Peanuts close up
Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Southwest Airlines to No Longer Serve Peanuts Aboard Its Airplanes

Despite having an update program for subscribers via e-mail message called In a Nutshell, Southwest Airlines has announced that effective as of Wednesday, August 1, 2018, peanuts will no longer be served abroad its airplanes, according to this article which was written by SGoldberg, who is an employee of the airline.

Southwest Airlines to No Longer Serve Peanuts Aboard Its Airplanes

Southwest Airlines
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Although peanuts are technically legumes — typically seeds encased within a pod — and not nuts, incidents of peanut allergies have long been a bane to passengers who dine aboard airplanes. What exactly should be done pertaining to passengers with peanut allergies aboard airplanes has been hotly debated for years, which included the consideration of banning products containing peanuts aboard airplanes altogether…

…but peanuts have long been a part of the heritage of Southwest Airlines, which only highlights the symbolism and difficulty of reaching such a decision. At one time, peanuts were all that Southwest Airlines served to its passengers aboard its airplanes; and they were known as the euphemistic Love Bites. Tickets were even advertised as to be so low as to only cost “peanuts.”

“This is a game changer because Southwest is known as the airline that actually marketed their ‘peanut fares’ along with serving peanuts as their snack of choice in the air”, Lianne Mandelbaum — who is the founder of The No Nut Traveler — said to me earlier today. “This change demonstrates they recognize that food allergy is a growing public health concern. A new analysis by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association showed that ER visits by children for anaphylaxis have increased by 150% from 2010-2016. Anaphylaxis is a high risk situation up in the air, thousands of feet up in the air there is no quick access to an ER. If you miscalculate the initial reaction, it can turn deadly fast. Emergency landings are costly and incident reports time consuming.”

One of many examples is the incident which involved Christian Calvert, who suffered from a severe allergic reaction aboard an airplane operated by Southwest Airlines on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 which was allegedly triggered by peanut dust in the air during a flight from Atlanta to Houston — despite the parents having informed both a customer service representative while booking a reservation and agents at the ticket counter when the family arrived at the airport.

Not Everyone is Happy

Southwest Airlines
Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

While this decision to no longer serve peanuts aboard airplanes operated by Southwest Airlines is lauded by people who suffer from peanut allergies, others are crying foul — and some people have even accused Southwest Airlines as no longer serving peanuts simply as a means to save money.

“Noooo! I have celiac and the peanuts are the only mid-flight snack I can safely eat! You guys aren’t thinking about those of us with gluten/wheat allergies — the peanuts are the highlight of air travel!” is the comment which was posted in the Comments section of the aforementioned official article by samloubolton and pertains to pretzels being served as snacks instead — and it was echoed by VickiLE: “What about those who are allergic to wheat!!! I have celiac and you were the last airline that I knew I could enjoy a mid-flight snack … and now that is gone.”

Reaction has been mixed in this discussion posted on FlyerTalk as well, as members debate the decision. “The whole thing is foolish pandering”, argued FlyerTalk member Often1, pertaining to passengers who bring their own peanuts aboard the airplane. “Unless they scrub the passenger cabin, including the seatback pockets between flights and then check to make sure that passengers don’t bring them onboard, WN is doing nothing for a person with an allergy other than giving false comfort.”

FlyerTalk member ktenorman responded with “I personally will finally feel comfortable flying WN after this. There is a big difference between 100+ bags of peanuts being opened all at once on six flights a day and a few people bringing peanuts on.”

Mandelbaum reached out to Southwest Airlines via Facebook about the decision and received this response from someone named Erin: “Hey, Lianne! We love peanuts at Southwest Airlines — we always have and we always will. Unfortunately, peanuts don’t love all of our Customers. To provide the best Hospitality and outstanding Customer experience for everyone, including those with peanut-related allergies, we’ll no longer serve peanuts beginning August 1.”

Citing this recent testimonial, Mandelbaum also stated to me that “studies have shown that peanut protein is particularly robust and persistent on surfaces — and even when Southwest suspends peanut service as they already do when notified, reactions can occur.” Moreover, her son Joshua — who is allergic to peanuts — said last night, “wow we live in the East and they fly South and West, that’s a lot of places we can fly now. Food allergy passengers — unlike most flyers — are loyal and repeat in a world full of choices. When we feel respected, we will fly an airline again and again. Southwest will be one of our top choices going forward!”

In a nutshell, the bottom line of Southwest Airlines is to ensure that flying aboard their airplanes will be safer overall for passengers who are sufferers of peanut allergies, according to Mandelbaum — as well as to always welcome them on the flights which they operate.


Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

I am biased when I state that I am fine with the elimination of peanuts being served aboard airplanes, if only because I never particularly cared for consuming that type of snack and usually refuse them instead of eating them. I have never been diagnosed with any allergies; and I would rather have pretzels anyway over peanuts — but that is just my own opinion.

No cure currently exists for food allergies. The only way in which food allergies can be managed is by avoiding the problem foods and learning to recognize and treat the symptoms of reactions. No longer serving peanuts aboard enclosed spaces such as airplanes is arguably one way to avoid food allergies from occurring — although it does not completely eliminate the risk.

For the sake and safety of passengers who suffer from severe allergies, I hope that they get to see the day when either all airlines eliminate the serving of peanuts aboard airplanes — or supply epinephrine autoinjectors aboard all airplanes for all flights.

A list of past articles which I have written at The Gate that deal with the topic of food allergies — and a couple of additional articles about being embarrassed by allergic reactions — include:

All photographs ©2015 and ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

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