Why are there still peanuts on planes and trains? (For Anaphylaxis Awareness Week)

Travel should be fun, exciting. An easy (although sometimes hectic) way to get from A to B. It is a chance to relax, to look forward to where you’re going, or to work in peace. Yet, for many allergy-sufferers, it isn’t that simple. Air travel is tricky, because the majority of airlines insist on selling peanuts on board flights. Granted, you can ask that they don’t serve peanuts on board, and some flights will do an overhead announcement for people to not consume food with nuts in on board the flight. However, in my experience this has always felt like a complication, as you have to ask at the check-in desk and more often than not it doesn’t get through to the cabin crew. So then you have to ask at the boarding desk, and then I’ve often had to ask the cabin crew again when on the plane. Then you have to rely on the rest of the plane listening to what they’ve asked and not eating nutty foods. So you end up (or I certainly do) having a stressful journey onto the plane, a stressful journey while on the plane, and the same on the way back.

Some airlines are better than others. EasyJet have been brilliant, you only have to ask once at the check-in desk and they take the nuts off the plane and do an announcement. British Airways are pretty hit and miss. They are never able to give me ANY food at all on a long flight, and are very inconsistent with their allergy policies. Last year, I went to the Netherlands, and on the way there they enforced their new allergy policy, which allowed me and my mum to get on the plane before anyone else (including first class) and find our seats and wipe them down with antiseptic to avoid any residue of the peanuts they serve, or nuts anyone else brought on. I was very grateful for this, and they also did their usual announcements. However, on the way back, they claimed to have not received the information from our check in, and so would not let us get on the plane first as we did on the way there! I actually ended up getting up the page of their own allergy policy and quoted it at them. Even then, we were only allowed on the plane after first and business class (which is not what the policy stated). We ended up feeling like a nuisance, rather than customers with important needs being taken care of.

Once, I travelled first class on a Virgin train (which was lovely to be honest) but they would also come down the aisle and offer either pretzels or peanuts to passengers. Luckily, no one wanted any, but it was really unnerving. As I am quite shy, I hate the idea of having to ask someone not to eat something because I’m there. So normally I wouldn’t say anything, and end up getting really panicked and trying not to breathe. I know that if I was more confident I could just politely ask them not to eat them, but I just find it really difficult.

It occurred to me recently that an easy solution to these problems is to simply not serve peanuts. I can understand people bringing their own on board, and that is easier to address by speaking to one individual person, and it would mean that there would be less of a chance of allergens being present. I know that this would be extremely reassuring for allergy-sufferers, as the presence of allergens onboard (combined with a handful of passengers being unreasonable) is actually really scary, and doesn’t allow you to feel relaxed. I just don’t understand why peanuts need to be served, especially given the recent publicity surrounding companies such as Pret a Manger, and simply the danger they pose to certain customers. There are other alternatives that could be served, such as crisps, which do not physically contain any allergens.

I know, however, that this is a big ask, and to be honest there is work to do on improving the allergy policies that already exist. Hopefully, there will be progress, but I think simply stopping the selling of them would solve a huge amount of problems, and would definitely improve passengers’ satisfaction and make them feel like they were travelling in a safe environment.

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