McLEAN, VA (Aug. 6, 2015) – Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) on Wednesday introduced the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act (S. 1972), bipartisan legislation championed by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), the leading advocacy organization working on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, and a coalition of patient advocacy groups. This bill directs the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to generate a national report examining airline policies for accommodating passengers with food allergies, and would require airlines to carry epinephrine auto-injectors for use in allergic emergencies.
The Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which is also cosponsored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Mark Warner (D-VA), directs the GAO to conduct and submit a report to Congress on air carrier policies relating to passengers with food allergies. This report will cover a range of topics important to the food allergy community, including the content and variability of existing accommodation policies, as well as how those policies are applied, how staff are trained to carry them out and how passengers learn about and utilize them. The study will also explore the incidence of in-flight reactions and emergency landings, costs of emergency landings, and the resources required to develop model accommodation policies.
The bill also directs the Federal Aviation Administration and individual airlines to clarify that the 1:1,000 epinephrine ampules that are currently included in emergency medical kits are intended to be used for the treatment of anaphylaxis. Finally, the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act will direct airlines to carry epinephrine auto-injectors and calls for crewmembers to be trained how to recognize the symptoms of an acute allergic reaction and how to administer auto-injectable epinephrine.
“Air travel can be particularly stressful for individuals and families managing food allergies because they do not have access to emergency medical care,” said Scott Riccio, senior vice president of education and advocacy at FARE. “This legislation will help address some of the biggest challenges faced by airline passengers with food allergies. Our hope is that the findings of the GAO report will lead to the development of clear, consistently applied accommodation policies to help passengers with food allergies make informed choices about their air travel plans. This bill also recognizes the value of carrying easy-to-use epinephrine auto-injectors on aircraft in a manner similar to automatic defibrillators, and includes important provisions that would provide better instructions for use of epinephrine in allergic emergencies.”
Sen. Kirk and Sen. Shaheen have both been longtime supporters of families managing food allergies. Sen. Kirk was the lead Republican sponsor of the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, which President Obama signed into law in November of 2013, and Sen. Shaheen was one of the bill's original co-sponsors. “Travelers with severe allergies deserve peace of mind that their flight crew can respond to an allergy attack,” Sen. Kirk said. “Ensuring epinephrine is available on every flight will make flying safer and could save lives.”
“Every day, more than one million passengers in the United States trust their safety and well-being to airlines,” Sen. Shaheen said. “It’s important that those airlines are properly equipped to handle emergencies, which should include having epinephrine on board, along with trained personnel to administer it.”
Working with Sen. Kirk and Sen. Shaheen to introduce this important legislation is one of a number of actions FARE and fellow advocacy organizations are taking to improve air travel for the food allergy community.
In 2014, FARE convened a coalition group of patient advocacy organizations to present a unified voice regarding the steps that the airline industry can take to better accommodate passengers with food allergies. In addition to FARE, the group includes Allergy & Asthma Network, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America and No Nut Traveler. FARE has worked with coalition partners to develop a set of key priorities, all of which are addressed in the federal legislation introduced today.
In addition to FARE and the coalition partners, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the Association of Flight Attendants have endorsed the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act.
For more information about the Airline Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act and to get involved, visit www.foodallergy.org/airline-bill.