American Airlines officials have confirmed that in response to an official complaint from an allergy awareness advocacy group, passengers with certain allergies will soon be permitted to pre-board flights in order to wipe down their seats and nearby surfaces to reduce the likelihood of coming into contact with potentially dangerous allergens.
In September, a leaked document hinted that American Airlines would soon allow passengers with severe food allergies to pre-board flights to allow those flyers an opportunity to wipe down surfaces in the cabin that might have come in contact with trace amount of nuts or other allergens. Faced with an immediate backlash to the controversial policy from less empathetic members of the flying public, the airline emphatically denied that new boarding rules were imminent.
“A proposed draft policy, which would permit customers with nut allergies to pre-board flights to wipe down surfaces, was shared prematurely with American’s flight attendant workgroup earlier this week,” an American Airlines spokesperson said at the time. “There are no changes to our policy at this time and the draft policy was not shared with customers. As is always the case, before we make policy decisions, we consult with various workgroups throughout the company. That process is still ongoing.”
Now, however, NBC News reports that the new boarding rules will go into effect next month as soon as updated manuals are distributed to employees. The new procedures are expected to be in place by December 12 of this year.
“Customers with nut allergies who would like to board flights early to wipe down surfaces may ask to do so at the gate,” an American Airlines spokesperson told NBC’s Today Show. “Though we do not serve peanuts in flight, we can’t guarantee our customers won’t be exposed to peanuts or other tree nuts during their trip.”
The policy mirrors boarding rules for passengers with serious allergies which are already in place at Delta Air Lines. American has also reportedly already informed the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) of the intended policy change.
In January of last year, American was the subject of a DOT complaint based on the carrier’s existing policies towards passengers with severe allergies. The allergy awareness advocacy group, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) claimed in the official complaint that the carrier’s policy “misleads passengers about their legal rights” and is in fact a violation of the Air Carrier Access Act protections for air travelers with disabilities.