FARE Statement on Department of Transportation Order
On May 16, FARE received an Order of Dismissal from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding a complaint FARE filed in 2017 about an American Airlines policy, which prohibited passengers with food allergies from exercising their rights under the Air Carrier Access Act to declare their disability and pre-board the aircraft.
Guaranteed pre-boarding provides individuals living with potentially life-threatening food allergies with the opportunity to take precautions, such as wiping down seats and tray tables, that can help mitigate risks during a flight.
While American Airlines has since changed their policy, now allowing early boarding for passengers with peanut and tree nut allergies, this only partially addresses FARE’s original complaint. The new policy allows early boarding for one segment of the food allergy community and does not address other food allergens.
The DOT’s order states, “… in light of American’s decision to revise its pre-boarding policy, we have determined as an exercise of enforcement discretion that no further action is necessary at this time.”
It is important to note that American Airlines is silent as to other food allergies besides peanut and tree nut in its current policy. This lack of specificity shows that our original complaint has not been fully resolved. However, some of the language in DOT’s order will help drive positive change.
“The Department of Transportation has stated with clarity that individuals with food allergies can qualify as having a disability under the Air Carrier Access Act and also that the law may require pre-boarding for passengers with food allergies.” said FARE CEO Lisa Gable. “While the Department of Transportation concluded that American Airline’s change in policies resolved our complaint, there is more work to be done to ensure that the needs of passengers with food allergies – not just peanut or tree nut – are accommodated.”
As we continue to work on behalf of the 32 million Americans living with food allergies today, this recognition will help to bring them the protections to which they are entitled. We hope to have the opportunity to work with American Airlines on a solution that takes into account the safety of all individuals with food allergies.
FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) is the nation’s leading non-profit engaged in food allergy advocacy as well as the largest private funder of food allergy research. FARE’s innovative education, advocacy and research initiatives transform the future of food allergy through new and improved treatments and prevention strategies, effective policies and legislation, and novel approaches to managing the disease. To learn more, visit: foodallergy.org.