Because of public outcry over the possibility of anaphylaxis or other serious reactions from coming into contact with peanuts, most airlines have implemented peanut policies.
Some airlines will not serve peanuts if they know that a patient with a peanut allergy will be taking a certain flight. Other airlines have policies that restrict serving peanuts a few rows in front of, in back of, and to the side of where the person with the allergy is sitting.
Despite these efforts, there is no guarantee that someone with an allergy will not come into contact with peanuts. Even if an airline does not serve peanuts, it may serve peanut products, like cookies with peanuts or nuts in them.
Some Airline Policies
Major airlines may not serve peanuts as they once did since the public is now more aware of the dangers of serious allergic reactions that peanuts or nuts can cause their customers. United Airlines has a tip on its website stating that it "[does] not board pre-packaged peanuts, but cannot guarantee that a flight will be peanut-free." Its policy goes on to warn travelers that there could be traces of nuts or peanuts in foods served, or that foods may have been produced in facilities that also process nuts and peanuts.
American Airlines also states on its website that it does not serve peanuts but that there could be peanut or nut particles in other foods it serves. Its policy goes into the fact that the interior of its planes are not cleaned to remove peanut residue from seats. It also states that its "air filtration systems [are not] designed to remove nut allergens." It also brings up the point that other passengers may bring peanuts on board, and that the airline is not responsible for these. The bottom line is that most airlines do not enforce a total "No Peanut" policy. Passengers with an allergy may want to consult with their doctor to be sure that the proper precautions are taken before boarding a flight. Those with a peanut or nut allergy should always have a epinephrine auto-injector with them in case it is needed.
Some airlines, like Delta, that have many flights across the United States will not serve peanuts if you call ahead to let them know that you or your child have a peanut allergy. When they know ahead of time, they can arrange to have enough pretzels and other snacks on board to serve to everyone. If you simply tell your flight attendant when you are boarding the plane, there may not be time to make a last-minute change to the menu. As you already know, if you or your child have a peanut allergy or nut allergy, you need to be your own advocate. Your life or your child's life depends on the precautions that you take.
Photo credit: John Nyboer