Thursday, January 07, 2010

Thank you Sophia and Rhonda

I know what you're thinking...who are Sophia and Rhonda? Well, I don't know them least not personally, but they've done something incredible and I want to thank them. Rhonda has a daughter Melanie and Melanie is allergic to nuts. During a flight on Air Canada, Sophia locked herself in the bathroom for 40 minutes while the snacks containing nuts were being served.

I've flown on many an airplane for business, and a few for pleasure, and since Andrew's nut allergy appeared, I've started to notice what others around me are eating on the plane, and what the airlines are serving for snacks. Most of the flights I take are "short haul" hour, maybe two. Fifteen years ago on this length of flight, the traditional snack was almonds - the smoked, over-salted ones. Today, it's pretzels or cookies. You know what? As much as I love almonds (although I will confess to preferring them raw and unsalted), I don't begrudge being forced to choose between pretzels and cookies...or...dare I say it..."nothing thanks, I just had breakfast".

I read recently, I think it was Allergic Living, where some airlines refused to stop handing out almonds because they were the "traditional snack" on flights, and customers demanded them. Are you kidding? You don't DEMAND anything on an airplane these days, and I don't know of anyone that would switch airlines because one served cookies instead of almonds, or Coke versus Pepsi. Come on...that's absurd. The convenience of the airline's schedule and the friendliness of the staff have far more to do with my choice of airline than the food. Maybe that's just me.

Back to our heroes. Having to lock herself in the bathroom to get away from nuts? That's just wrong. I never want to have to think "How many epipens did security let me bring on board, and what happens if something...happens?" while I'm at 40,000 feet. After that experience and "difficulty accommodating their needs even after being informed of their nut allergies" they complained to the Canadian Transportation Agency (sort of like the US FAA for you folks state-side). The upshot of this effort is that Air Canada has 30 days to effect the CTA's ruling which requires:
"an exclusion or buffer zone where passengers within that zone will be advised that they can only eat foods that are peanut-free or nut-free and that they will only be offered peanut-free or nut-free foods as part of Air Canada's onboard snack or meal will also address the risk of other passengers eating peanuts or nuts"

Air Canada is honestly not my first choice for air travel in western Canada. Depending on how they handle this, they could become a contender though. Westjet hasn't served nuts in a long time and Andrew and I have flown with them. In the mean time, thank you again to Sophia and Rhonda, and when I'm travelling by plane, even without my family, you can sign me up for the nut-free section!

If we're lucky I'll get to sit in a part of the airplane with no peanuts, no almonds, no cashews, and none of those other "nuts" we never want to see on a plane.

I first saw this story on the CBC's website. You can click there to read the story or here to see the video clip.