A passenger has complained to the Department of Transportation claiming that crew aboard a United Airlines flight ignored her son’s peanut allergy.
Lianne Mandelbaum and her son Josh were aboard a flight to Texas on March 13, 2023, when she informed flight crew he had a “life-threatening allergy” to peanuts.
Mandelbaum asked if a crewmember could advise the people sat around them on the aircraft to be cautious.
Instead of the request being accommodated, as it had on a previous flight with United Airlines, Mandelbaum claims that another crew member of crew addressed her rudely.
“I went to go pull up [United’s] policy on my phone and she literally put her hand in my face like this and got close and she goes, ‘I don’t care what you’re going to say or what you’re going to show me. I’m telling you, this is not going to happen on this plane. So what are you going to do about it now?’ And at that point, I really did feel threatened that she was going to kick me off,” Mandelbaum told Good Morning America.
According to United’s own allergy policy, customers can request “an allergy buffer zone” whereby passengers sitting nearby are advised to “refrain from eating any allergen-containing products they may have brought on board”.
However, United also says in its policy that it cannot guarantee an “allergen-free” environment or prohibit passengers from eating food brought onboard that can contain allergens such as peanuts.
At the request of her son, Mandlebaum decided to not escalate the incident any further at the time, but did tweet the airline from her seat.
Following the flight, Mandlebaum filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation claiming that she “was subjected to denial of accommodation, humiliation, retaliation, and intimidation because she disclosed her son’s food allergies and requested accommodation”. She alleges that United violated the Air Carrier Access Act and Airline Passengers with Disabilities Bill of Rights.
Good Morning America obtained United Airline’s response, which acknowledged in part that Mandelbaum spoke with at least two United crewmembers and “requested that other passengers be informed that her son had a peanut allergy”.
However, the airline “denies that the Mandelbaum family was subjected to ‘discriminatory treatment’ or that there is a ‘pattern or practice of discriminatory treatment of passengers with food allergies and those who advocate on their behalf.'”
Mandelbaum runs the non-profit food allergy advocacy group No Nut Traveler.
AeroTime has contacted United Airlines for comment.