Fast-forward 77 days and my trip of a lifetime has reached the end and I begin my 30-something hour flight home from London to Melbourne, again via Dubai and Brunei [stay tuned for future posts about my time spent overseas]. Given the previous incidents on the flight to London, my travel agent had contacted Royal Brunei to ensure that they knew about my allergy. This time, my allergy was noted on my booking and boarding pass and the airline was well aware. No nuts were served and I received a special nut-free meal (yay!).
I was queuing up for security before boarding in Brunei when my name was called over the loudspeaker to go to the check-in desk. I had a very frustrating (note: I had flown 20 hours with no sleep), circular conversation with two airline staff about my allergies. My point of this post is that this conversation demonstrated to me the different understanding that this culture had of dangerous allergies (and something which, in my experience, some other Asian cultures have too). They understood my allergy and its seriousness, but did not understand the risk of cross-contamination or allergenic surroundings. The airline staff understood that I could not eat nuts, but didn’t seem to understand the risk of having an entire plane-full of people eating nuts around me. When querying whether there would be nuts on the plane, the staff kept repeating that my food did not have nuts in it and didn’t seem to understand why I was concerned with what the rest of the plane was eating. I was not asking for the airline to guarantee that there would be no nuts on the plane (as understandably passengers may bring their own nuts onto the plane), but just that the airline itself did not serve nuts. Eventually they understood my concerns and there was no issue on the flight.
Something else that readers should be aware of – I noted that flight attendants on the flight had no knowledge of what the food being served was (and I don’t mean my special meal) – they just knew, for example, that it was “chicken”, but had no knowledge of what the sauce was.