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Airline Inconsistencies: No Peanuts, But Pets On Board?

I’ve been “flying the friendly skys” for work and fun for awhile now. During that time, I’ve seen the no liquid rule  implemented, overhead space shrink, the introduction of economy “plus,” fees charged for any checked bag (which is just nonsense) and the elimination of peanuts on many major airlines because some people have peanut allergies.

Which brings us to our topic for today . . . .

The airline obsession with peanut allergies was brought into sharp focus for me when I was flying my usual Seattle to Orange County route.  I had managed a first class upgrade (always a plus) and the flight attendant had just finished giving us our drinks and mixed nuts when an announcement was made that someone on the plane had a peanut allergy so if anyone had brought peanuts or other nuts on board, “we would appreciate it if you would refrain from eating them on the flight.”  The first class nuts were quickly collected by the flight attendants.

In contrast, despite the number of people allergic to cats, dogs and other animals, people are allowed to take them on board, allergy sufferers be damned. 

The first time I encountered this issue was on a three hour flight, next to a woman who had a small dog under the seat in front of her, right next to me – a fact I was unaware of until I broke out in hives.

So you can imagine how weary I was when I was waiting to board my flight from Los Angeles to Santa Rosa and noticed a woman in front of me with a carrier bag.  As I played the dog or cat game (my cat allergies are legendary) puffs of hair flew out of the carrier as the animal roamed its carrier. 

I stepped back.  The woman opened the top and a puffball of a cat stuck out its head.  I stepped back again, letting four people in front of me in line.  As we moved down the ramp I kept a careful distance from the cat lady, trying to stay out of the path of the flying fur.  She was told to check witht he gate agent and I boarded the flight.

Now, before boarding I had given up my seat in Row 2, so that a grandmother could sit with her grandchild.  As I result I had to make my way to the near back of the plane – 15 out of 19.  For anyone who travels often for business, you end up in this mindset where you never want to be in the back of the plane because it takes too long to get off.  It was for a good cause though and I wasn’t rushing to a meeting when I landed. 

Slowly the remaining passengers made their way to their seats, until there were only 2 seats left, one in the very back and one right next to me.  Cat lady had not yet boarded.  Soon, she boards the plane and cat fur trailing in her wake makes her way toward me. 

At Row 14 she’s greeted by the flight attendant.  She tells the flight attendant she’s been instructed to head to the back as far away from the majority of the other passengers as possible in case there are allergies.   The flight attendant says, she can sit wherever she wants at this point.  Excuse me?

As an allergy sufferer this is when you have a choice – you can suck it up and enjoy 2 hours of watery eyes, a runny nose and the eventual appearance of hives, or you can speak up.  You would think speaking up would be easy but it isn’t.  People love their pets and for some reason if you’re allergic many people are put out and think you just don’t like animals.  No, I just don’t like hives.

Luckily, cat lady was very considerate.  She looked around at us and actually asked if anyone was allergic.  I said that unfortunately I was and she smiled, said “no problem” and moved to the seat in the back of the plane. 

After cat lady had moved on the woman behind me thanked me for saying something because both she and her husband were allergic to cats.  The woman in front of me was as well!  So out of the 12 seats in my immediate vicinity, 4 of us – 33% had cat allergies.  And here’s the thing, even though the cat was four rows behind us, all of our eyes were watering by the end of the flight.

Which leads to two questions:

If the airlines are so worried about peanut allergies, why don’t they have the same concerns about animal allergies which are much more common?

What’s the solution to this dilema?  Special pet airlines?



4 Responses

  1. Amen for this post! I was once on a flight where a lady took her small (but mean!) dog out of his cage and held him on her lap. He then proceeded to rearrange himself on her lap so he could lick his butt. So there I am, eyeing this dog warily and she says, “I take it you don’t like dogs?” like I’m the one with the problem 🙂

  2. Because an allergic reaction to peanuts can result in death? An astounding number of small children these days have very, *very* serious peanut allergies.

    I’ve never heard of anyone dying from a dog or cat allergy; but maybe it does happen.

    Sorry that happened to you, though. Pet allergies can be miserable, I know!

  3. This is really astounding. I too have very severe cat allergies, and I have suffered when another passenger has brought their cat on board. I wish I had a good solution, but I’m not sure what the answer is! I understand why some people want to bring their pets on the plane, but it is very difficult if you have allergy problems!

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