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My suitcase is packed (with great difficulty), the goodbyes are said and we .. are .. off! I flew with Royal Brunei Airlines; a lengthy 30-something hour flight from Melbourne to London via Brunei and Dubai. The excitement was buzzing and I just settled in for the longggg flight when I turn to my boyfriend and say “I can smell peanuts”. He looks at me like I’ve gone crazy because there are no nuts in sight and he can’t smell a thing. Needless to say, 5 minutes later the flight attendant comes through our carriage serving peanut snacks to all passengers (cue my freak-out). I strapped myself to my seat and didn’t move for the rest of the flight. Crisis averted – I survived and lived to tell the story.

Naturally, I had asked my travel agent to inform the airline of my allergy, but for some reason or another, the airline was not aware of my allergy. When the peanuts were served, I alerted the flight attendant of my very serious allergy and stressed the risk posed to me. To the airline’s credit (and the passengers’ disappointment; displeasure noted Mr. Cliff of seat 43H), the airline staff made a great effort to assure me that no further peanut snacks would be served on the rest of the flights through to London, which meant that two flights’ worth of passengers missed out on their snacks; credit to this Allergian.

The interesting thing about this, however, was that I personally have not seen peanuts served on a flight for at least 8 years [and I’m happy for readers to contradict me if this is not the case]. For example, since about 2006, Qantas has stopped serving peanuts as a bar snack on any flights or at any Qantas owned and operated lounge. I have travelled on numerous airlines and have noted that, to the possible disappointment of most passengers, the peanut snack has been replaced by the somewhat inferior cracker snack given the high rise of peanut allergies (we are multiplying!). Further, a lot of airlines have even gone so far as to make announcements on flights alerting passengers to the presence of a person with a serious nut allergy and requesting that no one eat nuts on the flight [personally, I’ve never heard one of these announcements, but it’s known to have been done].

Peanut snacks are particularly risky for peanut Allergians, far more than a meal containing nuts, because of the fact that everyone eats the snacks with their hands and then subsequently walks around the plane touching doors etc, which Allergians may then come into contact with. The peanuts and wrappers are easily spilt or dropped on the floor. Luckily for me, my allergy is not air-born, however for those that are, peanut snacks are particularly dangerous. Recently, a 4-year old girl went into anaphylactic shock on a European flight when a man seated four rows behind opened his personal packet of mixed nuts despite repeated warnings by the airline for no passengers to eat nuts on the flight. Ryanair has taken the situation very seriously and has banned the passenger from flying on the airline for 2 years.

I commend Royal Brunei for the extensive effort and concern they showed for my allergies, which included depriving hundreds of passengers of their snacks. However, I do think that the airline should follow in the footsteps of other airlines and replace the peanut snack on flights altogether with something less risky. With peanut allergies increasing from 1 in every 200 people to 1 in every 70 people in just a decade, I don’t think it is worth the risk of serving peanuts in a small, confined space in a tube that is stuck in the air!

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