Detained in China because of my Allergy
I have a lot of stories about my allergy, but this one definitely takes the cake. I was on a college trip to China, and we flew on the airlines Cathay Pacific. We called the airline months in advance and requested that there be no peanuts served on both the departing flight and the returning flight. We departed from JFK airport in April of 2009, and like planned peanuts were not served. The trip went great, other than the fact that I had to eat instant oatmeal for every meal for 15 days (but I knew that ahead of time so it was ok). When it came time to fly home, we were due to fly out of Hong Kong international airport. When I boarded the flight and got situated, I asked a stewardess to make sure that there were no peanuts served on this flight. She said of course there will be. I said that I had called months in advance requesting that there be none served and that the first flight did as I asked. She told me that was impossible, and asked security to board the flight. For 45 minutes I argued with airport security and airline representitives. They told me that I must be mistaken and that they were sure that my first flight served peanuts and I just didn't notice. I told them I had a life threatening allergy and that even the smell of peanuts will make me sick. Instead of offering to accomodate, they tried to make me sign a waiver that stated if anything happened to me during the 22 hour flight that the airline would not be held responsible. I of course did not sign the waiver, and was then forced to deboard the plane. I had airport security on both sides of me holding my arms and escorting me off of the airplane. It was humiliating. As I passed by the front section of the airplane, passengers were yelling at me because I had delayed the flight, and numerous people were actually spitting on me. This is not a joke, I have witnesses. Once I was off the flight and the plane had departed with my entire group, I was brought to a security detention facility in the airport. I felt like some sort of criminal, and I sat there for 4 hours. Finally, the airline representative on duty for Cathay Pacific came in to speak with me and said that I was misremembering my first flight and that peanuts are always served. I told him representitives in America had arranged for both flights to not serve peanuts and that my first flight did not serve them. He then told me in order to fly on their airline I had to see the airport physician and get clearance to fly. (with the language barrier, I think they thought my allergy was actually some sort of illness which is why they detained me and asked that I get checked by the physician.)Once I got to the physicians office, I had to pay $300 to get checked by the doctor, and he then wrote a note saying I was healthy to fly. When I was escorted back to the airline representative and gave him the note, he told me that the airline had actually decided to not let me fly on their airline because I was too much of a risk. I said that I just paid $300 dollors for a check up and was approved to fly and he told me too bad and I was not able to fly. He also told me that he notified Us Airways and American airlines of my situation and they decided to decline me to fly with them as well because they wanted to continue serving peanuts. I asked him how am i supposed to get home, and he simply told me "take a boat". I was finally able to call my father in Pennsylvania, who had to book a hotel room for me in the airport, and try and find an airline that would take me. My dad then found a flight on continental the next day for $2,100 and booked it. Continental was great and said that it was no problem and they'd serve pretzels instead. A day later, I finally made it home and cried as soon as I saw my parents waiting for me at the airport.
In my entire life, I have never felt so belittled and alone. How can people be so heartless and cruel towards another. Maybe the language barrier played a part, or that fact that peanuts are such a staple in Asian cuisine that people weren't aware that someone could have an allergy to them. Either way, it was shocking how cruel people could be, and how this allergy is really misunderstood. A peanut allergy is not some contageous virus, and people with this allergy shouldn't be treated like it is. We need to be our own advocates and get the word out about the severity of this allergy. We also need to teach compassion so that no one goes through what I did.
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