Dealing with Airlines While Traveling


Planes are the trickiest for those of us with nut allergies. Airlines are not always friendly to nut allergies and it is up to the airline to determine their policy regarding peanuts and other nuts on the airline. You should do a quick Google search for your airline and nut allergies: for example, I’d search “Southwest nut allergies.” Most airlines will have their policies easily accessible on their website grouped in with their “Disability Accommodations” or similar.

All of the airlines will have some kind of disclaimer that reads: “We cannot prevent passengers from bringing products containing nuts or other allergens onboard our flights. Therefore, we are unable to guarantee a nut- or allergen-free flight. Attempting to do this would create a false sense of security for passengers with severe allergies. We encourage passengers who are allergic to nuts to consult with their doctor regarding the safety of air travel.” It’s true that you’ll be stuck in a metal tube with limited ventilation for a few hours while flying and exposure to nuts in flight could cause serious issues, so you will want to consult with your doctor about the safety of air travel. However, this shouldn’t dissuade you from flying, especially because different airlines will have different policies regarding flying.

Most airline websites will have a section devoted to accommodations and there should be a small section about nut allergies. There are a few different kinds of policies airlines have:

  • They won’t serve nuts if they are given notice.
    • Southwest is famous for their “Peanut Dust Allergy” document. You’ll mark that you have a disability – a “Peanut Dust Allergy” – when you book your flight online (or you can call Customer Service and they can do this too). When you get your boarding pass, you’ll also have a printed slip that says you have a peanut dust allergy. You present this to the service representative near your gate and they will give you an extra copy and a pre-board slip (see below) that you will give to the crewmember aboard your flight and they will not serve nuts on your flight. This doesn’t mean it will be a nut-free flight as other people could have nuts, but they will usually make an announcement asking passengers to refrain from eating nuts as well. They’re fantastic!
    • Delta changed their policy a few years ago, so you just need to notify the crewmember that you have a peanut allergy and they won’t serve nuts. It’s very similar to Southwest’s policy, just more informal.
  • They will allow you to pre-board to help wipe down seats.
    • Southwest allows you to pre-board if you show you have a Peanut Dust Allergy document to the service desk next to your gate. Basically, this allows you to board before everyone else, find a safe seat, and clean your area before anyone else gets on your flight. I’d highly recommend this if you fly Southwest.
  • They will give you a “buffer” zone.
    • This seems to be the predominant policy from airlines that do accommodate allergies in some way. United, AirCanada, JetBlue, Alaska Air, and many other airlines will offer to create a buffer zone of one to three rows on either side of your row. The crewmember will ask all of the people in the buffer zone to not consume any nuts and they won’t serve nuts to those rows, if they serve nuts at all. JetBlue, WestJet, and AirCanda and a couple other airlines don’t serve nuts on their flights but will still offer a buffer zone to prevent other passengers from consuming nuts on the flight. This can be useful to help assure a safe surrounding.
  • They won’t accommodate at all.
    • American Airlines is rather infamous for this. They don’t serve peanut products, but they do offer warmed nuts for first class occupants and will not grant buffer zones or even allow you to pre-board to wipe down seats.

Obviously, flying is the most complicated form of travel simply because different companies have different policies regarding food allergies. My best experiences flying have been with Southwest. I know other families have had great experiences with WestJet, JetBlue, and Air Canada as well, but I’ve always flown Southwest. The combination of a pre-board, no nuts served, and relatively inexpensive rates to most places in the country have served me well.

There are a lot of online resources regarding traveling – just do a quick Google search and you’ll find a host of blogs and other resources to help you decide.

The airline is one of the most important considerations when you’re traveling as a group. It’s likely that your teacher or coach will be booking flights without regard to your food allergies or food allergy policies. You must tell them ahead of time if they’re booking on an airline that is not friendly to food allergies and explain why it’s important to have accommodations (at least a buffer zone) on a plane for your food allergies, if you have a nut allergy. If your teacher or coach has already booked flights for the trip, you must decide whether you are comfortable flying the airline and have a thorough conversation with your teacher or coach about other ways you could get to your destination if you’re not comfortable flying the same airline.


(Example Southwest Boarding Slip + PDA Document)