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Pop singer Dua Lipa called out United Airlines in a tweet Wednesday because the airline did not accommodate her sister who has a severe nut allergy.
Lipa says she informed a flight attendant that her sister had a severe allergy, and he replied there was nothing the cabin crew could do, encouraging her to use an EpiPen — a medical device used to slow the effects of anaphylactic shock — if she had an attack.
I can’t believe i’m on a @united flight rn and I told the steward that my sister was severly allergic to nuts and his reply was “we’re not a nut free airline so if she has an epi pen she might have to use that as we can’t not serve other passengers in your section nuts”
— DUA LIPA (@DUALIPA) July 25, 2018
United’s online allergy policy states that it does not serve pre-packaged peanuts onboard, but “due to the presence of food allergens in the processing environment and in meals and snacks served, United cannot guarantee an allergen-free meal or environment on its flights.”
“If you have concerns about a severe food allergy, please notify a flight attendant on board the aircraft,” United’s allergy policy goes on to say. “In some cases, we may be able to pass along your request to other customers seated nearby to refrain from opening and eating any allergen-containing products they may have brought on board.”
TPG reached out to United for more information, but the airline referred us to its Twitter response to Lipa’s tweet. “Passenger safety is our top priority,” United’s tweet says. “We can’t guarantee an allergen-free environment but we work to address allergy concerns onboard ie we don’t serve pre-packaged peanuts. We want to address your concerns so let’s connect when you land. We’ll contact our in-flight crew too.”
Nut allergies are a recurring point of contention for US airlines. Most US carriers stopped serving peanuts on board, with Southwest being the most recent to ditch the potentially harmful snacks earlier in July. (A recent high-profile case of a 9-year-old boy suffering a severe reaction to peanuts served on board, despite his parents warning the cabin crew, might have played a role.)
Most US airlines will try to accommodate passengers with severe food allergies, which are now recognized as federally protected disabilities, especially if the passenger calls 24 hours in advance. But each airline’s policy is different. The US Department of Transportation lists each airline’s nut policy here.
There is a chance, however, that if a flyer does report a severe food allergy in advance, the pilot will refuse to board that passenger. That is completely legal and at the pilot’s discretion because it is a potential safety issue.
Featured image by Kevin Kane/Getty Images.
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