A passenger with a serious nut allergy has claimed that she was forced to take cover in a toilet for the duration of her flight after cabin crew refused to stop serving nuts on board the aircraft. Laura Merry, a 25-year-old teacher from East Sussex, UK, was making an internal flight in Australia, when cabin crew allegedly refused to cater for her potentially fatal condition, despite being made aware of her situation months before she travelled.
The incident occurred during an internal Qantas flight to Melbourne on the 3rd of March. According to Merry, she was told by staff during the boarding procedure that, contrary to what she had requested, passengers would be served a courtesy almond slice on the hour long flight. When she protested, staff told her that it was too late to change the snack arrangement, and that she could either wear a mask, or not get on the flight at all. Since this was not an option, Merry reluctantly went for the former.
In a wide-ranging interview with Sun Online Travel, Merry explained that, “Qantas Australia were made aware of my nut allergy months before my booking and I had written documents to confirm that they would not serve nuts on board. However, when I boarded on March 3, the cabin manager's attitude toward my allergy was awful. She claimed she had no notes on my allergy and it was too late to make any requests. She refused to make an announcement to passengers about my allergy too."
Merry continued, adding that the cabin manager “...also informed me all 160 passengers would be served complimentary almond slices on my flight. I asked if this could not happen on my flight as it was only an hour long and the snacks are just complementary and not an essential meal they had paid for. But she refused and said these complimentary snacks are part of their policy." After trying to dissuade Merry from getting on the flight at all, crew allegedly handed over a thin paper mask which Merry believes, "wouldn't prevent an allergic reaction." It was this that ultimately forced Merry to spend the duration of the flight locked in the toilet for her own safety.
The experience has clearly left Merry shaken. In her interview, she revealed how she was “dreading” the two other flights she had booked with Qantas Australia over the coming months, and unfavourably compared the airline to the treatment she had received while travelling with British Airways. "Prior to this horrible flight I had an amazing long-haul flight with British Airways who happily did not serve any nut snacks on board and made two announcements about my allergy," she revealed, before adding, "Seeing so many young people die from nut allergies last year is terrifying and should be a sign that some procedures need to change."
Responding to the story, a Qantas spokesperson informed The Sun that they would be contacting Merry directly before her next flight, with the caveat that they “couldn’t always cater to everyone’s requirements.” The airline added, "Qantas is aware of the challenges faced by allergy sufferers and take steps to reduce the risk for many of our customers particularly exposure to peanuts but as there are a wide variety of allergies it’s not possible to cater to everyone’s requirements. As is the case with other forms of transport - like buses and trains – and other public places we can’t guarantee a completely nut free environment." It remains to be seen whether Merry’s experience will dissuade other allergy sufferers from flying with the airline.