By Allergen Bureau

Can Airlines Do More To Meet The Needs Of Food Allergic Passengers?

Multiple challenges faced by people with food allergies when travelling by air have been highlighted by a large, multi-national survey of airline passengers.

Conducted by the Centre for Food Allergy & Asthma Research, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the survey found that the way in which airlines respond to passengers with food allergies varies, making it difficult for these people to travel safely.

With the help of 45 partner organisations, the researchers disseminated the survey throughout five countries in a 3.5-month span, and 4,704 surveys were completed. Results showed that overall, 8.5 per cent of the respondents reported a total of 400 in-flight allergic reactions to food. During these events, 60 per cent reported the incident to the flight crew or airline once they landed, and 30 per cent were transferred to a hospital or urgent care once they landed.

People frequently requested specific accommodations from the airline before boarding, such as an opportunity to preboard, announcements pertaining to food allergy on board, alternative snacks, buffer zones and other modifications, with 47 per cent of the respondents’ saying airlines provided accommodations as promised, and 36 per cent said the airlines assured them that they would meet these requested accommodations but failed to deliver.

When the survey asked respondents about how well they were treated by airline staff, 36 per cent said they had experienced unprofessional or insensitive behaviour, 59 per cent said they had not.

The data was presented at the February 2023 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting in San Antonio, USA.

Read more about the survey findings here.