Flying with Allergies: 5 Steps to Take

Tips and need-to-know airline regulations when travelling with food allergies and intolerances

1. Take Off Early

When booking your ticket, consider catching the first flight out in the morning. Many airlines clean their planes thoroughly at the end of the day, so there will likely be less food residue on seats and tray tables on an early morning flight.

2. Call 48 Hours Before Your Flight

It’s important to let the airline know about any severe allergies and to inquire about the policies they have in place to help. Peanuts are long gone as an in-flight snack, but some airlines, such as Porter, do offer nuts as part of their in-flight service menu. Given 48 hours of notice, Porter will remove nut products from the menu. Many airlines try to accommodate severe nut allergies by placing you in a buffer zone where passengers in nearby rows are asked not to consume nut products. If requested, some airlines, for example WestJet, will make an announcement asking everyone on board not to open or consume nut products. WestJet flights also have vials of epinephrine and syringes that can be used by a flight attendant, with the help of MedLink’s 24/7 medical advice via radio-telephone from all WestJet aircraft.

3. Bring Your Paperwork

If you have an anaphylactic allergy, you will no doubt be flying with an epinephrine injector, such as an EpiPen. Be prepared to show the pharmaceutical prescription label and doctor’s note confirming your allergy in order to bring medications on board. If you carry liquid medication, check the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority’s list of exceptions for flying with liquids and gels, and bring supporting paperwork where necessary.

4. Pack Your Own Food

Those with severe allergies and food intolerances are likely already used to bringing their own meals and snacks. Having non-perishable packaged munchies like cereal, granola bars, cookies, crackers or pretzels are a good idea. If you’re flying within Canada, you can bring fresh fruit and vegetables, but your destination will determine if you can bring these with you outside of the country. If you’re flying to the United States, select fruits and vegetables are generally permitted on board, but check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website for details.

5. Take Extra Precautions

Even though you’ve given 48 hours notice, inform the flight attendant of your allergy once more when you board, just to be sure the message didn’t get lost. Also, pack your own hand sanitizers and wet wipes in your carry-on to clean the seat, cushions, tray table and surrounding areas.

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