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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Post# 275 - Delta - Peanuts on Flights?

A friend brought her bad experience on Delta to my attention.  I've had my own experiences with this fine airline.  I submitted this on 10/17/2011:

Dear Delta,

A friend of mine was telling me about a horrible Delta experience that she and her family recently experienced.  This was last summer, so if your policies have changed since then, I apologize, and kudos.

The "Jackson" family is comprised of four members.  The youngest, "Holly" has a very severe peanut allergy.  Well in advance of this flight, the maternal member, "Julie," called your team, forewarning them of this issue.  She asked for, maybe not a peanut-free flight, but a three row peanut-free "buffer."  She was assured that this would be handled, that the flight team would be alerted, and that the appropriate steps would be taken.

The flight took off, the seatbelt light was turned off, and out came the peanuts.  Holly started having trouble breathing.  This wasn't a puddle jumper flight, this was DTW to SFO.  Holly's parents gave her Benedryl, and luckily, the peanut dust and debris, your recirculated incubator airspace, did not seize her throat and lungs.

Had the outcome been different, maybe you wouldn't have apologized and handed them some frequent flyer miles (which have a heavy transfer fee that makes them almost worthless to anyone but the person who received them, as I know from personal experience).  Did this solve the problem?  No.  Actually, they've driven from Michigan to Florida twice now, just to avoid using Delta.

Look, I like peanuts just as much as the next guy or gal.  But on a flight, where they could kill or seriously hurt another passenger, I'll pass.  There are plenty of tasty, low cost (because I know that's important to you) options.  Pretzels, Goldfish, gluten free potato chips, those little soy rice crackers, raisins, just to name a few.  I'm sure some of those present other allergen risks, but isn't the peanut the "heavy hitter" in the allergen food chain?

In this instance, what failed?  Why did the crew "not get the message"?  What steps, if any, were taken to address the root cause?  Was there a lesson learned?  How do I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that little Holly Jackson can safely fly on your airline and not worry about her lungs stopping?

I recommend a policy change.  If you can't handle the simple task of not handing out peanuts because they might kill a passenger, you shouldn't be serving peanuts at all.  For the record, I'm not confident that you are capable of handling that task.

You've already simplified your meal prep by eliminating meals.  Now you need to simplify your snack operations.  Peanut and gluten-free potato chips or raisins for everyone!



Their response, sent 10/21/11
Dear Jerry,

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for writing about our peanut policy. On behalf of Delta Air
Lines, we sincerely apologize for your disappointment with our peanut

First, please understand, in respect of our passengers I am unable to
address the comments you made regarding your friends experience. That
said, I am truly sorry for any discomfort any of our passengers felt
onboard our aircraft.

Please know I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns
regarding our policy for those passengers who have peanut/tree nut
allergies. We sympathize with these passengers and welcome them onboard
with the understanding that public transportation poses an inherent risk
to passengers with nut allergies.

We encourage passengers with a nut allergy to take the necessary medical
precautions to prepare for any possible exposure. Prior to their
flights, we also ask that they call one of our reservations sales agents
and have their Electronic Ticket Record (ETR) noted regarding their

On the day of travel, it is important for them to notify our team member
at the gate of their peanut allergy. Upon notification, the flight
attendants on their flight will be advised to create a buffer zone (3
rows forward/3 rows aft/adjacent row) in which the flight attendants
will refrain from serving peanuts. Individual passengers seated in the
buffer zone will also be notified by the flight attendants of their

Respectfully, we are not in a position to remove all nut products from
our flights. As such we must advise you of the following.

- We cannot guarantee a peanut/nut free environment. Peanuts, products
made from peanut oil, and other nuts may be brought onboard by any
- Peanut or tree nut remnants, peanut dust or peanut oil may be on the
aircraft floor, seats, or tray tables from previous flights.
- We will serve peanuts/tree nuts and products processed or packaged in
peanut factories on our flights.

Again, I am sorry you are disappointed with our peanut policy. Please
know I will forward your comments and suggestions to the appropriate
leadership team for review.

As a SkyMiles member, you are an integral part of our customer base and
we are always interested in your feedback. Thank you for taking the
time to write regarding our peanut policy. We deeply value your
business and look forward to the pleasure of serving you in the months
and years ahead.


Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines
My response, sent 10/30/11:

Dear Maura,

Thank you for responding.  I appreciate your feedback.

Here's what I don't understand.  If I tell the Delta Representative on the phone, why would I also need to tell the team member at the gate?  What happened to the person on the phone?  Why, for each flight, wouldn't there be a list of things like allergies, kids traveling without a parent, elderly loved one who needs his oxygen tank.  These kinds of things.  For each flight, the team member at the gate would pull up this list of things, and then call us and all of the flight attendants over and explain the situation.  It seems less-than-efficient to have me needing to remind everyone, and this highlights the lack of communication that led to our situation.

I mentioned the Benadryl--what other medical precautions could I take, given the thought that we were counting on the three row buffer that didn't happen?

You spend a lot of time talking about other passengers bringing rogue PB and J's (because you no longer serve meals) and other peanut-laden foods.  Let's say 12% of the flight did this, and the PPM peanut allergen count in the recirculated air was "X."  Now, you're serving peanuts to 99% of the flight, and that particle count is now 1200X.  I guess what I'm saying is, by serving peanuts on your flights, you're certainly not helping matters.  In fact, you're the biggest cause.

I'm asking you to take a step back and put on your thinking caps.  Use common sense. 1) Better communication within your ranks.  2) Stop serving peanuts.


Delta's response, sent 10/30/11:
Dear Jerry,

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for writing and allowing me the opportunity to further review
your concerns. On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I am genuinely sorry you
were dissatisfied with my response.

I understand you feel I did not adequately address your concerns. I was
happy to review your comments again to see if there was something I
missed. Respectfully, there is nothing more I can add. I am sorry to
disappoint you, as I understand this is not the answer you were

Again, I regret your disappointment with our peanut policy. Your
support is important to us, and I thank you for your additional time and
effort. We look forward to the privilege of serving your air travel
needs again soon.


Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines
My response to Maura, sent 10/30/11:


If you're unwilling to revisit or rethink your policies and intradepartmental communications, then there really is nothing more to discuss.

I find it to be a sad and unfortunate commentary on the state of the airlines.  With less competition, there's less incentive to bend.  I don't think my suggestions are unreasonable.  Your policy is your policy.  So be it.

Thanks for getting bck to me.

Delta's response, sent 10/31/11:

Dear Jerry

RE: Case Number 4677998

Thank you for your most recent communication expressing your continued
dissatisfaction with my response. On behalf of Delta Air Lines, I
apologize that I have been unable to offer a satisfactory resolution.

Jerry, please be assured, I have forwarded all of your feedback to
the appropriate leadership teams for review.

Again, I am sorry you are dissatisfied with our peanut policy. I hope
in time you will provide us with another opportunity to restore your


Maura Coordinator, Corporate Customer Care
Delta Air Lines

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