Inside the Air Travel and Food Allergies Survey [Video]

in Food Allergy, Food Allergy News, Travel & Dining
Published: March 7, 2023

Allergic Living recently reported on a new global survey on air travel with food allergies. Our article reveals findings of challenging situations, but also opportunities for airlines to win business through accommodations. 

Here, our editor and content chief Gwen Smith interviews the two lead authors of this survey, which was developed by Northwestern University’s Center for Food Allergy & Asthma Research. 

In this airlines survey video, Smith first speaks to epidemiologist Christopher Warren, PhD, CFAAR’s director of population health research. Then at 8:00 minutes, she gets the views of Lianne Mandelbaum, the founder of the nonprofit as well as Allergic Living’s airlines correspondent. The video interviews took place during the AAAAI allergists’ conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Warren says the study “injects some much-needed data into the conversation around what’s happening with food allergy management at 30,000 feet.” He notes the scale of the study – almost 5,000 food allergy travelers or parents around the globe took part. Also of note: 99 percent had physician-diagnosed food allergies.

Airlines Survey Video: Data Holds Messages

In the video discussion, the pair give their views on the vast majority reporting anxiety when flying with food allergies. “I was taken aback by the high level of anxiety,” says Mandelbaum. “I knew food allergies create a lot of stress, but 98 percent really struck me.” 

Warren says the counterpoint is that a majority say their anxiety “would be reduced substantially” if the right airline policies were in place. “That was heartening,” he says, since it shows solutions are possible. 

Mandelbaum speaks of the opportunities that the data reveal. The survey showed, for instance, that about 78 percent said airline food allergy policies and good experiences strongly influence which airline to fly. 

“We’re actually the economic potential that [airlines] don’t realize we are.” Mandelbaum notes that it’s not only food allergy travelers who are flying. “It’s their parents, their colleagues, it’s their sports teams. We have a lot of economic power, so use us for that.”

Other topics the two authors cover: 

  • Why one-third of respondents didn’t disclose the food allergy to the crew or airline.
  • The frequency of in-flight allergic reactions – and the large number who don’t report such reactions to the airlines.
  • The striking food allergy experiences: e.g. the 11 percent who were denied boarding or asked to leave an airplane.
  • Messages for allergists about air travel and the benefits of doctors’ notes.
  • Epinephrine use in the skies.

Related Reading: 
Air Travel with Food Allergy Survey: From Anxiety to Crew Issues
Southwest Restores Nut Allergy Pre-Board, Advocates Seek More
Anaphylaxis over Ocean with No Epinephrine Vial in Kit
‘Borrowing’ Auto-Injectors on Planes