A Thomas Cook passenger say she was “belittled and patronized and embarrassed” after informing a cabin crew member that she has a a severe airborne allergy to strawberries. The 19-year-old, whose condition has been used to teach schoolchildren about the dangers of anaphylaxis, was reportedly told that she would have to make alternate travel plans rather than denying other passengers “full access to the onboard menu.”
Chloe Fitzpatrick is something of a poster child for allergy awareness. The 19-year-old’s battle with a severe strawberry allergy was featured in the documentary film A Day in the Life of Chloe, which is used in the classroom to teach students about the risks associated with severe allergies.
Crew members on her Thomas Cook flight home from Zakynthos International Airport (ZTH) to Manchester Airport (MAN), however, were apparently absent from class on the day her story was taught. Fitzpatrick says that when she attempted to explain the nature of her condition to a crew member, the airline employee threatened to leave her behind in Greece.
“I was told I would have to sort out an alternative way home,” the teenager told The Lancashire Telegraph. “She appeared to have no understanding of the concept of an airborne anaphylactic allergy. I felt belittled and patronized and embarrassed about my condition.”
The airline eventually relented and agreed not to sell strawberry products during the flight. Flight attendants even made an announcement alerting fellow passengers to her life-threatening allergy – though, Fitzpatrick says, not before intentionally attempting to embarrass her and reminding her that her request was “at the expense of the other 200” passengers on the flight.
“The safety of our customers and crew is always our first priority,” an airline spokesperson later told the newspaper. “When a customer lets us know that they have an allergy, the cabin manager will share the information with the captain and crew as part of their pre-flight briefing to decide on the best course of action, based on the severity of the allergy. On speaking with both Ms. Fitzpatrick and the captain, the cabin manager made an announcement to all customers asking them to refrain from opening products containing strawberries that they may have brought on board, and advised that no products containing strawberries would be sold on the flight.”
Fitzpatrick’s story came to light just as an inquest kicked off into the death of 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who died of anaphylaxis during a 2016 British Airways flight from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE). In this case, the teenager inadvertently consumed food containing sesame seeds from an airport vendor. Despite the short flying time, access to multiple epinephrine injections and a medical doctor onboard, the girl died as a direct result of an allergic reaction to the sesame seeds.