WELLINGTON, New Zealand – An angry mother has slammed an airline after it refused to warn other passengers about her teenager daughter’s peanut allergy.
Kathy Miller traveled with her family from Essex to Ivalo in Finland, via Helsinki, to see the Northern Lights.
Her 17-year-old daughter Emma suffers from a severe peanut allergy and is required to carry an EpiPen with her at all times, as the smallest traces of the nut could cause her throat to close if she goes into anaphylactic shock.
When they arrived at Heathrow Airport, the family was shocked to discover that nuts would still be served on their FinnAir flight.
After confronting airline staff, it was agreed that they would not sell peanuts during the flight, but still refused to make an announcement to other passengers about the situation.
The same problems arose on their connecting flight to Helsinki and an unknowing passenger in the row in front of them opened a bag of nuts she had brought on board.
“We explained the situation to the passenger and she was mortified,” Ms Miller said.
“She looked so upset and shoved them away immediately, while apologising to us.”
Airline staff were unaware of the situation and had been “insensitive and bordering on arrogant”, she said.
“It may not be important to them but for us it really could be the difference between her living and dying.”
Emma’s allergy was so severe she had been unable to take part in a hospital course where tiny amounts of peanuts were introduced to attempt to boost tolerance.
“A few milligrams is enough for a reaction and EpiPens are only supposed to keep her alive until the paramedics arrive,” Ms Miller said. “They only last for ten minutes and obviously this is a major problem when you are flying.”
The family was unable to find other flights out of Ivalo and staff were again unaware of the situation and only agreed to sell nuts away from the family.
For their flight back to the United Kingdom, Ms Miller paid thousands of pounds for Business Class tickets on British Airways – which recently announced a new policy around nut allergies.
Finnair said it was unable to guarantee in-flight meals would be nut-free, nor could it make special arrangements regarding cabin announcements or service.
“‘If you suffer from a severe allergy, it is important that you are aware that we cannot guarantee an allergen-free meal, cabin or environment,” a spokesperson said.