Singapore airlines (SIA) announced on Wednesday (July 19) that it is reviewing the serving of nuts on board its flights, following an incident last week where an Australian toddler suffered a severe allergic reaction to packets of peanuts being opened by other passengers.
Three-year-old Marcus, was accompanied by his parents Chris and Hong Daley, were travelling home from a holiday in Thailand via flight SQ217 from Singapore to Melbourne.
Prior to the trip, the couple requested for a nut-free meal for their son who suffers from anaphylaxis – a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction – reported the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).
This condition causes a person’s immune system to release a flood of chemicals that results in them going into shock. It can be triggered by certain foods, medication, or insect bites and stings.
The ABC said Marcus was served the special meal but had an allergic reaction caused by other passengers opening their packets of peanuts, which were served as a snack.
Soon after, Dr Daley, who is a medical doctor specialising in respiratory issues, said his son displayed symptoms of an attack.
“He started vomiting, his eyes were starting to swell and he couldn’t speak properly,” he said in the ABC report.
Fortunately, the Daleys’ brought the situation under control as they had carried their son’s anti-allergy medication with them.
They have since lodged a formal complaint with the airline and Dr Daley fears a repeat incident with other airline passengers might be fatal.
“If we don’t do something about it, it’s not going to be long before there are a number of fatalities in flight,” he said.
Ms Daley told the Australian broadcaster that she felt their concerns were “brushed off” and they “just want to make people aware that this can happen on a plane”.
She added: “All they have to do is just stop serving peanuts… and there’s so many snacks.”
According to the ABC report, SIA apologised to the Daley family “for the distress they experienced during their flight”.
“As soon as our crew were made aware of the situation they immediately removed all packets of peanuts from the area around Mr Daley and his family,” said a spokesman.
“To ensure there was no further incident, our crew suspended the service of peanuts in the economy class cabin for the remainder of the flight.
“We are in contact with Mr Daley and will be reviewing this incident.”
A friend of the Daleys who was on the same flight reportedly experienced a minor allergic reaction to the peanuts and later complained on SIA’s Facebook page asking them to stop serving it as a snack.
SIA responded that even if they did not serve peanuts as snacks, they have no control over passengers who may choose to bring them on board.
An all-out peanut ban on flights is not the norm in the airline industry worldwide, reported the Straits Times.
One exception is Australian airline Qantas, that stopped serving peanuts on flights in 2007.
It removed peanuts as a bar snack on all Qantas flights and Qantas-owned and -operated lounges.
Air New Zealand states on its website that it does not use peanuts, peanut products or derivatives of peanuts in inflight meals but cannot guarantee that there are no trace elements of peanuts.
SIA has an advisory website to address passengers who are concerned about nut allergies.
On the site, the airline states that it is unable to provide a nut-free cabin or guarantee an allergy-free environment on board flights.
“It’s not unusual for other passengers on our flights to be served meals and snacks containing nuts or their derivatives. We also have no control over passengers consuming their own snacks or meals on board, which may contain nuts or their derivatives” said the advisory.
“We request that you take every necessary precaution, bearing in mind the risk of exposure.”
“Currently, customers with nut allergies can request for a nut-free meal at the point of booking or at least 48 hours before their flight”, according to an SIA spokesman quoted in the Straits Times.
Reactions to the incident have been mixed on social media.
On SIA’s official Facebook page, some backed the Daleys’ call to stop serving peanuts on flights.
Others feel that passengers should not be restricted in their snack choices just because a select few might be allergic to it.