Advocacy Update: American Airlines to Change Policy on Pre-boarding

FARE is pleased to report that American Airlines will be changing its policy to allow pre-boarding for passengers with peanut or tree nut allergies, more than a year after FARE filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

In January 2017, FARE filed a complaint with DOT regarding American Airlines’ policy prohibiting passengers with food allergies from exercising their rights under the Air Carrier Access Act to declare their disability and pre-board the aircraft.

On Nov. 6, American Airlines filed a notice with DOT, reporting that it will be modifying its policies and procedures to allow passengers with peanut and tree nut allergies to pre-board flights so they can wipe down seating areas. American Airlines did not indicate that the changes were required by federal law, according to the written notice, but said it was making the accommodation “for passengers with peanut and tree nut allergies who are of the view that this will provide them with an appropriate pre-boarding arrangement.”

“Anytime a company takes steps to address the needs of people with food allergies, we are pleased. This is a step in the right direction,” said FARE CEO Lisa Gable.

While the new policy, effective Dec. 12, only addresses peanut and tree nut allergies, FARE is pleased to see American Airlines take this action and will continue to advocate for accommodations to help make flying safer for the food allergy community.

Individuals and families managing food allergies should arrive early to pre-board to wipe down seating areas, tray tables and armrests with their own cleaning supplies so they can help minimize their exposure to food allergens – just one step in safeguarding against potentially life-threatening reactions.

FARE’s formal complaint, filed by attorney Mary Vargas, was preceded by a complaint on behalf of a Washington state family whose request to pre-board a flight was denied.

“Everyone wins when air travel is safe for all,” Vargas said, adding that passengers with any food allergy have the right to pre-board. “The protections of federal law are not limited to those with peanut allergies but extend to anyone with a substantial impairment resulting from any food allergy that requires accommodation.

FARE will continue to advocate for clear and consistently applied accommodation policies across all airline carriers.