a flight from Copenhagen to Porto. I didn’t warn the airline company before departure as I had only 3 hours between flights. Nevertheless, I warned the flight crew on board before departure. They were really careful and in addition to warning all the passengers of my condition using the microphone and ask them not to eat peanuts or nuts, they also did not distribute them to the passengers, and they had it on board!! Peanuts packages for a fee. They just did not sell them! They also asked me if I was carrying my “epipen” with me.

Wizzair: I took a flight from Porto to Budapest. I sent an email 2 days before flight but they never answered back. On board, the flight crew announced it on the microphone warning passengers not to eat them and they also did not sell them. I don’t know if they had them or not. They also asked me if I was carrying my “epipen” with me.

TAP Portugal Airline: This was by far the worst experience. I am ashamed as a portuguese citizen of my country’s airline company, but more than a portuguese citizen, I am a citizen of the world and all people should have access to this information. On the day before departure I sent an email to the company airline which they never answered back. I also sent a facebook message to the company’s official page. They first asked what was the flight reservation number. Then they sad they could neither guarantee contamination by inhalation nor control what other passengers eat. I asked them if at least the flight crew could warn the passengers nearby of my condition and kindly ask them not to eat peanuts and nuts. They sad they were going to pass the message to the flight crew. On board, I talked with the flight crew which was NOT alerted to it. They also sad they could not do anything! They did not warn any passenger of my condition and they distributed sandwiches with (visible) nuts to all the passengers! Even after telling them I could have an anaphylactic attack and eventually die during the flight. The flight crew spoke my native language but this did not help anything in this case. They did not show the sensibility and preparation of other airline companies.

I survived this flight, but I will never fly on TAP anymore. If you have a life-threatening food allergy condition, I advise you to do the same! Allergy to peanuts and nuts are rare in Portugal, which might explain the lack of preparation in handling these situations on TAP, but this company airline flies to USA and Canada already, which have many cases of this type of allergies.

My last and most important advise: be very careful when choosing the airline company when you fly if you have a severe food allergy condition. And please share experiences you had with other airline companies. I am a travel enthusiast and I would like to know more about how other airline companies handle these cases.

Thank you!