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Saturday, January 9, 2010

Air Canada adds nuts to no-fly list

Above was the title published in the Toronto Star yesterday and I thought I’d make a few comments.

Am I missing something? I thought that was the point of the exercise with the latest breach of security on Delta airlines -keep the nuts away. Obviously, the 23 year old was a “wing nut.” The shoe bomber was a “nut bar” and Al Qaeda is portrayed as “religious nuts.” (Sorry that’s my twisted sense of humour surfacing). But the article below is talking peanuts, almonds, and cashews.

Here’s the article:
There is business class, first class, economy class. Coming soon to an airplane near you: nut-free class. Air Canada has been told to create a nut-free "buffer zone" on all flights to accommodate passengers who suffer from severe nut allergies. Thursday's decision by the Canadian Transportation Agency followed complaints from two passengers about the inconsistent and difficult experiences they faced when they asked Air Canada to accommodate their severe nut allergies.

"There was clearly no policy. I was getting a different story on every flight," said complainant and frequent traveller Sophia Huyer. "Certain individual flight attendants, if they understand the issue of allergies, would accommodate me, but often it was left up to the captain or staff to make that decision."

Huyer filed the complaint in June 2006 after two flights where she had asked flight staff to not serve nuts. On one, the flight attendant said she could get off the plane and take a later flight. She did. The next time, she stayed on board. When the attendant insisted on serving nuts, Huyer locked herself in the washroom for 40 minutes.

"I felt like I was in a life-threatening situation," said Huyer, whose severe allergy can make it difficult for her to breathe, give her a rash, and cause her tongue to swell if she is even around nuts. The agency ruled Huyer's allergy can be classified as a disability, and must be accommodated.

Air Canada has 30 days to submit comments on the decision, including how long in advance a person needs to notify the airline for a buffer zone to be created, and how large the zone should be, depending on the aircraft.

Air Canada stopped serving peanuts on flights more than a decade ago, but continues to give out almonds and mixed nuts in business and first class. Porter Airlines serves almonds and says it can accommodate passengers with 48 hours' notice. WestJet doesn't serve nuts, and has used the buffer zone approach for years.

Huyer said she is glad to see a final decision, but doesn't feel the ruling goes far enough. She thinks nuts should be completely banned. "I know no area can be totally nut-free, but if you're serving nuts, you are actively increasing the risk anyway."

The nut-free zone is among a long list of recent changes introduced on airlines, such as allowances for animals on planes, allowances for those with allergies to animals, and a Supreme Court ruling that those deemed medically obese be allowed to have two seats when flying.

"That's just the way the world seems to be going," said Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick.

Firstly, the reporter mentions “first class.” Air Canada has not offered a “first class” section in years. (I had to be careful by saying Air Canada has not offered “first class service” in years) In fact, no North American based airline offers a first class section. Sure airlines around the world do, like B.A. (a plug for you Ian) and Singapore. In fact, Emirates’ first class on the A380 offers beds making it that much easier to join the “mile high” club. Saying first class instead of business class on North American airlines is like someone saying “stewardess” The title stewardess has vanished since the seventies. Not only does it date a person, but portrays a person’s aviation I.Q.

But my question is, “how do you tell a business class passenger who dropped $8000 on a return ticket to Hong Kong that he can’t have nuts with his drink because someone flying one way seated in '62 D' on a seat sale is allergic to nuts?"

Pilot Pellets.

The article alluded to the fact Air Canada did not cater to peanut allergies. Not so. A few months ago I asked the flight attendant for some nuts (almonds). Flight attendants hear this request so much from pilots that they started calling the nuts, “pilot pellets.” “Sorry, we have a passenger with a peanut allergy in 'economy' so all peanuts are banned. "I’m thinking... hmmm. We have a self-locking $20,000 “hand grenade proof” Kevlar flight deck door capable of keeping out nasty people, but I’m not allowed to have almonds because it’s deemed a threat to someone in 29D?

I do realize the Toronto Star’s header was a play on words but maybe you out there have some comments? (I also realize some of you pilots fly for peanuts, but that’s another post). I read some of the Toronto Star feedback and most of them thought we have gone too far. Like Peter FitzPatrick said in the article, “that's just the way the world seems to be going.”


Ian said...

Hello Doug!

Last day on the Island - our bird is en route to arrive at 15.30 local, and outbound back to Europe 90 minutes or so later.

Thanks for the first class plug - ours as I've said is not the best anymore - classy enough I guess, a bit like an old Jaguar, but updates due this year.

I sometimes think we go a bit far with the Huyer's of this world, as it could easily be expanded from nuts, to strawberries even wheat - but the last thing anyone needs is a law suit, so in this litigious world, airlines will do what they have to.

I actually take cashews with me as a little in-flight snack as I like them and they give good energy - but always ask those sitting up front with me before I break open the pack.

Been looking at the METAR for back in the frozen European climes, and I am making sure all the brood have heavy sweaters in their carry-ons. I think I might try to lose myself here!!

Hope all well!


From the Flight Deck said...

Ian. We experienced the same "wake up call" arriving from the warm south. Frigid temperatures of minus 15C, snow, with a wind to whip at the sun tan.

You pegged it, restrictions imposed by such a small group has to be addressed or else you are in court defending a law suit.

Recently, we were imposed to allow small pets back into the cabin and to supply two seats for larger passengers.

But hey, you don't want to hear about restrictions. Enjoy the day!


Anonymous said...

Wow I didn't realize how uneducated many people were on this, a nut can kill someone, it is the protein in the nut which can also be transferred by nut dust. If a passenger can't get over not having a nut on an airplane for the well-being of another human being than this has become a completely selfish society we live in.

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. Valid point. But many people I have talked to, and the comments I read, think it should be the person with the nut allergy to keep things safe.

Look at the fact Air Canada is bringing back animals into the cabin. I'm willing to bet there are more people who suffer from cats and dogs than peanuts. But as you said, "a nut can kill someone."

I guess the only solution will be Air Canada implementing a "nut free zone." You seem to be in the know. How many seats or how big of an area would one have to cordon off to make things safe? Thanks for the post.

Capt. Doug

MathFox said...

I agree with Ian that nuts make good food... but suffering from some allergies myself I will refrain from eating nuts near someone I know having a nut allergy.

Dough, Ideally the allergy patients would have the whole plane (and airport) clear of peanuts; so that they can go to the loo without suffering. On the other hand, there are drugs that suppress some of the allergic reaction and when there is a "clean zone" to recover things are not too bad.
I have no idea how big the "nut free zone" would have to be; that also depends on the way the air circulates through the plane, you want to avoid recirculating air from the "contaminated" zone into the clean zone.

From the Flight Deck said...

Mathfox, thanks for the info. Sounds like it will be a challenge to implement a "nut free zone." One can't designate airflow through the cabin. There's only the option of closing gaspers
and adjusting the flow from "norm" to "high" but that option is not available on all aircraft types.

One person commented, "even if nuts were not served by Air Canada, what is to stop a passenger from eating their own especially since passengers are packing their own snacks."
True an announcement will be made declaring a not free zone, but what happens if the person doesn't understand the announcement - i.e speaks another language.

Capt. Doug

Anonymous said...

You have to know someone with a nut allergy to know how serious it is, that's why nuts are banned in most schools now.
it's a complicated situation, but ask youself this question.
If you child had this allergy, and the was a chance he or she could die from an anaphylactic shock, what would you opinion on this subject be.
Not having nuts on a 10 hour flight is not a big deal in my opinion, if it's in the interest of someone else's well being. just my humble opinion

From the Flight Deck said...

Anon. You nailed it, "it's a complicated situation." Your posts certainly portray the seriousness of the consequences. I'm just wondering how it will be implemented.

We sell nuts from BOB (Buy on Board), they're sold in the stores near the gates, Aunt Betsy may pack a bag for her niece for the flight back to college, and there's usually a supply of nuts in my flight bag and in many other pilot's. Even "Captain Sully" admitted to relying on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (We Canadians call them peanut butter and jam sandwiches).

I had a friend who had a peanut allergy and during a pub night many moons ago another friend thought it would be funny to put a peanut at the bottom of the peanut sufferer's full draft of beer. Luckily, the allergy sufferer spotted the peanut. Needless to say, he didn't think it was funny.

This ruling should be interesting as to how it plays out. Again, good post.

Capt. Doug

Daniel Asuncion said...

An analogy...

I've read that using a digital
camera in a hospital, or on an
airliner in flight can actually
interfere with electronic
instrumentation nearby.

I guess even computers have

In the interest of full disclo-
sure, I like peanuts. (specific-
ly, roasted cashews) But I'll
brush before going out...just in

A news story a few years ago...
a high school student had a
peanut butter sandwich at lunch.
A couple hours later, he kissed
his girlfriend. Her windpipe
closed up.

She was only 15.

From the Flight Deck said...

Dan. I remember that story. It certainly drives home how serious the issue is. Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from YVR again.
implementation? you need someone with a higher pay grade than I.
btw, I love those damn nuts too.

kbq said...

Sigh... while there *are* issues with nut allergies, let's not get too carried away. The press will do that for us, thank you.

From Salon.com: "And what about Christina Desforges, the young girl who received the kiss from the peanut-contaminated lips of her boyfriend? She suffered from asthma and died of a severe asthma attack, likely triggered by smoke. A coroner reported that on the night she collapsed she had smoked marijuana and spent hours at a party where people were smoking pot and tobacco." (http://www.salon.com/env/vital_signs/2009/02/05/peanut_allergy/index.html)


From the Flight Deck said...

KBQ. You've got that right about the press, especially if it deals with Air Canada. The "peanut gallery" (press) will milk this one.

Capt. Doug

Mark said...

I guess security should start screening for nuts moving forward. Maybe the new body scanners will catch people trying to sneak peanuts onto the planes!

All joking aside, AC and any other airline can stop serving nuts for those who are allergic, but at the end of the day, who is going to stop me from taking my jumbo Oh Henry bar on board and munching away at it. Where does it stop..... should there be no seafood allowed becuase of those allergic to it? Should there be no perfume allowed to protect those who have sensitive sense of smell? Where does it end?

Enjoy your peanuts in the flight deck Doug.

From the Flight Deck said...

Mark. I love my jumbo Oh Henry bars! You make valid points. Should be interesting to see where it goes. Having said that, I know some readers (and rightly so) are adamantly against nuts of any kind.

One would think this is an easy fix. At one time I thought it was, but after reading some of the feedback I'm not so sure.



Mark said...

Yes, I actually do have compassion for those who suffer with such allergies. My little niece has a severe allergy and has to have an EpiPen on her at all times. It is rather unfortunate, but I just think that banning nuts may not be the right approach. Banning nuts may actually give allergy sufferers a false sense of security / assurance given that passenges will carry their own goods in carry on luggage (ie. that jumbo 95g Oh Henry) Mmmmmm, Oh Hungry now?

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