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Leaked: American Airlines May Offer Pre-Boarding to Anyone With Nut Allergies

Leaked: American Airlines May Offer Pre-Boarding to Anyone With Nut Allergies
Jeff Edwards

A first look at a new American Airlines policy which would allow passengers with serious nut allergies to pre-board in order to ensure seats are free of any allergen contamination was posted on Twitter this week. The airline has confirmed the authenticity of the document, but says the new policy is only under consideration and no rule changes are planned at this time.

A copy of a new proposed American Airlines policy on how to deal with customers who suffer from serious nut allergies is making the rounds on social media. Although airline officials have confirmed that the leaked documents are authentic, American says that the proposed rule changes are currently under study and there are currently no changes planned to boarding procedures – at least for the time being.

A leaked copy of the so-called, “Enhanced Policy for Passengers with Nut Allergies,” was first posted to Twitter by travel blogger Jamie Larounis of Forward Cabin on Wednesday. The new guidelines for airline employees stop short of guaranteeing passengers that nuts will not be served and do not permit customer service agents to promise a “buffer zone” for flyers with severe allergies. The document does, however, allow for allergy-suffering passengers to pre-board in order to give those flyers a chance to scrub any traces of potential allergens from their seats.

“American recognizes that some customers are allergic to peanuts and other tree nuts,” the internal memo explains. “Although we do not serve peanuts, we do serve other nut products (such as warmed nuts) and there may be trace elements of unspecified nut ingredient, including peanut oils, in meals and snacks. Requests that we not serve any particular foods, including tree nuts, on our flights cannot be granted. We are not able to provide “nut buffer zones,” but we will allow customers to pre-board to wipe down seats and tray tables. Our planes are cleaned often but these cleanings are not designed to ensure the removal of nut allergens nor are our air filtration systems designed to remove nut allergens.”

In January of 2017, American Airlines was the subject of a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) complaint based on the carrier’s policies towards passengers with severe food allergies. The advocacy group, Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) claimed in a complaint that the airline’s policy “misleads passengers about their legal rights” and violates the Air Carrier Access Act protections for air travelers with disabilities.

For its part, the airline insists that the leaked memo was part of a study intended for employee feedback on possible rule modifications and does not indicate a change policy. However, an incident in which the airline refused to allow a passenger to pre-board in order to clean the area where her child with a serious peanut allergy would be sitting was specifically mentioned in the FARE complaint filed with the DOT last year.

“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 told The Points Guy’s Katherine Fan. “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.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (24)


  1. jmd001

    September 6, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    Unless the policy requires the person with the allergy provide an M.D.’s certification of the allergy, the policy will be more severely abused that the policy for Emotional Support Animals.

  2. southpac

    September 6, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    how stupid are AA ? Everyone will have nut allegies & can easily get a free doctors certificate online to say so. This must be one of the dumbest things I have ever heard of an airline doing.

  3. Boggie Dog

    September 6, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    If a person claims a nut allergy demand to see their EpiPen with a valid shelf life date.

  4. c502cid

    September 6, 2018 at 8:42 pm

    Not that as parents of children we aren’t responsible for their safety and not the airline, but until you see your child swelled up like a basketball trying to breathe, stfu. Airplanes aren’t exactly a 911 call away from getting an ambulance. My responsibility for their safety and well being, a few seconds ahead of your pdb is too much to ask?

  5. putya669

    September 6, 2018 at 8:53 pm

    What happens if my ESA has a nut allergy. Can I pre-pre board ?

  6. honeytoes

    September 7, 2018 at 4:11 am

    This is beyond ridiculous and will definitely be abused. Stay home if you’re that sensitive to nuts. Your allergies are not my problem.

  7. txirish

    September 7, 2018 at 4:41 am

    I predict 10x the abuse that already occurs with bogus wheelchair use, a.k.a. “in-flight miracle cures.”

  8. vsevolod4


    September 7, 2018 at 4:46 am

    Oh FFS — enough with this nonsense.

  9. zitsky

    September 7, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Agree jmd001, let them get a doctor’s note to avoid abuse. I am sympathetic but we need to avoid abuse. I will give up peanuts if the other pax or FA provide me some alternate food.

  10. MitchR

    September 7, 2018 at 5:58 am

    What if I don’t have a nut allergy but my “emotional support” animal does?

  11. cpjj

    September 7, 2018 at 6:02 am

    Obviously neither of you have anyone in your family with a severe Peanut Allergy. This allergy can kill and anything that can be done to prevent exposure must be done. Yes, it will be abused but that is no reason NOT to provide individuals with a way to help control exposure.

  12. D2travel

    September 7, 2018 at 7:06 am

    You’re showing your ignorance AA! EVERYONE will have a nut allergy with this stupid plan. Sheesh, the pre-board lines are long enough already with the “disabled that need more time to board” — those who walk off fine once they reach their destination. IMO the first to board should ALWAYS be business/first class and top tier mileage earners, then the “need more time” groups.

  13. Discus

    September 7, 2018 at 7:36 am

    Interesting approach. Research with blind-tests in Europe showed that the vast majority of allergic people does not react to other peoples handling and consumption of nuts. Researches even recommended to stop making a “clean environment” around allergic people in airplanes, at kindergartens, schools etc.

  14. mvoight

    September 7, 2018 at 9:23 am

    Yes, but no proof is required to preboard now. If you listen to the announcement, it says “anyone who needs a little extra time”……….

  15. azmojo

    September 7, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    OK, so you can get a credit card to board early, or you can acquire status, or, just say you have a peanut allergy. Great.

  16. donaldsc

    September 7, 2018 at 4:23 pm

    I am going to set up a WEB site that sells nut allergy certificates. Anyone want to invest in it.

  17. CEB

    September 7, 2018 at 10:47 pm

    Read the extensive research, peanut allergies are NOT airborne and cannot be absorbed through the skin. ONLY ingestion will cause an allergic reaction. The latest research even indicates that the best way to treat peanut allergies in the vast majority of cases (there are indeed exceptions, so one must be under a doctor’s supervision) is to feed the patient very small amounts of peanuts and gradually increase the amount over a period of several months. At that point a maintenance dose is still required, but this treatment has proven very successful.

    Let’s move on and get over the hyper sensitivity, which is mostly emotional, to every slight deviation among people’s tolerance of various foods, drinks and behaviors!

  18. Global321

    September 8, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Wouldn’t the opposite be better…. if you have a nut allergy, to reduce the chance of a reaction, board last.

    Same thing for ESA’s… for the comfort of the animal, board last.

  19. SMHarman

    September 8, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    Abuse, ha. We already have a doctor’s note to bring liquid benadryl or zyrtec through security.
    We have four epipens costing us about $1400 on my high deductible health care plan. Thanks Mylan.
    We have a doctor signed off emergency action plan.
    So, what part of this do you want to see to prevent abuse.

  20. SarcasticMisanthrope

    September 9, 2018 at 4:23 am

    Oy vey with all this peanut allergy mishegoss. Wear a plastic bubble suit.

  21. scnzzz

    September 10, 2018 at 6:54 am

    I think the EpiPen check idea is the only rational way to implement this. Want pre-boarding? One Epi-Pen to be presented for every adult, or adult accompanying a minor, that requests pre-boarding on this basis. If you have an allergy severe enough that warrants the extra time, you sure as heck ought to have your Epi-Pen handy, or you don’t fly. Filters out the fake doctor’s notes, and well, if you want to go buy an Epi-Pen to board early, well, that’s beyond help.

    But I think this will come to nothing.

  22. eng3

    September 10, 2018 at 9:56 am

    1. Why arent the seats and tray tables clean BEFORE anyone boards? Isn’t that what cleaners are for?
    2. Why does one need to preboard in order to wipe a seat/tray table? Does it really take so long? How many people on a typical flight have this issue? is it more than the number of people who decide to they need to open their suitcase and rearrange the contents while blocking the row?
    5. If someone is really that sensitive, how effective is wiping down? does that really remove all traces? doesn’t it just redistribute the nut particles/oils? If one is that sensitive, they should really wear gloves and long sleeves or something. You can’t guarantee you won’t touch ANY nut particles/oils when you are in public, not sure why a plane is an exception.
    4. How will the airline determine if one really has an allergy?

  23. EPtraveler

    September 11, 2018 at 10:26 am

    You’ve got to be kidding me? Now I’ve heard everything!

  24. jarofny

    September 11, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    I have a son with a severe peanut allergy and I have to say that this policy would not make me more comfortable flying AA. With both United and Delta we have had great experiences. They will quickly establish a “nut-free” zone a few rows ahead and behind where my child is sitting. Wiping down a tray table takes no time and we bring a blanket to cover the seat so the preboard really doesn’t do anything.

    I am a lifetime Platinum member with AA but have not flown them for years due to their nut policy. In response to a letter I wrote, AA said they could not create nut-free zones for “operational reasons.” I then asked them why Delta and United were able to do it without it affecting their operations – no reply.

    The proposed AA policy has a lot of potential for abuse (as other posters have noted). But their is no incentive to abuse the Delta or United policy.

    I have never seen a passenger get upset about accommodating a nut allergy. They understand that it is a disability beyond an individuals control.

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