Learn how to safely airplane travel with food allergies. Includes how to book, what to pack, and a list of safe companies to fly with.
Traveling by airplane with food allergies can be intimidating. You are in a plane 35,000 feet in the air! There is a lot to consider in regards to snacks, peanuts, and reactions.
This article walks you through how to safely travel with food allergies, what to pack in your luggage, how to book a flight safely, and a safe list of companies to fly with.
Don’t let the fear of flying keep you from traveling. You can have severe allergies and still travel. The key is preparation and having a plan in case of anything going wrong.
For more, check out this general tips and tricks article on traveling with food allergies.
8 Things to Reduce Your Risk
- Request accommodations when booking
- Request an allergy free meal for your allergies (ie, gluten free, peanut free, etc) if possible
- Wipe down all surfaces including trays, screens, arm rests
- Place a blanket or seat cover over the chair to avoid skin contact
- Wear long sleeved shirts and pants to minimize skin contact on chair fabrics
- Do not use airline pillow or blanket
- If possible, ask those around you to not eat a food that you are allergic to (ie, peanuts)
- Only eat the snacks you have brought with you
Before you Go
The first thing you should do before booking a flight is to research the airline’s allergen policy. See what their pre-flight and in-flight procedures are for food allergies. Check out the snacks served inflight, especially if you have a peanut or tree nut allergy.
When booking, make sure the airline knows of your food allergy. Many airlines have special sections when booking online for you to fill out. If your airline does not, make sure you call the company and inform them of your allergy.
Finally, if you were discriminated against because of your food allergies you can file a consumer complaint here.
What to Pack
The TSA has provided a list of everything you can carry with you on flights, both in a carry on and as a checked bag. It includes the food and medical equipment you can carry. Check out this list here.
I recommend that you start with some safe snacks for you while in flight. Depending on the number and severity of your allergies, you may or may not be able to eat an inflight meal. You can request a safe meal from the company, but if your allergies are complex, it is generally safer to eat only what you bring.
The most important thing to bring with you is your medical bag. Don’t put this in your checked bag!
Your medical bag should contain your Epi Pen (if needed), allergy medication (like Benadryl), any inhalers, and any other medicines you may need inflight. I personally like this bag because of it’s bright red color and how small and portable it is.
Remember to inform your gate agent of your food allergy. This quick check can save you an inflight disaster!
However, you can’t be guaranteed a flight free from all allergens as you can’t tell other passengers not to eat things. That’s why it is essential to have your medical bag packed and on you at all times.
You can also ask the gate agent if you can pre-board the plane to wipe down your seat area to remove as many trace allergens as possible. Use standard anti-bacterial wipes to remove virtually all allergens from your arm rests, tray, screen (if applicable), window, seat belt, and more.
Epi Pens on the Plane
Never put your Epi Pens in checked luggage or even in the overhead bins. Keep it on your person at all times. This can save you by having it so close.
While in flight, don’t be afraid to use it if you need to. Studies have shown that people are reluctant to use it when they really need to. Don’t worry if you are overreacting. You need your medicine when you need it.
If you need to use your Epi Pen in flight, first administer the medication so you can begin to stop the reaction. Have your travel buddy or yourself contact the flight attendant to notify the pilot of your medical emergency. They can land sooner to get you to the ER quickly.
This is my favorite bag for carrying an Epi Pen, as well as any other medication I may need, like an inhaler.
Epi Pens are safe to send through x-ray machines and scanners used to view carry-on luggage. The medication will not be changed because of an x-ray.
If you want the extra security, you can carry a note from your doctor confirming your food allergies and need to carry medication on you at all times.
Finally, bring a minimum of 2 Epi Pens with you. Each dose will last for 20 minutes. This double dose gives you 40 minutes of safety.
When you get to your seat, wipe down the seat, tray, arm rests, belt buckle, window and screen with antibacterial wipes. This will help limit cross contamination.
You can reduce the risk of contamination on the seat itself by using a blanket as a barrier between you and the seat. Wear long sleeve shirts, jackets, and pants to further minimize this risk.
Don’t take any unnecessary risks. Eat the food that you have brought on the plane and don’t eat the airline food unless you have read the ingredient label yourself. Don’t trust others to do this. If in doubt, don’t eat it.
I have asked people in my row to not eat peanuts when traveling next to me. Many times, I explained my allergy and most people were very accommodating! It never hurts to ask. If someone does not understand, or insists on eating a peanut butter sandwich next to you, ask if you can switch seats, or at least move while they are eating.
Finally, you can wear a cloth or surgical mask while on the flight, especially if you have airborne allergies to peanuts or even animal dander.
Best Airlines to Travel with Food Allergies
Air Canada is a great company to use as they are so accommodating to travelers with food allergies. Canana is the only country that has a formal policy of creating a buffer zone around a passenger with a peanut or tree nut allergy. This three-row buffer asks that other passengers not eat peanuts or tree nuts while on the plane. To ensure you get this, make sure you contact the Air Canada Medical Assistance Desk when booking and again 48 hours before your flight.
In February 2016, British Airways made inflight allergy announcements a part of their official pre-flight policy. They will also ask passengers sitting near the person with a peanut allergy to not eat nuts during the flight. However, they do not have an official policy around this issue. British Airways does not serve peanuts on their flights and they always have an epinephrine auto-injector in their inflight medical kit.
When traveling with Delta, you have the option to tell them about your peanut allergies even when booking online. List out your allergies in the “Special Services” section. They will not serve peanuts on a flight if they are made aware of this allergy. Please make sure to tell them both while booking and at least 48 hours in advance of your flight. You can also ask your gate agent to pre-board the plane giving you time to wipe down your seat area.
They are a great company to fly with for how aware they are of allergens. When booking they will ask questions about allergies so you don’t need to make a special call. No peanuts are served on their flights. You can ask your gate agent to pre-board the plane to wipe down your seat area. If you can, also inform the gate agent of your allergy and they will ask for a 1 row buffer zone on the plane. Jet Blue carries an epinephrine auto-injector in their inflight medical kit.
Southwest serves peanuts but if you are careful, you can have a safe flight. I would not use this airline if you are severely airborne anaphylactic to peanuts. When making a reservation, check the “Assistance with Disabilities” that you “have a peanut dust allergy”. Arrive at the gate early and fill out their “peanut allergy” form. The flight crew will serve a different snack in place of peanuts. Many times it is a cheese cracker, so if you have a severe milk allergy, please be aware.
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