Boarding a flight, whether it is your first or your 50th time with food allergies, can still be an overwhelming experience. So much of your experience can be held in the hands of others ie. flight attendants and passengers around you. So, how can you prepare for your next flight with food allergies?
Tips for a flight with Food Allergies
Selecting the Airline
To be honest there is no truly perfect airline. For one you can book when the policies are one way and then 6 months later the policies can change. Also, a lot of your experience lies with the individuals you encounter like the gate agents, flight attendants, and other passengers.
Selecting an airline that has a no-nuts policy or is willing to create buffer zones are great things to look for when you have a peanut or tree nut allergy. However, on the other hand something to remember is that those airlines may not operate out of your closest airport. It is also important to look at a nonstop vs a multiple-stop flight as those have pros and cons as well.
Printing out the airline’s policy if they have one is good to have on hand in case anyone questions you about pre-boarding the plane.
Notifying the Airline Ahead of Time
This can be done by logging in online with your confirmation number and last name on the booking. However, a lot of airlines only have the notification for a peanut allergy and then you’ll need to call in or ask your travel agent to do so for you.
Keep in mind I have seen the notification not stick before so if it gets added early on when you book just make sure you double check before your trip. And do not rely on that notification letting the flight crew know, inform them as if you did not get the notification added.
Traveling with a doctor’s note going over your food allergies is going to help in a few different areas. When going through TSA if they have any questions, having the letter will let them know it is for a medical need. You do still need to follow TSA policies in regards to liquids and packing them in a quart sized bag and under 3.4 ounces (100ml).
Then when asking to pre board having documentation from your doctor can assist if the gate agent is giving push back.
Notifying Gate Agents to pre-board
When you arrive at the gate speak with the gate agents about pre-boarding. Show the airline policy if it mentions it and share your doctor’s note as well. If you are traveling as a family and getting push back ask if one adult can pre-board to wipe the seats down vs. the whole family.
Bringing the right items for your trip is key as well. Wipes to clean your seat and tray are important. I also recommend wearing long sleeves and long pants. While overnight flights are well known to be cold some airlines are known to run warm or get stuck sitting on the runway. Doing a zip down sweatshirt can help with airflow. Plus wearing long sleeves and long pants ensure less exposed skin to possible allergens.
Taking Your Own Meal
Whether you have one allergy all the way up to multiple allergies, I always recommend staying away from airline meals. Unfortunately, mistakes can be made and that is a risk I wouldn’t take especially with overseas flights. You don’t want to be sequestered to the bathroom or have an emergency reaction on board.
Research the airport and see if any favorite restaurants are there that you feel comfortable eating before boarding. You can also opt to have a larger meal before heading to the airport and then pack snacks. If you have items that just require hot water you can ask for hot water at the airport or on the plane.
Preparing for your flight is such an important part of the trip process and while you cannot control those around you, there are ways to be prepared.