Why You Should Never Tell a Flight Attendant About Minor Allergies When Boarding

Last week, I read an article that really stuck in my mind.  It was one of those airline-said-she-said stories that ended with a passenger getting thrown off a flight.

It really stuck with me because of one specific item in the article.

Basically, a woman did not want to sit next to a dog in first class, but she did not want to be relocated out of first class.  The coverage of this story revolved around her creating a situation that could not be solved.  (I want to be moved, but not where you can actually move me).

The lines that stood out to me were these:

She says she’s “allergic to animals†and asked a flight attendant for help getting re-seated. They offered her another seat in the back of the cabin, but there was a dog in the seat next to that one too so she declined.

That’s when she had an unexpected problem.

“I said to a[.. flight attendant] that I hope we don’t need to make an unplanned stop to which she replied ‘we don’t want that to happen’ I replied that I didn’t want that to happen either.”

Now, you might think that mentioning an allergy would result in a crew bending over backwards for you.  After all, that’s what happens in restaurants and even classrooms these days.

But think of it from the airline crew’s perspective.  A restaurant won’t have to emergency land if you accidentally eat a peanut.  An airplane will.  If you have an allergy, crew members see you as a risk factor on that flight.


For example, a student at Villanova University was removed from a flight after asking a flight attendant if there were any anti-histamines on board due to a mild reaction she was having.

A boy had to agree to eat nothing on an entire cross-country flight in exchange for being allowed to stay on the plane with his peanut allergy.

If your epi-pen is in your luggage, you can be removed for mentioning your pet allergy.

But it makes sense when you look at cases where people downplayed their allergy and airplanes had to emergency land.  Like in this case, a woman is suing United after someone opened a bag of peanuts on a plane, causing a reaction so strong, they had to divert.

I’m not saying that the airline in this particular situation was right (or wrong for that matter).  But overall, using an allergy as a trump card will not end well for you.  Of course, if you do have a life-threatening allergy, speak up.

Just be prepared for the solution to be moving you to another flight–not taking care of the allergy source.

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. What I don’t understand is that airlines choose animal over human on the plane, not to mention first class cabin.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      I don’t know this specific detail, but a lot of times, their hands are tied by accommodation laws.

  2. So the issue here is “minor.” Especially with animal allergies, an allergic person’s reaction can vary wildly depending on the breed, how much the animal stays in a carrier, the carrier, if the flight attendants and other people touch the animal and spread the dander, etc. So often you can’t know how life threatening it will be. I’ve been on many flights where pets were allowed to wander around. I can’t know that until we’re in the air.

    In that story from last week my question is why doesn’t the person with the dog have to move? Allergies are ADA protected.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      That’s a really good question. I wonder if the airline sees moving flights as an accommodation.

  3. This doesn’t seem to be moving towards a head. More people are bringing their “emotional support dogs” on board every day.

  4. Well that’s really weird. Animals got more rights than humans.

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