Aerolíneas Argentinas Removes A Passenger Over A Nut Allergy

An Aerolíneas Argentinas passenger has been left disappointed by the manner in which the airline handled her nut allergy. Meleri Williams was removed from her flight in Argentina, after alerting the cabin crew to her condition. It raises questions around how airlines deal with allergies, and whether Aerolíneas Argentinas acted in the right manner in this case.

Welsh student, Meleri Williams, was removed from an Aerolíneas Argentinas flight due to her severe nut allergy. Photo: Nathan Coats via Flickr

The details of the incident

Cardiff University student Meleri Williams was due to start her work as a volunteer teacher in the Argentine Patagonian town of Esquel. After her initial flight from Gatwick to Buenos Aires proceeded without any problems, she encountered difficulty whilst boarding her onwards flight. As usual, she informed the cabin crew of her severe nut allergy and was shocked when told to leave the aircraft, and that she would not be allowed to continue on the flight with Aerolíneas Argentinas.

The town of Esquel is over 1,000 miles from Buenos Aires, and Williams’ removal from her flight meant that she had to take a bus journey of 26 hours, instead of the expected two and a half hours by aircraft. By her own admission, Williams’ allergy is severe and could lead to death.

“My allergy is very severe and could lead to anaphylactic shock where my airways could close up and I could potentially die”, the British student told the Metro. Even though she carries an epipen, she did not want to risk an allergic reaction mid-flight.

Upon informing the cabin crew of her allergy, Meleri Williams was removed from the flight and prevented from booking a subsequent Aerolíneas Argentinas ticket. Photo: Nathan Coats via Flickr

She was left shocked by the airline’s handling of the situation, which caused her great inconvenience. She was informed that the only food available on the flight would be packets of dried fruit and nuts, that too many passengers would be affected should these be removed, and she could therefore not continue onto the flight. Whilst trying to book another flight, she was subsequently told that her allergy could not be accommodated.

Williams lodged a complaint with Aerolíneas Argentinas, but no response was forthcoming.

“We did not receive any sort of apology, which was also very upsetting and on what was our first visit to Argentina, creating a very poor first impression of the country,” said the would-be passenger.

Aerolíneas Argentinas is yet to provide comment on the matter.

Similar incident

Simple Flying reported in March how two teenage boys were removed from their Korean Air flight from Seoul to Manila. In a near carbon-copy of the incident involving Meleri Williams, the boys had no trouble with their initial flight into Seoul with Delta. It was during boarding of their Korean Air flight, that cabin crew offered them the choice of chancing the presence of peanuts on board, or to leave the aircraft. They had no choice but to return to the terminal to make new travel arrangements.

Approaching allergies on flights

Though it is nearly impossible to guarantee the total absence of nut-allergens on flights, some airlines have taken steps to ensure that they are as accommodating as possible to passengers. With service and customer satisfaction a major key to success, it seems prudent for an airline to make certain adjustments.

Aerolíneas Argentinas Removes A Passenger Over A Nut Allergy
easyJet has banned the sale of nuts on all its flights. Should all airlines do the same? Photo: Chris Sampson via Flickr

For example, American Airlines allows for passengers with allergies to pre-board in order to wipe their seats. easyJet has completely banned the sale of nuts on their flights, ensuring that they provide the safest cabin environment possible for those with allergies. By removing nuts from in-flight service, airlines can reduce the risk of allergy-related incidents. However, there is no control over what passengers bring onto the aircraft in their own snack-bags.

If those suffering from allergies are to be fully accommodated, should passengers be completely banned from bringing nuts onto aircraft? If so, how would it be enforced?