Air Canada gets Final Food Ruling

in Travel & Dining
Published: August 9, 2011

Aug. 9, 2011 – The Canadian Transportation Agency has issued its final decision addressing Air Canada’s accommodation of passengers disabled by an allergy to peanuts or nuts, and setting out its assessment of Air Canada’s undue hardship arguments.

Back in January 2010, the agency found that buffer zones are the appropriate accommodation for persons aboard aircraft who are disabled due to their allergy to peanuts or nuts. Air Canada was required to provide submissions on buffer zones and on the advance notice to be provided by travelers requiring this form of accommodation.

In a subsequent October 2010 decision, the CTA provided further direction to Air Canada on how to accommodate travelers with a disability due to peanut or nut allergies. Following the October decision, Air Canada agreed to create a buffer zone for such passengers when at least 48 hours advance notice is provided. Air Canada also agreed to provide a briefing to passengers within the buffer zone.

However, Air Canada filed “undue hardship” arguments with respect to the requirement to serve only peanut and nut-free foods within the buffer zone, as there are currently no flight kitchens available to deliver on this guarantee.

In this most recent decision, released in June 2011, the CTA said it accepts that Air Canada cannot “guarantee” that snacks or meals served in the buffer zone will be entirely free of traces of peanuts or nuts because of the risk of cross-contamination. Given this, the CTA agrees that persons with a disability due to a peanut or nut allergy may prefer to bring their own snacks or meals.

At the same time, the Agency finds that Air Canada did not meet its burden of proof to demonstrate it will create undue hardship on Air Canada to accommodate such persons by serving, within the buffer zone, snacks and meals that do not contain peanuts or nuts as visible or known components.

Consequently, within the buffer zone, Air Canada is required to serve only snacks and meals which do not contain peanuts or nuts as visible or known components. The CTA accepts that these may contain traces of peanuts or nuts as a result of cross-contamination.

Air Canada is also required to brief other passengers within the buffer zone, explaining that they must not eat peanuts or nuts or foods that contain peanuts or nuts and will only be served snacks and meals that don’t contain peanuts or nuts as known components.