Kindness Is a Choice — Thank You to One Special Flight Attendant
If you have a food allergic child, you know how much fear and anxiety can present itself whenever you must travel on an airliner. Advocates for raising awareness of the dangers of anaphylaxis have worked diligently to change protocols and attitudes about peanuts and air travel. Lianne Mandelbaum, the “No Nut Traveler,” shares one story with a safe and happy ending.
By Lianne Mandelbaum
January 3rd, 2017
Dear Head Flight Attendant on Air Canada Flight 85,
You may remember me as the mother of a boy who has a severe peanut allergy. We were on your Toronto bound flight on December 29th from Tel Aviv. I know you were aware that our flight, which took off at 7PM, was originally supposed to take off about seven hours earlier, but what I am sure you don’t realize is the unique stress that this delay caused our family.
As we were going to miss our connecting flight due to the delay, the agent who booked our tickets offered us a different flight that was far more convenient and direct. The problem for us was that the flight was on United Airlines. Three years ago, when we were supposed to take a United flight, a manager told my son when informed of his peanut allergy “If you think he’s going to die, don’t get on the plane.” It turns out these words continue to haunt him to this day and I don’t blame him.
You, however, could not possibly know the fear these words have etched in my son’s heart, nor could you have realized how he sobbed when we asked him if he would consider taking the United flight instead. Given his reaction, coupled with my own fear that we may be asked to leave the plane for disclosing his food allergy, we decided to stay with our original delayed flight.
I will admit we were nervous having never flown Air Canada. However, you went above and beyond allaying our fears of flying over the ocean with a peanut allergic child. As we were pre-boarding to be able to thoroughly clean our area from the last occupant, we met you.
You came over, introduced yourself and asked which of my three children had the peanut allergy. You then proceeded to tell me the buffer zone I had requested for my son (an area in front, around and behind us where other passengers would be asked to not consume nuts) was unacceptable. My heart fluttered for just a moment, as I believed that my requested buffer zone would not be a forthcoming precaution for a transatlantic flight. However, you said, “There will be no nuts on this plane at all; I am not putting your son in any jeopardy.” I went to remind you that it was only to peanuts that my son was allergic. You then said to me, “Well what about cross contamination from other nuts, I am not taking any chances in the air”.
I was rendered speechless (rare for me) from the kindness, empathy and compassion being spun in our direction. But to my shock, you did us one better. You went up to my son and personally told him that there would be no nuts on this flight and that he should be safe. You made my son feel happy and secure in the air for an eleven-hour flight.
Too often in life I find that, especially with airline travel, complaints rise to the surface but compliments never see the light of day. Not this time. You may have forgotten our family by now, but trust me, we will never forget you. You treated my son’s food allergy (a legitimate medical condition) with dignity and respect and you bestowed kindness upon our entire family.