Parents Of Children With Food Allergies Can Preboard Plane (USA)

A recent Department of Transportation ruling may transform air travel for passengers with life-threatening food allergies by extending to them the protections afforded other individuals with disabilities.

In September 2016, gate agents for American Airlines refused Nicole Mackenzie’s request to preboard a flight from Portland, Ore., to Charlotte, N.C., to clean the area around the seat assigned to her seven-year-old daughter, who has life-threatening nut and seed allergies.

The family filed a formal complaint with the federal Department of Transportation. Regulators determined that American Airlines had violated the Air Carrier Access Act — roughly the equivalent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, but applicable to the airlines.

The D.O.T. considers severe allergies a disability under the act if they impact a passenger’s ability to breathe or substantially impact another major life activity.

Regulators have reiterated that airlines must offer preboarding to passengers with severe allergies to give them extra time to wipe down seating surfaces.

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