Best and Worst Airlines for Peanut and Nut Allergies

Best and Worst Airlines for Peanut and Nut Allergies

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 was an NYT article today 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 my clients fly, here are the best and worst airlines for peanut and nut allergies. American Airlines is currently worst, and if you have a severe peanut or nut allergy, you may want to avoid flying them.

1. Delta Airlines

  • 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

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2. 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.

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3. JetBlue Airlines

  • 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, was 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

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4. Swiss Airlines

  • 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

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5. 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 ill suspend the serving of loose nut snacks in your cabin of travel.

British Airways Medical Conditions, Including Food Allergies Policy

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6. Singapore Airlines

  • 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.

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7. Qantas

  • 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 2 years 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.

Qantas Traveling with Specific Needs (Including Allergies)

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8. Qatar Airways 

  • Qatar Airways does not have a special meal that is peanut-free or nut-free, but in the U.S., you can write to specialservices@us.qatarairways.com to request a peanut-free and/or nut-free meal for your flight, as long as it's at least 48 hours before your flight.
  • Note that 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.

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9. American Airlines

American Airlines Nut Allergy Policy: prepare for possibility of exposure

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10. Cathay Pacific Airlines

  • 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.
  • 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.

Cathay Pacific Peanut and Tree Nut Allergy Page

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11. United Airlines

  • Nuts (although not pre-packaged peanuts) are served, and could have traces of peanuts
  • No buffer zones
  • “In some cases we may be able to pass along your request to other customers seated nearby to refrain from opening or eating any peanut products that they may have brought on board”

United Airlines Peanut Allergy Policy: prepare for possiblity of exposure

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12. Etihad Airlines

  • 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.

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13. Emirates Airlines

  • 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

Emirates Special Meals Page, Including Nut or Peanut Allergy Section

If you have a severe peanut or nut allergy, what has been your experience with airlines being helpful (or not helpful) with your allergy?
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20 Comments on "Best and Worst Airlines for Peanut and Nut Allergies"

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newest oldest most voted
Mary Morgan
Guest
Please add Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic to your positive list as they are both really helpful to peanut allergy sufferers. I usually travel within Europe on Easyjet and find they are brilliant regarding my peanut allergy. Its easy to declare when booking online then as I board I alert the crew and they will not serve their one peanut snack plus they make an announcement. I travelled 18 months ago to Australia from UK using 3 different airlines unaware beforehand that all airlines are not so helpful! Virgin Atlantic are great and now have a policy not to serve any… Read more »
Gemma
Guest
Hi. I flew a return trip on British Airways in 2015 JFK—> LHR. I called the airline upon booking to inform them that I have an airborne peanut and nut allergy. They explained that there was no nut free meal or snacks they could provide and they couldn’t stop people from bringing nuts on to the flight. I explained that my airborne allergy is triggered by heat, that’s when the enzymes are dispersed. The representative said they do not serve any hot meals containing nuts, just snacks. And that they could set up a buffer zone upon boarding the plane.… Read more »
Haidee Lim
Guest

It would be good to get an update as some of these airlines may have experienced near fatality recently from anaphylaxis and may have changed their mind about the risk of peanuts and treenuts in fights .
I was looking in particular for Singapore airline for which there was news in the last year or 2 that they no longer will serve nuts after a boy had anaphylaxis in one of their flights.

Nisha
Guest

Thank you for this article. We just returned from the US on Qantas. My daughter has a peanut allergy so the crew refused to give her anything to eat apart from apples! When we flew with Qantas a couple of years ago they were really helpful, however their response now is that ‘she’s better off not eating”!

Ally
Guest

Hello! I will be flying to Sydney from Boston in a couple months. I was thinking of taking New Zealand Air since I heard they do not serve any peanuts on board. I have severe nut allergies and allergies to gluten and soy as well so I will 100% not be eating any plane food. Does anyone have any recommendations on food to bring with me for 20+ hours of flying? I would greatly appreciate any recommendations 🙂

Jeff
Guest

My son has a tree nut allergy but it is only if he eats tree nuts. While we are comfortable with most snacks, and can look at a label, we are traveling internationally for the first time soon and cannot determine if the meals have tree nuts or not. We are on Delta. While they have indicated he has an allergy (and we need to let flight attendant know), is there any way to know if a meal is tree nut free or do we just need to get him a separate dinner? Any advice appreciated.

Samantha
Guest
Wondering if you have any experience with EVA (Taiwan airline) from Heathrow to Taipei as we’re due to fly business class with them in a few weeks. My eldest now 13 is anaphylatic to ingesting peanuts. We have flown many times long haul from NZ to UK via various countries with numerous airlines and have never declared his allergy or suffered a reaction. Only had an epi-pen for past 6 years. Only had to use epi-pen once (accidentally ate a bar that was 45% peanuts!). We have never been concerned over cross-contamination from peanuts during food manufacturing. No reactions to… Read more »
Michael Stroh
Guest
We do a substantial amount of cross-country travel within the states and Delta is hands-down the best with regard to our daughter’s peanut allergy. Even when we buy the cheapest tickets, they still have us all travelling together, let us on early to wipe down the seats, and make the announcement that they have a passenger on board with a peanut allergy. And they are ALWAYS extremely good about any of it. Still, it’s amazing the groans you hear from people, as if they cannot live for 5 hours without peanuts! The buffer zones on other airlines are lousy in… Read more »
anthony burns
Guest

I’d like to add to this. My partner and myself spent 2 years preparing for a holiday. In short 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 2 years and again days before the flight. My partner reacts to the airborne particles, we had to cancel our trip.

avital yarm
Guest

whatever you do, DO NOT fly Austrian or Swiss with this allergy; they are not allergy friendly at all and candidly hand out mixed nuts in business class, swiss hand out nut based chocolate as a snack and moreover their staff will refuse to create a buffer zone for you. Stay well away from these airlines with this allergy.