You be the Judge: Should Family Fly to Disney Given Airline Accommodations for Allergic Daughter?

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A family in the UK has planned and paid for an expensive vacation to Disney in Florida. The catch: their daughter is severely allergic to eggs — so much so that she can suffer an anaphylactic reaction simply by being in the same room with the allergen — and the airline is only willing to accommodate them part way. What would you do if you were in their shoes?

That question brings us to this installment of our “You Be the Judge” series where we present a food allergy-related scenario and invite you to share your opinions and expertise.

An interview published on DevonLive relates the conundrum faced by the Fisher family from Rainham, Essex. Parents Carly-Jane and Craig paid £19,000 ($23,600) to take their 9-year-old twin daughters Dolly and Betty and 12-year-old son Freddie on vacation to Walt Disney World.

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According to Ms Fisher, she called Virgin Atlantic in February to warn them their daughter Dolly has a severe, life-threatening allergy to eggs. The airline informed her that sandwiches containing mayonnaise would be served on the flight during afternoon tea and the menu could not be changed for that one flight or they would have to change the menus for all flights that day.

A Young Dolly Fisher Recovering from a Previous Anaphylactic Reaction

After having been contacted by the press, the airline told Ms Fisher that the sandwiches containing mayonnaise will not be on the April menu for economy where the family will be seated, but will still be served in the Upper Class and premium cabins where the menu can not be changed.

Ms Fisher picks up the story:

We have to find out what they’re serving every time we fly because she could potentially die. She goes into anaphylactic shock. It’s awful, horrific. Her throat closes, she coughs, her airways close up.

They said they’re serving egg mayo and cheese and pickle sandwiches as part of their afternoon tea. We asked them to change it to something else. We told them far in advance.

They weren’t saying she couldn’t go on the plane but it’s at our risk but we could get to the gate and the pilot says they aren’t willing to take the risk. It’s such an anxious time.

We held off telling Dolly and Betty. If we couldn’t go, they’d be absolutely devastated, heartbroken, they’d be in bits. It will make holidays for them an anxious time.

The last time we went away she was so anxious, she said she didn’t want to ruin the family’s holiday again. A little girl shouldn’t have to deal with that. She didn’t ask to be allergic.

We don’t want to be awkward, I love an egg sandwich. I don’t want to stop people enjoying themselves but I don’t want my daughter to die.

The thought of losing all that money makes me feel sick. It’s really frustrating, my whole holiday rests on an egg mayo sandwich.

No one will tell you what they’ll serve on the flights. I contacted the airlines and no one could tell us so we can’t make an informed decision.

If we don’t get the flight, we lose £19,000. We’ve got a flight with easyJet before and they went above and beyond so it can be done.

Why do people with a peanut allergy be afforded any more protection than someone with any kind of life-threatening allergy?

I hadn’t worked for five and a half years and I went back to work to pay for this holiday so the children haven’t seen me for ages.

We’re dreading having to tell her we might not be able to go. I can’t sleep at night, I feel sick.

Mr Fisher will meet with an allergist to determine if there are medications and/or masks that will help ameliorate the risk of anaphylaxis for Dolly on the nine-hour flight.

A spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic said:

The safety of our customers is always our top priority, and for special food requirements we ask customers to seek advice from our Special Assistance team in advance of booking.

We are able to offer various meal options for customers with religious or medical requirements such as kosher, diabetic meals and vegan meals. For allergies we would strongly encourage customers to take all necessary precautions including bringing their own meals on board and to prepare for the possibility of inadvertent exposure.

On this occasion, we were able to seat the family at the back of economy, away from the meals being served in Upper and Premium which contain eggs as well as ensuring all cabin crew are aware of the allergy whilst also advising the family to bring their own food onboard.

Said Ms Fisher upon hearing the news the airline will make certain accommodations:

They said egg sandwiches will still be in the upper classes but we would be moved further down the back at the plane – its not the most ideal solution but it limits her risk.

It’s the only option we really have. I’m hoping that by creating a buffer zone as such around her with her mask and antihistamine it will be enough.

So with information in hand, we now turn to you, our readers — who collectively have seen and heard it all regarding food allergies — and ask you to render your opinion: What would you do if your family were in this situation — forgo the cost or fly? Do you have advice for the Fishers — other than TAKE TWO EPINEPHRINE AUTO-INJECTORS ONBOARD which is given? Has anything similar happened to you?

You be the judge by sounding off in the comments section below.

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Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom
Dave Bloom is CEO and "Blogger in Chief" of SnackSafely.com.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. This seems like a reasonable accommodation from the airline. I seriously doubt the validity of an airborne egg allergic reaction via mayonnaise.

  2. My daughter has multiple food allergies with anaphylaxis (eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, shellfish, mollusks, mustard). Her first episode of anaphylaxis was two weeks after she turned age 1 years, after eating her very first scrambled egg, which required a trip to the Emergency Room and administration of epinephrine She has never outgrown her egg allergy…has only accumulated food allergies more along the way. She is now 16 years old and very aware and knowledgeable of her allergies, cross-contamination in restaurants, and how to use her Epi-Pen.

    I am also an Emergency Room Registered Nurse, for over 20 years now. Food allergies can be very dangerous…and also, very unfortunate for the allergic person and their family. From figuring out how to shop and cook for my family without the allergens, making sure she could eat lunch at school safely, going on vacation, eating out at restaurants, visiting other countries and trying to understand the language to make sure she can eat safely…all of these are changes our family had to go through. I would not wish allergies on any one.

    Most people who are without their own food allergy or have a family member or close friend with food allergies, really are clueless about them and don’t really understand the significance of exposure to an allergen. It’s not their fault. Fortunately, for them, they just haven’t had to experience it, nor have they had to make changes to their own lives.

    If you have two flights, one with EasyJet, I can only assume that your Virgin Atlantic Flight is your overseas flight from England to Orlando, FL. EasyJet’s largest plane in their fleet only carries a max of 250 passengers. The planes that fly the overseas routes for Virgin can carry over 400 passengers, depending on the aircraft used for the flight.

    I was very happy to hear that EasyJet was able to accommodate your requested menu changes for your flight. That really says a lot about their airline and their customer service. However, I can kinda understand why it would be difficult for the larger airline to change the meal menu for 400 passengers, especially if it meant having to change the menu for every flight flying that same route that day. According to the Virgin Atlantic website, there are 14 flights from Heathrow to Orlando on April 20th. Changing the menu would mean changing over 5,000 meals for one route, for one day, for one person with an allergy.

    We love our kids. We will protect them at any cost. We have watched them suffer, been scared out of our wits watching them struggle to breathe. Having a child with allergies is definitely not for the faint of heart. We just want them to be “normal” like everyone else, to not have a medical issue that means knowing that every single day could go terribly wrong. I get that. I truly feel for you and your family. I’ve been in your shoes. It is no fun.

    All that being said…as a parent of a child with food allergies, I have never expected anyone else to make changes for our family. It is our problem, our family, we have to deal with it and adjust accordingly. Does it suck? Yeah, it totally does. It must suck for other families with children with illnesses, disabilities, and medical issues that prevent them from doing what all the “normal” kids get to do. Is it fair…surely doesn’t feel like it. But it’s not my place, nor is it fair for me to disrupt the lives of others to accommodate my one child, no matter how much I love her and want to keep her safe.

    Disney World and their restaurants/eateries try to accommodate those with allergies when they can, but they are not an allergy-free venue. Those with allergies are allowed to pack their own food and bring it into the park. We brought ours in a tiny cooler (at least back in 2014, 2020, and 2022 we still could). But my daughter has contact anaphylaxis to shellfish and mollusks…bringing our own food wouldn’t have made a difference if the person on a ride before us had shrimp for lunch and didn’t wash their hands. Fortunately, the trip was uneventful.

    I think I would have discussed the issue with my child’s doctor, the airlines, and Disney PRIOR to purchasing any tickets to anywhere. But that’s just me. Neither of my girls remember much about their first trip to Disney when they were 8 and 9 years old anyway, if that helps at all.

    Don’t lose hope. There are new advances in allergy treatments coming out every day. I pray for the day when my daughter doesn’t have to worry about her allergies anymore and can actually eat a doughnut or cupcake from a bakery that isn’t made at home by me.

    I pray you and your family get to enjoy a vacation with family time with one another, however that turns out to look like. Blessings, Christine 🙂

  3. This is definitely challenging since they already paid for it. It’s always easy for us as onlookers to say what we’d have done, however, it is a different scenario when you are in the middle of it. My only advice may be, next time verify all this before paying for anything. My daughter is severely allergic to dairy and tree nuts, but thankfully not airborne. My girl, since the age of 2 who is now 14, has had to be rescued with an epinephrine pen (sometimes 2) & ER visits 13 times. So, in my case, I wouldn’t even plan any trip that required a flight if my girl was airborne allergic. It is hard being a food allergy family. This requires us to be more creative about vacations and fun outings. Hopefully, there are great opportunities for families with airborne allergies to find fun vacations within driving distance. Ultimately, this family has to do what they feel is right for them and their daughter.

  4. I am a parent of a 10 year old with peanut/tree nut allergies. For years I have been the overprotective allergy mom protecting her as best as I could. But this year I decided that she has to live in the world we live in, and not the bubble I have created for her. (I understand the child in question is younger) We do our best while out in the world to teach her how to navigate her allergies by reading label, asking specific questions and evaluating risk. We are empowering her to do these tasks and make decisions where she is comfortable, and with guidance from us. I have her self carry her own Auvi-Q to school and public outings. She suffers from anxiety, which I hear if common with children with food allergies.
    We just returned from our annual Disney World vacation. We flew, knowing there would be almonds or peanuts served on the plane. We dined at several restaurants knowing the risk we were taking. WDW goes above and beyond to navigate those with allergies but there is always exceptions. In one instance were served cashew sour cream even after discussing allergies prior and during visit. Luckily, my husband and I had read the menu thoroughly prior to ordering and asked before injecting. At another eatery there were multiple desserts to choose from, one containing almonds and no labels on options.
    I offer these experiences because food allergies are work unfortunately.
    I am disappointed to hear the airline was more not understanding and did not offer a refund since they could not accommodate the need of the child.

  5. It’s really terrible in this day and age with so many children and adults with allergies that this airline isn’t more accommodating. It’s pathetic! I don’t think people care what food is available on flights so why they cannot consider top allergens when planning menu options I will never understand. Why don’t they just allow smoking again on flights since they don’t care about the well being of their passengers.

    I am Canadian and have travelled with various airline carriers. Some are great and make an announcement as well as do not serve nuts for example. However I have also experienced uncooperative flight attendants who say they cannot make the announcement. As a parent with a child with multiple allergies it’s already so stressful travelling to begin with and to have people who don’t get it is very frustrating.

    I pray their daughter is kept safe. Let’s all keep pushing for their rights to be safe in all situations.

    Sandra

  6. I would advise to purchase Flight insurance so that in the event a cancellation should occur you can get your money back. Do you best researching everything before purchasing tickets especially if you are already faced with a life threatening illness to safeguard your family. Consider other destinations if accommodations can’t be made as you can’t expect 100% accomodations to your needs at all times. You never know if the people sitting next to you have eaten an egg before sitting on the flight and touched the seat handle or lavatory handle, etc. that your child could also possibly touch. They wouldn’t know beforehand of your child’s situation. You just need to be prepared to handle an emergency as you cannot prevent everything.

  7. You’re mad at an airline because they won’t accommodate for your daughters allergens? Yes let’s change the menu for the entire flight just so you can fly to Disney. While you’re at it, give Disney a call and ask them to remove any eggs from their dishes and have them search anyone that has any product with an egg because yea the world revolves around you and your family. Do something useful with your time then lashing out that the world’s unfair.

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