Two major international airlines serving Australia have refused to let passengers board flights over concerns about facial rashes and nut intolerance, according to recent reports.
A father claims his two-year-old daughter was stopped from boarding an international flight at Sydney airport with her family because she had eczema – a group of diseases that cause inflammation of the skin.
The father was travelling overseas with his children to run in a marathon to raise money for ovarian cancer, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
He says he was stopped at check-in on Friday evening because his daughter’s eczema, which produces a rash, had flared up on her face. The father says Etihad staff told him they considered his daughter’s rash to be an allergic reaction. They therefore would not allow the little girl to board without a doctor’s certificate.
The father says the airline’s attitude put at risk what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime. The family missed their flight but took another one on Saturday after obtaining a medical certificate.
Etihad Airways told the paper the girl and her father were denied boarding at Sydney due to an undetermined rash on the girl’s face. They said they took the action for the wellbeing of the girl, based on the recommendation of the medical advisory service the airline uses.
The case illustrates the quandary airlines face. Some people are allergic to nuts. Other people are allergic to shellfish, nylon, pollen, cat hair – all sorts of things.
Nut allergies, however, can be deadly serious. Allergies (not just to nuts) are reported to be on the increase around the world. Some 1.4% of all children in the US are allergic to peanuts. In the most severe cases, inhaling a tiny portion of nut dust can send a child into anaphylactic shock, which can prove fatal unless a dose of adrenaline is given – not always easy during flight.
Just recently, Emirates staff asked a mother and son to leave a flight because the six-year-old boy suffered from a nut allergy, according to the London Sun newspaper.
The boy’s mother claims Emirates took the action because the pilot “didn’t want a death on his flight”.
The mother claims she told the airline about her son’s allergy in advance, but she says a flight attendant ordered the family off the plane.
“I was absolutely furious – I couldn’t believe they were kicking us off the plane because Chester has a nut allergy. It’s not his fault,” she told The Sun.
The child apparently has an allergy to nuts so severe that he can’t even be in the same room as a packet of them.
Emirates say they informed the family that the flight wasn’t nut-free before they got on the plane.
Airlines are placed in a very delicate position. Are they to blame if a passenger suffers a violent reaction to a foodstuff or beverage served aboard the flight – even if it’s served to someone else?
Whatever action airlines take is likely to leave them open to criticism and possibly even lawsuits.
Written by Peter Needham