United Airlines Crews Need Food Allergy Training. That's the takeaway from the latest calamity involving a United Airlines flight attendant who humiliated a passenger while not following United's own guidelines regarding food allergies.
Lianne Mandelbaum and her family boarded a flight from Houston to Newark in March, according to a complaint to the Department of Transportation. Her son has a life-threatening, anaphylactic peanut allergy, so she asked a flight attendant to inform passengers seated in her immediate vicinity of her son's peanut allergy. She also told the crew member she had made the same request on another United flight two days earlier, and it had been accommodated.
Mandelbaum thought this request was going to be accommodated, but a few minutes later, she was “summoned” to the front of the aircraft, where a supervisor “loudly shut her down”.
United's website states that passengers with a severe food allergy are encouraged to inform a flight attendant and to request an “allergy buffer zone” by alerting nearby passengers. However, it says it can't stop passengers from eating allergen-containing products.
Mandelbaum showed the supervisor the guidance on the United website, but says she was met with a hand being put up to her face.
“Ma'am, I don't care what you are trying to say, I am telling you this will not happen on this flight so what do you want to do now,” Mandelbaum said she was told, adding she “truly felt threatened” by the supervisor's tone and body language.
Fearing she might be forced off the flight, Mandelbaum says she gave up trying to get a peanut-free buffer zone for her son and returned to her seat.
Even after a passenger was thrown off a United flight for disclosing a nut allergy and a United flight to Singapore had to divert to Hawaii due to a passenger's deadly peanut allergy, United Airlines still hasn't gotten the message: food allergies can be deadly and deserve considerate and respectful care. Of course, a number of passengers haven't gotten the message either, but unfortunately the airlines can't control all the individual passenger reactions to food allergies. What the airlines, including United, can control is the training given flight crews and accountability for crews following United procedures when it comes to food allergies. As Mandelbaum points out, it should never be up to the whim of an individual crew member whether to follow an established airline procedure, especially one that could result in a medical emergency or death of a passenger.
While most people are capable of empathy, I sincerely wish that individuals who are cruelly skeptical of these allergies and prioritize their own enjoyment over others' safety had to personally experience anaphylaxis in themselves or someone they love. It's a terrible disability that no one would ever choose.
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