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Food Allergy Research & Education Calls on U.S. Department of Transportation To Take Action on Discriminatory Food Allergy Policy by American Airlines

FARE Requests Investigation of American Airlines for Violations of Air Carrier Access Act 

Seeking to protect the rights of individuals with food allergies who travel by air, Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) filed a complaint today with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) against American Airlines for misleading passengers about their legal rights and denying them legal protections.

The complaint focuses on American Airlines’ written policy prohibiting passengers managing food allergies from pre-boarding. The Air Carrier Access Act, which prohibits discrimination by air carriers on the basis of mental or physical disability, specifically states pre-boarding must be offered to passengers with a disability who self-identify as needing additional time or assistance to board. A disability is defined as a substantial impairment to a major life activity (such as breathing or eating).

Individuals and families managing food allergies pre-board to wipe down seating areas, tray tables and armrests so they can help minimize their exposure to food allergens – just one step in safeguarding against potentially life-threatening reactions. As stated in the complaint, by enforcing and maintaining a discriminatory policy on its website and in communications with travelers, American Airlines is not only denying federally protected rights, but misleading passengers about their legal rights.

“Through our filing of this complaint, we are calling on the DOT to take enforcement action and calling for a full retraction of this discriminatory policy,” said James R. Baker, MD, CEO and chief medical officer at FARE. “We also request mandatory training for airline staff to help ensure they do not continue to discriminate against members of the food allergy community.”

“The law is clear — airlines must allow pre-boarding for individuals with food allergies who need to wipe down and secure their seating area,” said disability rights attorney Mary Vargas. “American Airlines, in denying this right, is in blatant violation of law. DOT must step in and take action.”

Last month, Vargas filed a complaint with the DOT on behalf of a Washington state family whose request to pre-board an American Airlines flight was denied. The family had sought to pre-board before flying with their 7-year-old daughter, who has multiple food allergies.

FARE will continue to advocate for clear and consistently applied accommodation policies across all airline carriers.

For media inquiries, please contact Nancy Gregory at 703-563-3066 or ngregory@foodallergy.org.

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