A British civil servant was removed from a flight this week after asking staff not to serve nuts.
Antonia Jeans, 33, from London, was returning from a business trip to Vienna on Tuesday when the incident on the flight, with Austria-based airline Laudamotion, took place. Ms Jeans, who has a severe nut allergy, was forced to book a new flight home, at a cost of around £300 to tax-payers.
“I was crying and had to walk down the aisle to pick my things up – everyone was looking at me,” Ms Jeans said. “Whether it's Ryanair, easyJet, BA, Virgin Atlantic – every single time I get on I have the same conversation about my allergy. They ask if I have an EpiPen. I say yes, I have two. I tell them where I'm sitting and they agree to make an announcement over the PA [asking other passengers not to eat nuts onboard].”
She said she did the same when boarding the Laudamotion flight to Stansted, but that the two cabin crew “looked at me like they didn't understand – there was a bit of a language barrier”. After the crew had consulted with the captain, she was told she wouldn't be able to fly, and a member of ground staff arrived to escort her off the aircraft and back to the terminal, where she was left to book her own flight back to London.
According to Ms Jeans, the plane's captain, on telling her to disembark, told her: “They would do the same to you on easyJet.” However, easyJet stopped selling nuts on all its flights earlier this year, and Ms Jeans – a regular flyer – has never been removed from an aircraft before.
A spokesperson for Laudamotion told The Telegraph: “All our customers with nut allergies should inform the cabin crew when boarding the flight and a public address is then made informing other customers and advising that no products containing nuts will be sold on board. While other customers are asked not to open peanut products on board. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee a peanut free aircraft.
“This customer informed our crew of her extremely severe and fatal nut allergy, and as the crew could not guarantee a peanut-free aircraft, she was deemed unfit to fly. Our crew is trained to provide first aid in medical incidents, based on this knowledge and for the safety of the passenger, they decided, that a public address won't offer the safety the passenger will need. Due to this, the passenger was deemed unfit to fly.”
Ms Jeans said the captain warned her that staff had no way to control whether passengers ate nuts they had brought with them. “I eat in restaurants all the time, and of course I can't control what goes on there, but it's about minimising the risk,” she said. “I thought it was really unnecessary – all they had to do was not serve nuts and ask people not to eat them.”
Rebecca, a fellow passenger who stepped in to help Ms Jeans and is fluent in both English and German, said she believed the situation stemmed from a language barrier. “The cabin crew were patently unaware of what she was talking about, and of company policy."
The airline, which was formerly part-owned by the late Formula One driver Niki Lauda but is now a subsidiary of Ryanair, does not mention on its website that nut allergy sufferers may not be able to travel. The information provided advises: “Please be aware that we cannot guarantee a peanut free aircraft as other passengers may bring their own peanut products onboard and some of our snacks onboard may contain traces of nuts.”
By comparison, parent company Ryanair's website tells travellers: “customers with nut allergies are asked to inform cabin crew when boarding the flight and a public address is then made”, while adding that it cannot guarantee a peanut-free aircraft.
Some airlines, such as Jet2, warn that allergy sufferers who carry medication should ensure they have it onboard, otherwise they may be refused travel.