- A woman said she felt she had no option but to abandon a long flight after Lufthansa failed to help.
- She said several cabin crew members laughed and dismissed her concerns about her peanut allergy.
A woman with a severe peanut allergy says she endured humiliating treatment from an airline on a journey from London to Costa Rica.
The woman, 22, spoke on condition of anonymity, citing a desire to limit publicity before starting a new job. Her identity is known to Insider. She has filed a formal complaint with Lufthansa that’s been viewed by Insider but has not yet had a response.
The woman was traveling from London to San José, Costa Rica, with a friend in June on Lufthansa via Frankfurt, Germany.
Two days before the flight to Frankfurt, she checked the airline’s allergy policy. Because it gave no clarity about whether the cabin crew would alert other passengers to her allergy, she emailed the airline’s medical-operations team. She said she received a reply five days later — three days after she took the flight — asking to clarify her name.
When boarding the flight to Frankfurt, the woman said, she asked a flight attendant whether an announcement about her allergy could be made but was told that wouldn’t be possible because there were too many allergies to take into account.
According to Lufthansa’s website, it generally doesn’t serve peanuts on flights but is unable to prevent passengers from carrying them on board. It makes no mention of a policy of announcing to the cabin that a passenger has a severe allergy.
Campaigners for air safety for travelers with severe allergies have called for “buffer zones” around vulnerable passengers, as well as more targeted announcements asking passengers to refrain from eating nuts and other allergens.
‘You won’t die’
When it became clear that no announcement would be made, the passenger said she asked to get off the plane but was not allowed to.
The woman said she told a flight attendant she had a life-threatening condition. She added that he “chuckled” and said: “You won’t die. You’ll be fine.” But the flight attendant did make an announcement after she protested.
After arriving in Frankfurt, she went to the gate for her flight to San José and asked the staff whether an announcement could be made. She told Insider her request was again met with laughter.
“She said, ‘I don’t know what you think that we can do. It sounds like you need a private plane,'” the woman said of her conversation with a worker at the gate.
Lufthansa’s guidance for passengers with allergies says that medically trained cabin crew members have access to medicines for emergency care, as well as to a 24-hour medical hotline on long-haul flights.
The woman said she was told the crew members couldn’t guarantee they could help her if there was a medical emergency during the flight. Despite carrying four EpiPens, she said she felt forced to abandon her plan to take the flight.
“For the whole day, Lufthansa made me feel sort of excluded from this part of modern society, of international travel,” the passenger told Insider. “I’ve been made to feel as though I can never get on a flight again. They essentially said that with this disability, you are not welcome to fly with us.”
A Lufthansa representative told Insider the airline could not comment on individual complaints due to customer data protection reasons.
The woman took a flight back to London and rebooked on Virgin Atlantic to San José. She said its cabin crew made an announcement to other passengers and told her what would happen in the event of anaphylactic shock.
She traveled back to London from Costa Rica two weeks later on American Airlines.
Like Lufthansa, American declines to offer a buffer zone around vulnerable passengers, but she said the cabin crew was more sympathetic to her.
During the American flight, a passenger in front of the woman twice opened a bag of peanuts, and both times, a flight attendant asked the person to put them away.
The woman said of her experience with Lufthansa: “We’re now in 2023, and a nut allergy or any kind of anaphylactic allergy is considered a medical disability. So I don’t know how they’re not able to make reasonable adjustments to allow someone with medical disability to fly safely.”