Ruling Backs Airline Passengers With Food Allergies

FRIDAY, June 21, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Airlines must permit passengers to preboard in order to wipe down seats as a precaution against food allergies, the U.S. Department of Transportation says.

The rule includes adults who have food allergies and parents of children with food allergies, The New York Times reported.

The decision stems from a case in September 2016, when gate agents for American Airlines denied Nicole Mackenzie's request to preboard a flight to clean the area around the seat assigned to her seven-year-old daughter, who has life-threatening nut and seed allergies.

After the family filed a formal complaint with the Department of Transportation, officials ruled that American Airlines had violated the Air Carrier Access Act, an airline-applicable equivalent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, The Times reported.

Under the Air Carrier Access Act, severe allergies are considered a disability if they affect a passenger's ability to breathe or "substantially impact another major life activity."

"This changes the entire landscape for the food-allergy flier," Lianne Mandelbaum, who has a son with a severe food allergy, told The Times.

"Until now, food-allergy passengers' safety was beholden to the mood of a particular flight crew," said Mandelbaum, who writes a blog about food allergies and travel. "When the decision came down, I sat in my car and cried for an hour."

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