Woman Says She Was Booted From American Airlines Flight Over Nut Allergy

A 26-year-old woman in England claimed that she was turned away from a flight after the airline refused to bend its rule about serving nuts despite her life-threatening allergy.

Sophie Draper, a Ph.D. researcher based in Durham, England, was attempting to take a flight from London Heathrow Airport to JFK International Airport in New York City in December. When she arrived for her flight, Draper said she American Airlines representatives about her severe nut told allergy. Rather than take the necessary precautions to assure her safety, Draper told HuffPost UK that the airline refused to accommodate her medical condition.

Draper was allegedly told by the head of the cabin crew that they were “contractually obliged to serve hot mixed nuts in first and business class” and that it was “against company policy” to make any announcements or changes related to food allergies.

A woman claims to have been kicked off a trans-Atlantic American Airlines flight due to her severe nut allergy. Above, an American Airlines plane is seen through the window at an airport.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

Draper’s allergy applies to all varieties of tree nuts and can be triggered by airborne particles. The flight would have needed to remove and not serve nuts in all classes, not just near her in Economy class, in order for her to be safe.

In response to concern from Draper’s partner about her potentially going into anaphylaxis over the Atlantic Ocean, one member of the flight crew allegedly asked if he knew how to use an EpiPen. From that point, the couple says their luggage was removed from the plane and they were escorted away to find a new flight on a different airline.

“American Airlines made me feel like my health and safety and that of others with severe food allergies is not important,” Draper told HuffPost UK. “I have no control over my nut allergy and the danger it presents to my life if I were to go into anaphylaxis.

“Adults and children with severe nut allergies already face many barriers to travel and experiences, the least airlines could do is take this health condition seriously by making appropriate announcements and replacing nuts with another snack.”

The couple was taken to British Airways to rearrange their flight plans. She said that the new airline took extensive actions to ensure her safety, removing nuts from the flight, making an announcement about her allergy to all passengers and advising each passenger personally within a few rows of Draper’s seat.

Draper initially spoke out online and then to HuffPost UK after not receiving a response from American Airlines for over a month. After the outlet itself reached out, the airline issued a statement and claimed to have responded to Draper.

“Protecting the health and safety of those who fly with us is our priority, and it’s essential to our purpose of caring for our customers as they travel,” the statement said. “We regret that we disappointed Ms. Draper and her travel partner during this trip, and our team has reached out to apologize and hear more about their experience.”

news week reached out to American Airlines for comment.

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