By JORDAN PRESS, Postmedia News May 12, 2011 3:10 AM
April Burns starts to cry while describing online comments responding to a story about her son, Matthew, 19, after he was turned away from an Air Canada flight Saturday because of his severe peanut allergy.
The comments focus on how far airlines should go to accommodate people with allergies. Some argue Air Canada had a right to deny her son a seat on the plane and feel any accommodation was an imposition for other passengers.
“It’s never been an issue in the past. We never, ever had a problem,” she said in a phone interview from her home in Louisdale, N.S.
Airlines have moved to accommodate passengers with allergies – Air Canada and WestJet have phased out snacks with nuts – but it is impossible to make an airplane allergenfree.
But the Canadian Transportation Agency said that having an allergy is considered a disability under the Canada Transportation Act, and as such airlines
should do something to accommodate passengers with severe allergies.
Air Canada’s policy requires passengers who want a buffer zone to contact the airline 48 hours before a flight.
On Saturday, Matthew and his parents arrived at the airport in Halifax, ready for him to fly to Fiji to volunteer for two weeks.
He came prepared with five Epi-Pens and a host of allergy medications he carries on all flights.
When the family booked the ticket four months earlier through the RBC Rewards program, they had Matthew’s ticket flagged so that Air Canada knew he had
a severe peanut allergy, Burns said. But the information never made it to the airline’s medical desk, said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick.
When the family arrived at the check-in counter, airline staff told Matthew he could not fly because Air Canada hadn’t received the 48-hour notice specified
in its allergy policy to create a peanut-free zone on the plane for him.
Burns said the family bought another ticket from American Airlines and Matthew flew later on Saturday.
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