16 Tips For Flying With Food Allergies
1. Choose the right airline.
Not all airlines are created equal. While every major carrier has a food allergy policy, some are more supportive than others. Check out our top six airline picks that go above and beyond.
2. Try to book the earliest flight of the day.
The time of day you fly impacts the cleanliness of the aircraft. Planes that leave early in the morning are more likely to have been recently cleaned compared to planes that have been operating all day.
3. Call a reservation agent.
Once you’ve found the best flight, alert the airline about any accommodations you or your child may need. While some airlines like Southwest regularly serve peanuts, they will swap them with other snacks if the crew gets advance notice. Some carriers like JetBlue have simplified the process by adding this step to their online booking process.
4. Book a window seat.
Reserve a window seat for your child. With you seated in the neighboring seat, you can ensure at minimum that the only adjacent seat will be allergen-free.
5. Research the inflight snack selection.
Knowing what to be mindful of helps to reduce the uncertainty. Most airlines post snack offerings and ingredient information on their websites.
BEFORE YOU BOARD
6. Pack safe snacks and meals at home.
Inflight meals and airport restaurants options can be limited. Plan ahead and stock up on food you feel comfortable eating. Consider packing extra snacks in the event your flight is delayed.
7. Pack disinfecting wipes.
These handy wipes can be used to clean the armrests, tray tables and seats to safeguard against contact reactions or cross-contamination.
8. Pack auto-injectors in a carry-on.
Remember to bring an extra set of two on every flight. Keep them in a carry-on and nearby in case of emergency. While all airlines are required to stock epinephrine in their medical kits, most only have vials. This means a doctor must be on board to determine the dosage and administer it if there’s an emergency.
9. Label your auto-injector clearly.
Before going through security, double-check that your epinephrine auto-injectors are packed in a carry-on. You may also need to show the printed label that identifies the medication and/or the pharmacy sticker that’s usually on the box. A doctor’s note that confirms your allergy won’t hurt, but it’s not required to bring medication on board. The EpiPen manufacturer suggests asking for a visual inspection rather than an X-ray since the effects of X-rays on epinephrine are unknown.
10. Decide if you want to request pre-boarding.
If you want the opportunity to clean your area with a disinfecting wipe before the plane is packed with people and luggage, pre-boarding may be an option. Some airlines are very accommodating... others, not so much. If you’re denied pre-boarding but you still want to wipe down your seat, don’t hesitate to hold up the line. You and your family have the right to feel safe and comfortable.
11. Ask about a buffer zone.
Some airlines will create buffer zones around food allergic travelers and ask people in neighboring seats not to eat their allergen. Check the airline’s policy and talk to the flight crew before takeoff.
12. Speak up and/or switch seats.
If the flight crew won’t ask people to put away their PB&Js, be your own advocate. Inform those around you about your allergy, and if they don’t respect your request, ask to switch seats or extend the offer to buy them an allergen-free snack.
13. Have a plan in case of emergency.
Before you fly, consult with your allergist to map out a worst-case-scenario plan. If you have a serious allergic reaction, every doctor will tell you to use your epinephrine auto-injector right away and ask a flight attendant to see if there’s a physician or allergist on board. Ask about symptoms that may necessitate using a second auto-injector. In an emergency situation, a domestic flight can typically land at an alternate airport within 25 minutes.
14. Don’t use the airline-issued blankets or pillows.
As any frequent flier knows, the blankets and pillows can be pretty gross. Not only are they germy, they may also be dusted in allergens.
15. Find a way to say thanks after a good experience.
Share the love after a good flight — write a letter of appreciation, give the crew a shout-out on social media and spread the word to other families with food allergies.
16. Make your voice heard after a bad experience.
We know how frustrating it is, but negative experiences can be disguised as opportunities to advocate for those traveling in similar shoes. After a negative flight, you can file a consumer complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, write a customer review or consider signing Lianne Mandelbaum's petition to secure rights for those flying with food allergies.