- Emma suffers from a severe peanut allergy and has to carry an EpiPen
- Family say FinnAir refused to make on-board announcement about allergy
- Mother, Kathy, paid ‘thousands’ for new flights home with British Airways
- Finnair apologised and said they cannot guarantee a nut-free environment
A mum was left fuming after an airline refused to warn other passengers about her teenage daughter’s severe peanut allergy which could kill her.
Kathy Miller and her family, from Colchester, Essex, travelled to Ivalo in Finland, via Helsinki, for a dream trip to see the famous Northern Lights.
Mrs Miller’s daughter Emma, 17, suffers from a severe peanut allergy and has to carry an EpiPen
Emma Miller, 17, suffers from a severe peanut allergy and has to carry an EpiPen with her at all times
Airborne particles or even touching surfaces with traces of the nut can cause her throat to close as she goes into anaphylactic shock.
After booking the flights on Finnair, the group’s travel agent informed the company on three occasions about Emma’s allergy but received no response.
They were then horrified to be told nuts would still be served on the plane when it flew from Heathrow Airport.
The fuming family confronted the stewards who finally relented and agreed not to sell any peanuts, but then refused to make an announcement about the situation.
The same situation unfolded on the connecting flight from Helsinki and passenger unknowingly opened a packet of nuts, she had taken on to the plane, in the row in front of the family.
The family said that they confronted the stewards who finally relented and agreed not to sell any peanuts, but then refused to make an announcement about the precarious situation
NUT ALLERGIES ON AN AIRCRAFT
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, Amena Warner, Nurse Advisor at Allergy UK, said: ‘There is a risk that a nut allergic passenger could experience allergy symptoms while travelling on an aircraft.
‘The main risk comes from cross contamination – if other passengers eat peanuts without washing their hands afterwards, and then touch things like the tray tables and seat belts, traces of peanut protein maybe transferred.
‘Highly peanut allergic people, may potentially suffer a serious allergic reaction called anaphylaxis.
‘Symptoms of which could include difficulty in breathing and swelling of the tongue or throat, or collapse.
‘Peanut allergy has doubled in the last ten years and this is the leading cause of anaphylaxis due to food.
‘Anaphylaxis is a potentially fatal condition. But not every person with peanut allergy reports having a problem. When it does occur, it can be extremely distressing.’
Mrs Miller said the passenger had been as shocked as the family when she realised the danger to the Colchester Sixth Form college student.
‘We explained the situation to the passenger and she was mortified.
‘She looked so upset and shoved them away immediately, while apologising, to us,’ she added.
Mrs Miller, 48, fumed: ‘We could not believe the attitude of the staff.
‘It was insensitive and bordering on arrogant and was really quite cruel to Emma.
‘They said ‘we can’t do anything’ but all we were asking them was to take a few nut products off their shopping cart and make an announcement to the other passengers.’
‘It may not be important to them but for us it really could be the difference between her living and dying.’
Emma’s allergy is so severe she was the only participant unable to complete a recent hospital course which introduces tiny amounts of peanut in a bid to increase tolerance.
The student said: ‘What is more important to them – selling a few chocolate bars with nuts in or my life.
‘And even if they are not willing to change their policy, I think we should have made us aware and we could have made alternative arrangements.’
Her mother added: ‘On a flight Emma is cautious about even going to the toilet as she has to touch door handles which other people have touched. As soon as we get on board we use wet wipes to wipe the arm rests and surfaces.
‘A few milligrams is enough for a reaction and EpiPens are only supposed to keep her alive until the paramedics arrive. They only last for ten minutes and obviously this is a major problem when you are flying.’
The family of four travelled to Ivalo in Finland, via Helsinki, for a dream trip to see the Northern Lights
Emma’s allergy is so severe she was the only participant unable to complete a recent hospital course which introduces tiny amounts of peanut in a bid to increase tolerance
The upset family said the experience has made them have to consider taking face masks for Emma, along with rubber gloves.
During their holiday the family desperately tried to make alternative arrangements to get home, but could not find any other flights out of Ivalo.
On the trip back to Helsinki, staff were again unaware of the situation and only agreed to sell nuts away from the family.
The family then split up on the flight back to London with Mrs Miller’s husband Greg, 50, and other daughter – university student Becky, 19, continuing on the Finnair flights.
Mrs Miller was forced to shell out thousands of pounds
She praised the firm for its handling of their predicament.
After explaining the situation, British Airways happily gave out warnings about Emma’s allergy upon boarding and during the flight.
Emma said she was trying not to let the experience taint her amazing holiday memories.
The family spent a week away in Finland, staying in a snow igloo at Kakslauttanen.
Speaking to MailOnline Travel, a spokesperson for Finnair said: ‘We are sorry to hear the family has been disappointed with their experience with Finnair.
‘Due to the processes used in the kitchens of our catering supplier, Finnair unfortunately cannot guarantee that any meals are 100 per cent free of traces of peanuts.
‘Also, we cannot control what other passengers bring on board, nor are we able to make special arrangements regarding, [for example] cabin announcements or service on board. Nuts are also a part of our Sky Bistro buy-on-board offering.
‘If you suffer from a severe allergy, it is important that you are aware that we cannot guarantee an allergen-free meal, cabin or environment.
‘Please speak to your doctor before you buy tickets to discuss the potential risks and how you can minimize them. If you have been prescribed an epinephrine or adrenaline auto injector like EpiPen, make sure you carry this with you in your carry-on baggage.’