Air Canada accused of mistreating allergy sufferers
Darcy Wintonyk and Lynda Steele, CTV British Columbia
Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 6:00AM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, November 13, 2012 7:00PM PST
Two B.C. allergy sufferers want an apology and explanation from Air Canada after they say they were mistreated on recent flights.
In the case of nut allergies, Air Canada requires 48 hours notice to create a “Peanut-free zone” around a person's seat and may also ask for a medical certificate. But its policy when it comes to other life-threatening allergies is being called into question by travelers.
Langford resident Rebecca Lanyon, who has a severe strawberry allergy, notified airline staff of her allergy when she booked a recent flight from Victoria to Toronto. Her allergy is so severe she goes into full anaphylactic shock if she comes into contact with a berry. In some cases, she has lost consciousness.
Lanyon brought a doctor’s note to the airport for her flight to Toronto as proof of the allergy and was accommodated by on-board staff. No strawberry products were sold onboard and an announcement was made to alert other passengers to her allergy.
But when she went to fly home, Air Canada counter staff wouldn’t let her board the flight because of her strawberry allergy – even after showing her doctor’s note.
"And [the agent] says ‘well, that's not good enough, you need to get medically cleared by our doctor to fly,” Lanyon said.
Air Canada insisted the Vancouver Island woman go to a hospital to get medical clearance to fly. She was forced to stay overnight in Toronto and was not compensated for a hotel. Air Canada finally agreed to accept her own doctor’s letter the following day.
Lanyon is furious that Air Canada’s allergy policy only accommodates passengers with peanut allergies.
"[It’s] discrimination over an allergy. Why is a peanut allergy more important than a strawberry allergy?” she asked.
Lanyon isn’t alone in her complaints. Cat allergy sufferers are also unhappy with air Canada’s allergy policy.
Andrea Soong alerted Air Canada to her cat allergy four months before her flight, yet when she went to board was told there were three cats on the plane.
Soong, who was traveling with her four-year-old daughter, said she became instantly stressed.
“I thought 'what am I going to do?'" she said.
Soong wants to know why allergy sufferers need to give advance notice but cat owners don't.
"I feel that the needs of the pet travelers are being put ahead of the travelers with allergies,” she said.
Air Canada declined an on-camera interview request with CTV News.
But in an email, Spokesperson Angela Mah said “it’s impossible in practice to create an allergen-free environment within an aircraft cabin.”
“Crews will do what is operationally possible for customers with other allergens...however we must look to balance the diverse needs of our 33 million customers who we serve each year,” she wrote.
Have your say: Does Air Canada do enough to accommodate allergy sufferers?