PA child denied boarding plane - Peanut Allergy Information

PA child denied boarding plane

Publish date:

We are looking for advice on how to follow-up a recent situation we were faced with. Last week, we flew on ATA with our peanut-allergic daughter. Upon learning of her condition, the flight crew opted to serve extra cookies to passengers and did not serve peanuts on our outbound trip. Our flight was uneventful and we were grateful for ATA's cooperation. Upon our exit, the lead flight attendant instructed us to inform the airline of our daughter's allergy when we checked in for our return flight and stated that the flight crew would follow the same procedure of withholding peanuts. Imagine our surprise when we went to check in and were told that we were to be denied boarding because of her allergy. They refused to work with us, and forced her to remain in Florida another day, awaiting standby seats on an alternate airline, while the rest of the family flew on without her and one parent. It was extremely traumatic for all involved. Our questions: were our daughter's civil rights violated? Does an airline have a right to deny boarding because of a health condition? What can we do to advocate for better service and education of the airlines? Has anyone else encountered this problem?

On Apr 4, 2000

Gee, the frustrations never cease!!! Your situation will surely flabbergast all of us.

My first thoughts are "Ugh," "How dare they?" "I need a punching bag," and "What's the phone number to the CEO of this airline?"

But to go beyond the emotion and step back for a moment, I am wondering if this "fight" to educate is going to go through a bad phase for all of us before it is eventually understood by the general public.

I suppose this airline feared the liability issues that were potentially inherent if they were to accept your child and something were to go wrong. It seems that the general pubic is taking us seriously to the point of trying to shut us out and not deal with us at all. We "win" one battle to face another.

I'm afraid we're going to see more of this BEFORE things vastly improve. I just have a feeling: Although we'll eventually achieve acceptance and understanding, first we may very well see MORE events like this.

Thank goodness our children our protected under the Disability Act for public schools! Which brings me to another point - I generated some emotions with the strand "Get over it!" - emotions which I'm afraid may cause problems if we handle school officials TOO harshly - the backlash could hurt us all.

How are we to address issues like these without alienating the nonpa public????????? How can we be resolute without being pushy and obnoxious? Some may say that we shouldn't care about being pushy when our children's lives are at stake. While I do agree to an extent, I think we need to be very careful that we don't alienate those we're fighting with - thereby causing problems not only for your child, but also creating a general "distaste" for ALL pa children these nonpa individuals meet.....

My initial response to your post was extreme fury - a rage that I'm sure most of those reading this will feel. How do we fight back *constructively*?

Just food for thought - as we come up with ways to "attack" this airline, which by the way I DO believe we should. I'm just beginning to wonder what the most productive way is - since this is a problem that appears to be surfacing for all of us in one way or another. Some days I feel like I'm on a rampage - while this may get nonpa individuals' attention, I wonder if there is a better way.

Any thoughts? By the way, I'm not suggesting anything - just philosophizing!!! Maybe I'll feel differently about it tomorrow, but I'm wondering if there are any others out there who worry about this alienation too?

On Apr 4, 2000

ColleenMarie, THANK YOU for your validation. Your point about this situation getting worse is well-taken. I guess the silver lining in this cloud is that fact that people are recognizing the seriousness of this condition. However, we have a long road to hoe before we eleviate these horrible discriminations.

On Apr 4, 2000

Just a comment:

PA is considered to be a health condition and has been successfully ruled as a disability - for example, I understand that numerous PA children attending school in many states in the US have been able to get rulings as children with hidden disabilities (see the schools thread).

In an article called Peanut Allergy: the medico-legal perspective which you can read on the Calgary Allergy Network site, the author states that in Canada:

... under human rights legislation, schools must reasonably accommodate students with disabilities. The term "disability" is broadly defined and would include life-threatening allergic conditions. ...

I have not checked the human rights legislation in Canada, but it appears likely that PA would be considered a hidden disability and it certainly has been ruled that way in the States in some school situations. Airlines commonly accomodate passengers with other disabilities - blindness, paralysis, etc so my instinct is that they should also accomodate people with this disablility. It would be interesting to see how human rights legislation applies to the airlines - can they discriminate against someone with a disability?

It would be interesting to find this out so we can all be informed and prepared in the future.


On Apr 5, 2000

Hi, me again - I can't stop thinking about this now! I actually had dreams last night and couldn't sleep too well.

DebO, I'm with you on your thoughts too. My husband mentioned that a business can be shut down if they do not provide wheelchair acccessibility, etc. Are pa individuals protected under any laws regarding airline travel? My husband feels a class-action lawsuit might be appropriate in your case. He understands my worries, too, but perhaps a lawsuit can be handled calmly (especially depending on your lawyer's style and demeanor). Does my husband's idea contradict mine - or not necessarily? This is why I couldn't sleep!

Is your daughter airborne-allergic? Were they honestly fearful that their plane was a hazardous environment or was this undoubtedly overreaction on THEIR part? How were you informed - did they provide a place to stay, apologize, offer explanations, etc.? Or did they just brush you aside?

This "fight" to educate is ripping me up inside - I'm sure most of you can relate! We need to be aggressive, yet we should probably consider the "after-effects" too.

Perkins8P, I'm relieved you understand my concerns - that maybe my feelings aren't so crazy. Even if my thinking isn't "right", it's nice to know I'm not alone in experiencing these worries! Please keep us informed as to what you decide to do - my thoughts are with you, and if you need supporters to help you (phone calls, letters, or email to ATA) we're here.

On Apr 5, 2000

Hi All, The behaviour of the ATA is an absolute disgrace.It makes me so mad to see a bad situation made worse completely unncessarily. This airline needs to get it's act together, consisent rules consistantly applied to begin with. Rapidly followed by a switch to one of the hundreds of alternative snacks THERE IS NO REASON TO SERVE PEANUTS. Thank goodness so many airlines are now "seeing the light" and are nut free. A list of airlines and their current attitudes to peanuts and treenuts can be found on the Anaphylaxis Campaign site [url=""][/url] . Check before you buy your tickets and vote with your feet!! Maybe the less aware of the airlines will become nut free eventually, as in the smoking ban which no one thought would work, but which is now firmly in place. Good luck to all who continue to "fight" in a constructive and calm way, education and common sense will win in the end.

On Apr 5, 2000

I, too have questions about the legality of denying service to a child with a disability like PA. Yes, under US federal law, schools are required to provide a safe environment for PA children. The Food Allergy Network has a lot of info on how to insure that a PA child's rights are upheld by schools. Less clear, however, are the requirements businesses, such as airlines, have to accommodate PA persons. I want to find this out. We are not litigious people, so a class action lawsuit is an idea that's a bit frightening.... on the one hand, I do not want to place my daughter in the public eye and subject her to a media frenzy (she's only 7!), on the other hand I feel an obligation to this cause to make change happen and to help others avoid what we went through. Thoughts anyone?

On Apr 5, 2000

In answer to some of the other questions... when we were denied boarding at the ticket counter, we asked to see a supervisor. We explained that our daughter's condition was managed quite well on our first flight. We were not concerned about plane contamination from a previous flight peanuts, as we covered her seat with a blanket barrier and she was not going to be crawling around on the contaminated floor. We offered to sign a waiver of liability if ATA would agree to not serve peanuts on our flight. Again we were told that none of this mattered, we were to be denied boarding. My husband insisted that we talk to the supervisor's boss, whereupon the supervisor told my husband "Shut-up. We are not letting her on this plane" Eventually, I spoke with her boss who profusely apologized for her actions and offered us 2 free round-trip tickets for our inconvenience. He continued to hold fast to denying us boarding,stating they had 3 PA passengers that week and ATA's lawyer had advised them to not board anyone with this condition. ATA is supposed to be sending me the legal documentation that they claim allows them to do this. (Though I haven't received it yet). The supervisor got us a hotel room and tried to book us on a flight on an alternate airline. At that point, Delta said they needed 48 hour notice to accommodate PA people. I then requested ATA to book us on United, who does not serve peanuts. Unfortunately, United didn't have any availability for 5 days, so we were placed on a standby list. We had to wait through 2 flights, before we got stand-by seating the next afternoon. I spent the evening in the hotel room with a sobbing 7 year old who was saying things like "it's all my fault" "I'm the one who made our family split up" "I never want to come to Florida again" "Why do I have this allergy". It was ROUGH!!! You can see why this is not resolved for us yet.... and advice is desperately needed.

On Apr 5, 2000

Just to let you know, my family, too, was denied boarding on ATA because of our PA daughter. The incident happened Christmas, 1998, when we were scheduled to fly to Florida from Chicago for winter break. Two days before our flight, a representative from ATA informed us to cancel our reservations and get a refund. We had to scramble to find seats on another airline. I was furious and wanted to sue, but didn't have the emotional strength at the time to do so. Now, however, I am stronger and would like to be part of a class action suit. How dare they refuse boarding to a child?

On Apr 5, 2000

I'm not familiar with what ATA stands for. Could someone tell me please?

On Apr 5, 2000

Ditto, who is ATA? At least once a year we book flights across the US, so this is really hitting close to home for me too. I completely understand your wanting to avoid litigation, Perkins8P - I'm not "lawsuit-happy" either, but the way they treated you really seems totally unacceptable after your last post explaining the details - particularly the emotional distress this caused your 7-yr. old (please give her extra hugs from all of us) and of course, you. You are obviously wonderful people - something I inferred from your comment about not wanting to create a media circus for your pa child. I feel for you. Have you considered just contacting a law firm and feeling it out? Maybe you can find your personal answer in what they have to say - it could motivate you to charge ahead or it could cause you to continue to feel the worries you now feel regarding litigation. At any rate, at least you'll know in the future that you made the best decision for YOU at this particular time in your life. If I were in your shoes, I have no idea what I would do either.

I think what bothers me most now that the details are unfolding - from both you and Tina H. - is that the airlines doesn't notify POTENTIAL passengers of their iffy policies during booking. If they are to play this game, then they should at least make buyers aware of their rules upfront (even if they are on-again, off-again). This information is critical to pa sufferers and should be addressed during the purchase of tickets.

This issue really interests me, so please let us know what you decide to do - and once again, if you need our help/support in any way. Looks like Tina's post could prove very useful too! Good luck.

On Apr 5, 2000

ATA is American Trans Air. I'm sure you've seen their commercials and heard their jingle "It's time to have some fun, Time to enjoy the sun...On ATA you're on vacation" HA! Truth in advertising? I think not [img][/img] BTW, THANK YOU everyone for such support. I wish I had found this discussion board sooner!

On Apr 5, 2000

I was looking for information about my non PA daughter's newly diagnosed soy allergy and came across an article on this topic! MUST READ! Go to [url=""][/url] Enter Diseases and Conditions. Under "Related Articles" at the bottom of the page is: "Government: Airlines Must Offer "Peanut-Free" Zones." Rae

On Apr 5, 2000

Sorry, it is not easy to find as instructed above. Easier way: Type in the name of the article in the search box on the home page. [url=""][/url] Rae

On Apr 5, 2000


This article is from Sept 98, and unfortunately since then the FAA decided NOT to require airlines to have a peanut-free zone.

Thanks for the link, though, Katie

On Apr 5, 2000

Just when we thought we were making progress in 9/98, 11/98 saw peanut lobbyists and Congress overturn the legislation that is referred to in Rae's article. See: [url=""][/url] [img][/img]

On Apr 5, 2000

Katie, where did you find this information? I missed that whole episode, and I would like to know if anyone weighed in politically. Thanks.

On Apr 5, 2000

Hello Again

I spent a couple of hours reviewing Canadian Human Rights legislation last night, and just would like to add the following:

The Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act defines a physical disability as: any degree of physical disability,infirmity, malformation or disfigurement that is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes epilepsy, paralysis, amputation, lack of physical co-ordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment, and physical reliance on a guide dog, wheelchair or other remedial appliance or device;

Since infirmity is included, this is the argument used for peanut allergy (a chronic illness or condition) to be considered a physical disabiity.

The act also states:

"3 No person shall

(a) deny to any person or class of persons any goods, services, accommodation or facilities that are customarily available to the public"

Since the use of the airline could probably be considered a service, it could be argued under the act.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission, in their 1998 report refers to US legislation:

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a sweeping law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all aspects of public life. It requires the elimination of physical and communications barriers in employment, public services, businesses, transportation, and telecommunications.

It sounds like this act may be worth your looking up!

take care


On Apr 5, 2000

If you do a search in the schools section, LauraP is a lawyer that explains some of the laws pertaining to PA. The discussion is about school but she goes into the ADA.

On Apr 6, 2000

I received some information from FAN that is quite interesting.... and discouraging. Currently in the US, airlines are not covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but rather the Air Carrier Access Act. FAN has some initiatives in motion and I am awaiting more information from them.

On Apr 6, 2000

Me again. For a great education on the Air Carrier Access Act go to [url=","],[/url] enter "newsroom", then "publications" there is a lengthy report to the President and Congress "Enforcing Civil Rights of Air Travelers with Disabilities". Very informative.

On Apr 6, 2000


I didn't find a specific article talking about it, so I'm sorry to say I can't provide an exact link. I just saw that the link provided was dated 9/98, and I remember hearing about it on the news at the time. If you enter "peanut free buffer zones airlines" as a search in excite/infoseek/etc., you will find a bunch of really awful articles discussing how wonderful it was that the gov't repealed the buffer zone requirement. Unfortunately people just don't seem to understand.


On Apr 8, 2000

Just saw this! Have you contacted a lawyer to get his opinion? I'm not too sure about this, please forgive me, but isn't there lawyers you can get thru the state that will give advice free of charge? This sounds awful. I don't think I would let this go. I would continue on. Shan

On Apr 8, 2000

Right now we're educating ourselves on the ACAA (Air Carrier Access Act). We have been in contact with FAN who is working with Georgetown Law School on this topic. FAN informed me that ATA has had SEVERAL incidents of denying boarding to PA persons during the past 2 years. I have instructed FAN to give my name and number to those people and we will take it from there. Someone else in our position has contacted an attorney to get advice on this specific situation with ATA. We'll keep you posted, and as always, THANKS to all for the support.