American Airlines announced this week that it is taking its passengers’ safety seriously and will allow those with nut allergies to board early to avoid contaminated areas.
According to Bloomberg, the airline will allow those with peanut and tree nut allergies to board first, which gives them time to wipe down their seat to avoid coming in contact with any residue left behind by previous passengers.
“Customers with nut allergies who would like to board flights early to wipe down surfaces may ask to do so at the gate,” American said in a statement. It should be noted that the carrier doesn’t even serve nuts on its flights, but is implementing the measure as it cannot guarantee customers don’t bring their own snacks onboard.
The measure, which will go into effect on Dec. 12, when its flight-service manuals are updated, could help the estimated 15 million Americans who suffer from life-threatening food allergies, according to the Food Allergy Research & Education.
Though the extra measure is nice, it may not be something the general traveler with allergies needs to worry about.
“One of the more common misperceptions we deal with is this concern that peanut dust will somehow aerosolize,” Dr. Matthew Greenhawt, associate professor of pediatrics and the director of the Food Challenge and Research Unit of Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colorado, told The Points Guy. “Look, if you have a peanut allergy, you absolutely can fly and do it safely. I see too many families that often don’t go on a vacation because they’re scared to fly. It’s robbing them of the opportunity to live their lives.”
To ensure your safety while traveling, The Points Guy suggested always traveling with your medication in tow. Never rely on an aircraft to carry an epinephrine auto-injector. Make sure to bring your own. Also, ensure you’re traveling with disinfectant wipes to clean any surfaces before touching them. Though, according to the experts The Points Guy spoke with, even touching a surface with peanut residue can’t kill you.
“Peanut dust doesn’t blow off peanuts,” Dr. Hugh Windom, an allergist, immunologist and clinical professor at the University of South Florida, said. “You really have to eat a food to have a food-allergy reaction. There’s never been a serious reaction, never been a death from non-consumed exposure to food.”
Still, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.