Food Allergy Research & Education Calls on U.S. Department of Transportation To Take Action on Discriminatory Food Allergy Policy by American Airlines

FARE Requests Investigation of American Airlines for Violations of Air Carrier Access Act

McLEAN, Va. (Jan. 10, 2017) – Seeking to protect the rights of individuals with food allergies who travel by air, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) against American Airlines for misleading passengers about their legal rights and denying them legal protections.

The complaint focuses on American Airlines’ written policy prohibiting passengers managing food allergies from pre-boarding. The Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of mental or physical disability, specifically states pre-boarding must be offered to passengers with a disability who self-identify as needing additional time or assistance to board. A disability is defined as a substantial impairment to a major life activity (such as breathing or eating).

Individuals and families managing food allergies pre-board to wipe down seating areas, tray tables and armrests so they can help minimize their exposure to food allergens – just one step in safeguarding against potentially life-threatening reactions. As stated in the complaint, by enforcing and maintaining a discriminatory policy on its website and in communications with travelers, American Airlines is not only denying federally protected rights, but misleading passengers about their legal rights.

“Through our filing of this complaint, we are calling on the DOT to take enforcement action and calling for a full retraction of this discriminatory policy,” said James R. Baker, MD, CEO and chief medical officer at FARE. “We also request mandatory training for airline staff to help ensure they do not continue to discriminate against members of the food allergy community.”

“The law is clear -- airlines must allow pre-boarding for individuals with food allergies who need to wipe down and secure their seating area,” said disability rights attorney Mary Vargas. “American Airlines, in denying this right, is in blatant violation of law. DOT must step in and take action.”

Last month, Vargas filed a complaint with the DOT on behalf of a Washington state family whose request to pre-board an American Airlines flight was denied. The family had sought to pre-board before flying with their 7-year-old daughter, who has multiple food allergies.

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

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About FARE

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) works on behalf of the 15 million Americans with food allergies, including all those at risk for life-threatening anaphylaxis. This potentially deadly disease affects 1 in every 13 children in the U.S. – or roughly two in every classroom. FARE’s mission is to improve the quality of life and the health of individuals with food allergies, and to provide them hope through the promise of new treatments. Our work is organized around three core tenets: LIFE – support the ability of individuals with food allergies to live safe, productive lives with the respect of others through our education and advocacy initiatives; HEALTH – enhance the healthcare access of individuals with food allergies to state-of-the-art diagnosis and treatment; and HOPE – encourage and fund research in both industry and academia that promises new therapies to improve the allergic condition. For more information, please visit and find us on Twitter@FoodAllergyFacebookYouTube and Pinterest.