Passenger gets booted from AA plane over mixed nuts; Here are the top 10 allergy-friendly airlines

Feb 12, 2022

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If you are one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from an allergy, travel adds a whole new level of complexity. From deciding which airline to fly with or where to stay, it’s important to remember that you have choices. When it comes to accommodating travelers with allergies, not all airlines are created equal.

This became glaringly apparent in December, when Sophie Draper — a 26-year-old researcher from Durham, in the United Kingdom — was reportedly “kicked off” an American Airlines flight from London Heathrow (LHR) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK).

Draper told HuffPost U.K. that the airline refused to accommodate her life-threatening nut allergy.

Cabin crew claimed they were “contractually obliged to serve hot mixed nuts in first and business class,” and they failed to inform passengers in nearby rows of her allergy saying that it was “against company policy.” 

Draper and her boyfriend were escorted from the plane and booked on a later British Airways flight. Their experience with BA could not have been more different.

“They stopped serving all nut products, made multiple announcements about there being a passenger with a nut allergy, and personally spoke with all passengers within a number of rows of me,”  Draper announced on Twitter.

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At TPG, we always look for ways to make traveling just a bit easier — including for people with allergies (and those helping to manage someone else’s allergy). That’s also why we wrote the ultimate guide to traveling with allergies.

In 2020, Spokin (an app that touts itself as “the easiest way to manage food allergies”) released a list of crowd-sourced “top rated allergy-friendly airlines.” Here’s our take.

Spokin’s top-rated allergy-friendly airlines

Let’s start by looking at the airlines that topped Spokin’s 2020 list. According to the app’s users, these are the top allergy-friendly airlines in the U.S. and beyond. (Click each link to read about the airline’s allergy policies.)

  1. JetBlue Airways
  2. Southwest Airlines
  3. Delta Air Lines
  4. Alaska Airlines
  5. British Airways
  6. Air Canada
  7. Easyjet
  8. WestJet
  9. Virgin Atlantic Airways
  10. Iceland Air

It’s interesting to note that British Airways was included in this list.

How were the results tabulated?

When the list was revealed in 2020, we reached out to Spokin’s CEO and founder, Susie Hultquist, to ask how the company ranked these airlines.

The app allows members to share information and write reviews. Spokin harnessed that functionality to ask members to review airlines. About 1,000 members submitted reviews that helped create the ranking.

“We have a section on our app called ‘top rated’ and you can filter by category, i.e. airlines,” Hultquist added, explaining that the app also has rankings for allergy-friendly hotels, restaurants, bakeries, colleges and other categories.

Screen shot courtesy of Spokin.

“The ranking is 100% based on app reviews,” Hultquist said. “Our app users can share positive or negative reviews. Our algorithm accounts the ratio of positive and negative reviews (negative reviews hurt more than a positive review helps).”

She noted that while Southwest has more positive reviews than negative, the negative ones pull them down to second place in the ranking. But, she says the airline is trending upward based on its willingness to remove peanuts from its aircraft (though Southwest is selling its famous nuts to non-flyers).

You can add your own airline review at any time. The app is free and available for iOS (iPhone and iPad). All you need to do is download the app, sign up for a free account and then find the type of business you’d like to review.

Screen shot courtesy of Spokin

Click on “Airline” from the category list and then find the airline you’d like to review.

Screen shot courtesy of Spokin

From there, you can write a review that specifically describes your experience managing an allergy on that airline. Your input can help someone else who’s planning a trip and trying to find the airline that’s best suited to handle his or her particular allergen issues.

Additional reporting by Caroline Lascom. 

Featured image by Aureliy/Getty Images.

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