Saturday, May 14, 2011

Air Canada Denies Peanut Allergic Passenger...Right or Wrong?

Imagine this.  Your 19 year old son is about to embark on a two week mission trip.  Yes, he does have a severe peanut allergy, but as a family, you've flown several times a year for family vacations so you feel confident in his safety while aboard the airplane.  After much preparation, it's time to take your son to the airport, get him checked in, kiss him good-bye and tell him to have a safe trip.  Except that's not what happens.  Instead, you get to the airport, go to check him in, properly declare that he's carrying Epi Pens and antihistamine tablets and are then told by the airline staff that he'll not be flying on their airline without authorization from their medical desk.  Now, are you upset that your son is going to miss his flight or are you angry that your son is being penalized because he has a severe peanut allergy?

This was the case for Matthew Burns earlier this week as he tried to board Air Canada which would take him from Halifax to Toronto. From there he was going to catch a plane to Fiji where he would join the other volunteers for his mission trip (not a bad place to go for a mission trip...but I regress).  His mom booked the flight using a rewards program, and told them of her son's allergy.  She did not contact Air Canada directly.

Air Canada spells out their peanut allergy policy on their website.  They require a 48 hour notification so that they can create a peanut free zone around the passenger's seat.  In this case, the airline was not notified by the reward company, and they refused to let Matthew board the plane.

Matthew did make it to Fiji.  He was able to get a seat aboard an American Airlines flight that same day.  American Airlines didn't have a problem with his allergy.  In fact, their website states that while they do not serve peanuts, they take no extra safety precautions for their food allergic customers.

So, what's worse?  An airlines that refuses a customer because they did not receive notification and were not able to make a safe zone or an airline policy that says travel at your own risk?  According to the article, the parents weren't necessarily upset because the airline refused to let their son board the plane, but more because the staff at the ticket counter wiped their hands of the situation and did not offer to help the family find a solution.