The No Nut Traveler
In 2013, food allergy mom and frequent flier Lianne Mandelbaum took a negative travel experience and turned it into a passion project. She launched No Nut Traveler, an online advocacy group for people with food allergies who want to fly safely on commercial airlines. Lianne shared her personal experience and how it affected her son, Joshua, a child with an anaphylactic peanut allergy. Soon after, firsthand stories from other parents began pouring in.
Today, Lianne is a go-to resource for families flying with food allergic children. Her online petition to institute a bill of rights for passengers with food allergies currently has more than 84,000 signatures, and she’s just getting started.
One of Lianne’s priorities is getting every airline to stock epinephrine auto-injectors in their medical kits. Currently, every airplane is required to have a vial of epinephrine on hand, but unless there’s a doctor on board to administer the proper dosage, that may not help a person having a serious reaction. “When we lobby for auto-injectors on planes … we don’t lobby for my Joshua. We lobby for the mom I met in spin class whose child had an anaphylactic attack on a plane, had no EpiPen and didn’t know he had a food allergy,” she says. “We lobby for the person who is part of our tribe who doesn’t know they’re part of our tribe yet, because that’s what we do as food allergy parents.”
While we may think food allergies are commonplace, Lianne says there’s a chance the flight attendant has never encountered one on any of his or her flights. Just in case they don’t know their airline’s official allergy policy, Lianne suggests printing it out - or bookmarking it on your phone - and bringing it aboard the aircraft. “If you have it in black and white, it’s so much better than having an argument,” she says.
Lianne is also lobbying the U.S. Department of Transportation to guarantee pre-boarding for food allergic passengers (if they request it) as part of the Air Carrier Access Act. When she flies with her family, Lianne says she takes extra precautions for her son because air travel presents special circumstances. “There’s no ER at 35,000 feet,” she says. “We all know every reaction is different. Every day your body is different.”
If you or a loved one with food allergies has a negative air travel experience, Lianne urges you to file an official complaint on the U.S. Department of Transportation website. On the flip side, if a flight attendant or airline goes above and beyond to make your family feel welcome and safe, express your gratitude with a thank you letter or online testimonial.