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Boarding Now: Parents of Children with Nut Allergies

Boarding Now: Parents of Children with Nut Allergies

Airlines must permit some parents — or passengers with nut allergies themselves — to preboard in order to wipe down seats, federal regulators said.

A recent government ruling may transform air travel for passengers with life-threatening food allergies by extending to them the protections afforded other individuals with disabilities.

In September 2016, gate agents for American Airlines refused Nicole Mackenzie’s request to preboard a flight from Portland, Ore., to Charlotte, N.C., to clean the area around the seat assigned to her seven-year-old daughter, who has life-threatening nut and seed allergies.

The family filed a formal complaint with the federal Department of Transportation. Regulators determined last month that American Airlines had violated the Air Carrier Access Act — roughly equivalent of the Americans With Disabilities Act, but applicable to the airlines.

The D.O.T. considers severe allergies a disability under the act if they impact a passenger’s ability to breathe or “substantially impact another major life activity.”

Boarding Now: Parents of Children With Food Allergies