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.
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.
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.