Some airlines are better than others when it comes to peanut and nut allergies. These allergies are some of the most prevalent of all allergies, and in general I'm very sympathetic to allergy sufferers, given that in my family there's a life threatening bee sting allergy that we carry an Epi-pen for, plus severe dog and cat allergies that mean we always stay at a hotel when visiting family or friends who have a dog or cat.
The difference between airlines (even in First Class) and luxury hotels couldn't be more different, when it comes to allergies. All the hotels I work with are keen to know any allergies my clients have, as well as food restrictions and preferences. The best among them keep a record of these in the guest profile, so as to avoid any issues with future stays at that hotel or even at other hotels in that brand. Airlines, on the other hand, where an allergy situation can be so much more serious due to the very confined space, rarely even offer a peanut-free or nut-free meal among their special order meals, and many won't make a general announcement to all passengers asking them to refrain from eating any peanut products they may have brought with them.
There have been various articles relating how passengers were kicked off an American Airlines flight just for informing the crew of the kids' severe nut allergies, even though they had come prepared with their own food and medicine. American Airlines is facing DoT complaints accusing the airline of discriminating against allergy sufferers, since American Airlines has an explicit policy denying pre-boarding to people with allergies (not allowing them to preboard to wipe down their seating area to get rid of peanut and nut residue) while not singling out any other group.
A number of airlines are completely silent on the topic of allergies, but of major carriers that our clients fly, here are the best and worst airlines for peanut and nut allergies. If flying a U.S. airline, Delta and JetBlue are better than United; avoid flying with American Airlines, Alaska, and Hawaiian.
Best Airlines for Peanut Allergies
- JAL has eliminated peanuts and products including peanuts from all in-flight meals (both international and domestic flights), and also eliminated peanuts from the food and drink menu that is offered at JAL-operated domestic and overseas lounges.
- JAL also offers wholly peanut-free meals; contact JAL directly to request (American Airlines and other oneworld partners aren't able to add the appropriate meal code, only JAL can do so)
- JAL can't, however, guarantee a completely peanut-free environment due to the risk of cross contamination during the manufacturing process, and the fact that other passengers may bring peanuts with them.
- Contact JAL at least two weeks prior to the flight date to request special cleaning around the flight (note that this is for peanuts only, not for all nut allergies)
- ANA now provides two types of allergen free meals for its international flights
- The 7 allergen-free meal does not contain wheat, buckwheat, dairy products, eggs, peanuts, shrimp and crab
- The 21 allergen-free meal does not contain the above 7 allergens or abalone, squid, salmon roe, orange, kiwi fruit, beef, walnut, salmon, mackerel, soybean, poultry, banana, pork, matsutake mushroom, peach, yam, apple, gelatin, sesame, cashew nuts or almond
- Reserve these by calling ANA after reserving your flight; typically at least 48 hours advance notice is required.
- As with other airlines, ANA cannot guarantee a peanut-free or nut-free flight, but as with JAL, ANA will provide a special seat cleaning service if requested at least 96 hours before the flight.
- After notifying Delta that you have a peanut allergy, Delta will refrain from serving peanuts and peanut products onboard your flight
- Delta will also advise catering to board additional non-peanut snacks, which will allow cabin crew to serve these snacks to passengers
- Gate agents will be notified in case you'd like to pre-board and cleanse the immediate sating area
- Delta still cannot guarantee that the flight will be completely peanut-free
- Although not specified, I'd recommend notifying Delta when booking your flight and no later than 48 hours before your flight of your peanut allergy, so non-peanut snacks can be organized for your flight. Go to My Trips to complete the Accessibility Service Request Form (there's a check box if you have a peanut allergy) or call 404-209-3434
- JetBlue does not serve peanuts but does serve snack products containing tree nuts, and cannot guarantee that the aircraft or snacks will be 100% free of peanuts or their derivatives
- Please inform the head inflight crewmember upon boarding of your severe nut allergy. Upon request, a crew member will create a buffer zone one row in front and one row behind the allergic person. Crew will ask customers seated in the buffer zone to refrain from consuming any nut containing products they have brought onboard and will not serve any nut containing products to these rows.
- On a recent JetBlue Mint flight, my clients, one of whom has a nut allergy, were helpfully given the ingredients list of all the dishes served in JetBlue Mint by the flight crew, who was also happy to leave off an allergy-containing garnish.
- JetBlue will offer a full refund to customers for whom these conditions make it impossible to travel
5. Air France
- Air France is one of the few airlines that can provide an allergen-free special meal for certain flights within Europe and on all intercontinental flights
- The meal “does not contain the following products or their derivatives: grains containing gluten, shellfish, eggs, fish, peanuts, soy, milk, nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts), celery, mustard, sesame seeds, sulfur dioxide and sulfites in a concentration exceeding 10 mg/kg, lupin and mollusks. If you are allergic to a product not mentioned above, please bring a cold meal with you for your flight.”
- The meal should be requested at least 24 hours before your flight (we recommend reserving it as far in advance as possible)
6. Air Canada
- Air Canada no longer carries bar snacks containing peanuts, but cannot provide a special meal that is nut or peanut-free, and cannot prevent other passengers bringing their own snacks containing peanuts or tree nuts
- Air Canada does not allow a child who is severely allergic to peanuts to travel as an unaccompanied minor
- If you have a severe allergy to peanuts or nuts you may request a buffer zone to be set up around your seat to help avoid the risk of exposure.
- Only the customers seated within the buffer zone will be informed that they must not consume nut or peanut products. They will not be offered any Air Canada snacks containing nuts.
- There will NOT be a general announcement to all customers about the existence of a buffer zone or about the customer with severe nut or peanut allergies.
- To request the buffer zone, you must contact the Air Canada Medical Assistance Desk (1-800-667-4732) at least 48 hours before your flight.
- Southwest does not serve peanuts on its flights, although notes that its pretzel and other snacks may be packaged in the same facility as peanuts, so there's no guarantee these snacks are completely free of peanut particles or peanut oil
- As always there's the risk that other passengers may bring their own peanuts or nuts on board
- As with other U.S. airlines, passengers with peanut or nut allergies are considered to have a disability and may preboard to wipe down their seat and tray table.
- Nut-free special meal is available that does not contain peanuts and tree nuts (including almonds, Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, macadamias and their derivatives). You must request a nut-free meal at least 48 hours before departure.
- Singapore Airlines does not serve peanuts as snacks to Economy Class passengers (as of April 2018) BUT meals with peanuts and/or other nuts ARE served in other classes of service. For example, Singapore Airlines' Book the Cook Meal Pre-Order selections out of Singapore include Chicken and Lamb Satay, which contains a spicy peanut sauce.
- Singapore Airlines cannot provide a nut-free cabin or guarantee an allergy-free environment on board as other passengers may be served meals containing nuts and may bring their own snacks containing nuts on board.
- SWISS bills itself as the first “allergy-friendly” airline, but it does NOT offer a nut-free meal
- Swiss Airlines does not serve peanuts on board but is unable to provide meals without any trace of peanuts
- Passengers with serious nut allergies should bring their own food that does not require chilling or heating on board
- Swiss requests all passengers NOT to bring peanuts on board with them.
- Cabin crew are trained to respond to an allergic emergency
10. British Airways
- Nuts (although not peanuts) are served on board, and meals may be produced at a facility that handles peanuts; therefore British Airways is unable to offer a peanut-free special meal
- Allowed to pre-board to wipe down your seating area. Passengers must bring their own wipes
- When boarding, you must inform the Cabin Crew of your severe peanut or tree nut allergy. If you request it, Cabin Crew will make an announcement so that other passengers are aware of your allergy. Cabin Crew will suspend the serving of loose nut snacks in your cabin of travel.
- On the face of it, Qantas seems as though it should be higher on this list, since Qantas claims to have eliminated peanuts as a bar snack on all flights and in all airport lounges, and to have minimized the use of peanuts in in-flight meals.
- Qantas also claims to provide “an extensive range of special meals inflight that are specifically designed not to include peanuts or other nuts, or products of peanuts or other nuts in the preparation of the meal.”
- Unfortunately, the above are belied by a recent comment below by Anthony, who wrote “…Qantas says they avoid putting nuts in all meals, however when we boarded we noticed a satay on the menu. Made with peanuts and topped with cashews and shellfish. I had called in advance and again days before the flight.”
- There was also a recent incident reported in Australia of a teacher who had advised Qantas months before her flight of her nut allergy, and had written confirmation that no nuts would be served on board, only to encounter cabin staff who claimed they had no notes on her allergy, and would serve almonds anyway. So Qantas appears to have a disconnect between what it says it will do, and what cabin staff actually do, when it comes to passenger allergies.
Worst Airlines for Peanut and Nut Allergies
Qatar is unfortunately one of the most nut allergy-unfriendly airlines:
- No announcement is made for the passenger with an allergy either at the boarding gate or on board
- Qatar Airways does not have a special meal that is peanut-free or nut-free, and advises passengers with severe food allergies to bring their own food that does not require refrigeration or reheating
- Qatar Airways also requires a Waiver of Liability for allergies and Medical Information Form for severe allergies to be filed at least 48 hours prior to the flight. So not only does the airline not do anything for those with peanut or nut allergies, it creates a lot of paperwork for them as well, to ensure the airline is free of any potential liability.
- Turkish Airlines does say it will provide a special meal for a passenger with a nut allergy, if notified at least 48 hours before the flight.
- Unfortunately, the lived experience of several passengers with severe nut or peanut allergies has been that they are thrown off their flights even after having alerted Turkish Airlines of their allergies in advance. See Nut Allergy? Don't Fly Turkish Airlines
- Additionally, for native English speakers, there's greater potential for misunderstanding and language confusion on Turkish Airlines than on most European carriers or airlines such as Singapore Airlines or Cathay Pacific.
- Nuts are served on all Emirates flights, either as a meal ingredient or as an accompaniment to drinks
- Emirates cannot guarantee peanut-free meals and does not provide nut-free meals–you should bring your own meal on board if you have a peanut allergy.
- Other passengers may also bring food onboard that could contain nuts
- Emirates accepts no responsibility for any allergic reaction you may suffer while on board
- Nuts may be served on their own or be present as an ingredient in in-flight meals. Etihad does not guarantee a peanut-free environment or peanut-free meals on board
- It is possible that traces of peanuts or their derivatives could be in the cabin or the aircraft air conditioning
- Passengers with severe nut allergies should bring their own food. Cabin crew will be happy to warm your meal for you.
- Nuts (although not peanuts) are served, and could have trace elements of peanuts
- No buffer zones
- Passengers with nut allergies may pre-board to wipe down seat area.
- Reported incidents of customers being kicked off the plane after alerting the crew to a severe nut allergy
- Any meals/snacks onboard may contain nuts or peanuts and passengers may bring their own nuts or peanuts on board
- No allergen-free meals available, and no buffer zones provided
- May pre-board to sanitize immediate seating area
- No nut-free meals provided; meals in First Class and meals available for purchase in the Main cabin can contain nuts and/or peanuts
- May pre-board to sanitize immediate seating area
- Cathay Pacific does NOT provide peanut-free or tree nut-free special meals, and cannot guarantee cross-contamination of peanuts and/or tree nuts with in-flight catering. Allergic passengers should bring their own meals that do not require chilling or pre-heating.
- Cathay Pacific cannot prevent passengers from bringing their own peanut / tree nut products on board, and cannot insist they do not open or eat them.
- Passengers with a severe peanut or tree nut allergy should submit a Physician's Statement: Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy at least 72 hours in advance to attest to their ability to fly despite Cathay's inability to provide a peanut/nut-free cabin, and to request a peanut or nut-free snack as applicable for the passenger and all other passengers in the same class of service
- Cathay Pacific cannot make general announcements requesting other passengers refrain from consuming peanuts or tree nuts.
- Passengers with documented peanut and/or tree nut allergies can, subject to operational limitation, request priority boarding and bring their own cleaning wipes to wipe down their seating area.
- In 2022, a United flight to Singapore diverted to Hawaii due to an anaphylactic peanut allergy, and a passenger has filed a DOT complaint of discrimination, as she was kicked off a United flight after disclosing her tree nut allergy
- United no longer serves pre-packaged peanuts on its flights, but meals and snacks can contain other nuts and there can be cross-contamination with nuts and peanuts. No peanut-free or nut-free special meal is available.
- United offers to have flight crew create a buffer zone: “If you have a severe food allergy and are traveling on a flight please notify a flight attendant on board the aircraft that you request an allergy buffer zone so we can attempt to notify customers seated nearby to refrain from eating any allergen-containing products they may have brought on board. Please understand that we cannot prevent any customer from eating the products they have brought on board.”
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