I have been meaning for the last couple of months to post this message. I am sorry that it may be lengthy but I hope it is informative and helpful. Last November we traveled to Disney for Thanksgiving on Southwest Airlines departing from Providence, Rhode Island. When making the reservation I informed the reservationist of my 7 year old son's peanut allergy. He told me that he would red flag this in the computer and Southwest would accommodate us and would substitute another snack for peanuts on our flights. They did. The reservationist told me (and this is important) that when you are at the ticket counter you need to inform the ticketing agent of the allergy (it will already be noted in the computer from when you made the reservation). The ticketing agent would then call down to the gate to confirm that peanuts were not included in the re-loading for that flight. She did - no peanuts were allowed in that food/beverage carts for our flight. The ticket agent told me that when I got to the gate to check in, to let the gate agent know that it was my son who had the allergy. I did inform the gate agent and she then told me that I would board the plane first (along with the eldery) so that I could tend to whatever I needed to for my son. I boarded and plane and then I cleaned up around our seats with a wipee because there is a chance that there may be some peanut residue left from the prior flight. They vaccuum and clean up as much as possible but they cannot guaranty that they get everything. The earlier the flight, the better the chance of no peanuts being served on the prior flight; they usally start serving peanuts after noon. I would definitely recommend Southwest but you need to do the appropriate steps. FYI, you also need a doctor's note describing the peanut allergy (although they never asked to see it). Another important note: you also need to call the airlines 24 hours ahead of your flight (don't forget about your return flight) confirming that there will be no peanuts allowed on the flight. If there is someone who is unwilling to do their part, you need to speak up. On our return flight I followed the same procedure but when I informed the ticket agent that she needed to call down to the gate, there was another agent with her who said to me "it doesn't mean the rest of the passengers can't have peanuts" and her partner ticket agent said "oh, yes, it DOES mean that". Most were more than willing to go the extra distance with a smile. Hope it is helpful. Barbara.
On Feb 20, 2002
I'm glad your flight went well. I have posted before on this subject about Southwest, but feel the need to respond again. We, too, flew Southwest and went through the same procedure you went through. However, they DO NOT vacuum between flights. When we boarded the plane, there were peanuts on the floor everywhere that people had dropped from previous flights. We did not have an early morning flight, however, I was under the impression that when they said peanut free, they meant peanut-free (i.e., no peanut products being served and the plane would be clean of peanuts). I was wrong and very disappointed. Fortunately, everything turned out okay and my son flew reaction free. However, it was a very stressful flight.
On Feb 21, 2002
Thank you for posting this we are flying SWA to a wedding in april, your post has been very helpful.
On May 13, 2002
Even if not serving on your flight I would be very concerned about residue.
On May 13, 2002
To all who travel on airlines: PLEASE take some time to read the report I posted link to earlier on this board regarding air quality on airplanes!! You can read the report online for free.
Southwest Airlines and the Texas peanut industry have a buddy-buddy, lengthy history. As long as Southwest has been flying, they have served peanuts. Do you really want to fly on a 15 + year-old airplane that has flown umpteen flights with peanuts being served?
Vacumed or not, there is NO WAY that the residue can be truly reduced to any acceptable level for our family.
I just think a lot of the fliers on this board are in denial when it comes to "safety" and peanut exposure in flight.
Sorry if this seems harsh. But it's a long way down to emergency personnel when you begin an anaphylactic reaction at 30,000 feet.
On Sep 25, 2002
Just wanted to share our recent experience with Southwest. We traveled RT from Orlando to Manchester, NH, a three hour trip. (Southwest offers a more substantial snack on longer trips.)
The reservation agent urged us to fly on the first flight of the day, but it wasn't practical for us and I wasn't terribly worried since my 3.5 yo DS only reacts to ingestion, not touch or smell. (We made plane trips before DS was diagnosed and never had a problem -- I didn't let him have peanuts because of the choking danger, so I knew he would be ok if a lot of people around him were eating peanuts.) I requested peanut free snacks for our family, although the agent said they could ban peanuts completely. This info was entered in the system, which I double checked right before we left and it was still noted.
I asked about bringing an EpiPen on board and she said it would be fine, but I should bring a doctor's note and make sure the EpiPen had a prescription label. She also said that if I had to use the EpiPen I should tell the flight attendant what I did with the used needle. This made me laugh because the pilot would be making an emergency landing if we had to use it!
Our actual trip went smoothly, but there were some problems with the snack, which included some kind of fruit chewy thing, Oreos, and Cheese Nip sandwiches. The label on the Cheese Nip sandwiches said the last ingredient was peanuts. Yikes! I was a little surprised, but didn't let it bother me. Since we were traveling midday, I had packed lunches for my kids (sandwiches, fruit, cheese, etc.) so nobody was going to go hungry anyway.
Anyway, I just wanted to provide a heads up, especially for those PA individuals who are extremely sensitive.
On Apr 17, 2003
I recenly flew on Southwest Airlines from Chicago to LA. 4 hours before the flight i requested someone at the Southwest Customer Service for a 'peanut-free' flight. I witnessed the lady pick up the phone and inform the dispatcher for a peanut-free flight.
Somewhere along the lines, someone did not do their job. The Peanuts were served and it was too late. 15 minutes into a 4 hour flight, I already had trouble breathing due to the peanut allergens.
The trouble with Southwest Airlines is that they insist on serving peanuts, when in fact, another snack could be served just as easily! With 2% of the population allergic to peanuts, it is a big risk they're taking. That means 4 passengers of 200 could be allergic to peanuts. If one of those four is severely allergic, encountering an emergency situation is very likely. I am glad to see other airlines, such as American Airlines, function as a peanut-free business.
I believe the "Southwest Peanut-Free-24 hr-prior procedure" is a big HASSLE!!! Is it sensible for people with severe allergies, like myself, to risks their lives so that others can have a mere snack?! It's not fair to those with the allergy to have to be trapped in an enclosed space, with 200+ surrounding passengers eating something which puts the allergic victim gasping for air, with the possibility of only having 3 minutes left of being alive! 3 minutes is not enough time to find a place to land the plane and get serious medical attention! The person with the severe peanut allergy would have beeen dead by then!! Wouldn't it be easier to avoid serving this snack !?
On May 28, 2003
It's nice to know that if you push for it, Southwest will accomodate you, but personally, since I react to just the fumes, I wouldn't risk it. Like Ldyinrd said, if you have a problem with anaphalaxis on the plane, you're screwed.
Southwest may be the least expensive but I'd rather pay an extra 60 bucks to go with United or American and be sure I won't have a serious problem. With United, American and probably a few other airlines, you don't need to deal with phone calls, pressuring reluctant agents, or a doctor's note. They're already peanut free.
(Although I noticed that some of their snacks have "traces" so it's probably wise to bring a snack of your own, too. Still, with the peanut free airlines, there's little risk of suffering the whole flight, and probably most of the following day, little need for worrying and little risk of dying either.)
On May 29, 2003
We've taken many Southwest flights....always call in advance and let them know about our problem and they give us the same shpeel (we'll flag it, tell the gate agent upon check-in, etc..). Even after we tell the gate agent, word sometimes doesn't filter down to the flight attendants. We always tell the F/A that greets us as we board and they are usually very nice about it. They have either served nothing or pretzels if they have them. This of course doesn't mean the plane is clean from the previous flight. it's not. Moral of the story is always tell the F/A upon boarding because they are never clued in to the issue unless we tell them no matter how much advance warning we give.