The U.S. Department of Transportation built on its rule banning airline carriers from subjecting passengers to long tarmac delays this month by introducing additional consumer protections.

The Department is asking for comment on several alternatives under consideration to provide greater access to air transportation for people with severe peanut allergies.

peanut-airplane-featured.jpgAccording to a DOT press release, “To support President Obama’s open government initiative, the Department has partnered with the Cornell eRulemaking Initiative in a pilot project, Regulation Room, designed to improve the public’s ability to understand and participate in this rulemaking through a web-based discussion format.”

Nearly 200 people have commented on the proposed rule through the Regulation Room comment function.  A sampling of comments:

Comments Supporting a Peanut Ban

1.  This comment is regarding the “peanut free” flights proposal. My grandson (10yrs old) has an extremely serious peanut allergy. Because of peanuts being served on airlines, we cannot take the chance..again.. of flying with him to visit relatives. Once before, we requested a peanut free flight because of this situation. We paid more money for this flight because the airline said they did not serve peanuts. What we discovered is that this was not the case. Peanuts were served on the flight to everyone around us. We were petrified that he would have an attack before we reached our destination. Luckily, it was a short flight and although he did have a reaction it was not life threatening…this time… Not only is there a danger if peanuts are served on the flight, but also any residue from peanuts served on previous flights can cause an allergy attack. I would hope that they would remove all peanut products from this service …replace with pretzels or chips. At least, for our family, it would eliminate the fear of flying. Thanks you for allowing me the opportunity of sharing my experience and thoughts on the subject

2.  Regarding proposed rules re persons with peanut allergies: As someone with a spouse with a life-threatening peanut allergy (which she has had since childhood), these regulations are of personal interest. I propose that peanuts and peanut-product-containing substances (but not necessarily those with only peanut oil–the allergen is usually a protein not present in high-quality oil) be banned from airplanes in the sense that cigarettes/cigars/pipe tobacco etc. are “banned.” In other words, you may carry the items on board but you can’t use them. It is not carrying a bag of peanuts that is the potential problem, it is opening it and potentially putting peanut dust or other particles into the air. I doubt that someone eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich a few rows away would really be an issue, but why not be safe instead of sorry…and also make the rule easier to enforce? Just like the “no smoking” rule. Several airlines have already given up serving peanuts (perhaps as a cost issue, more than anything); perhaps all should. I doubt if the peanut-grower lobby could object too vigorously, because I would think the economic value of peanuts served on airplanes would be minimal in the overall use of peanuts. Also, it would pay to inquire whether persons allergic to peanuts (a New World legume) are also allergic to nuts (i.e., things that grow on trees). I don’t think you will find many allergic to both, so other “nuts” would be ok to serve (except, of course, if one is highly allergic to tree nuts). The risk [to] a passenger is high given the fact that epi-pens or other epinephrine injectors have a limited effect, and the usual medical instruction is to get to an emergency room within 10 or 15 minutes of its use. Not generally possible if you are on a plane! Just because we haven’t heard in the press recently about anyone dying from a peanut on a plane, do we need that to happen before a sensible rule is in place? I doubt you will find a volunteer.

3.  Consumer Rule II–Peanuts on Flights please consider peanut free flights.  My 2 year old son had his first peanut reaction while on a flight while sitting in a peanut-free zone.  My older son has a peanut allergy so we were all sitting in the zone when the 2 year old started a reaction.  I was able to treat him because I had the medicine for the older child with me.  Later on though allergy testing we found out his peanut allergy is five times more severe than his older brother.  The problem with peanuts on flights is the dust and oil are everywhere..on the seats, the seatbelts, magazines..etc. Also the recirculated air keeps the dust airborne.  Thanks for considering this in the bill.

4.  Regarding proposed rules re persons with peanut allergies: As someone with a child allergic to both peanuts and walnuts, these regulations are of personal interest. I propose that peanuts and peanut-product-containing substances be banned from airplanes in the sense that smoking is banned. The biggest risk is to have someone have an allergic reaction requiring the use of an epi-pen and not being able to get to an emergency room within 10 to 15 minutes of use. My daughter has broken out in hives (which lead to anaphylaxis) after sitting in a restaurant with peanut residue and shells in the air. At first I thought it would not be a problem since she would not be ingesting the peanut products. Well I was wrong! It was very scary watching over her that night and giving her Benadryl and praying she would have an anaphylaxic reaction. I can?t imagine having to deal with that in the air. Banning peanuts or inconveniencing passengers, etc to make an emergency landing for a medical emergency? I vote to ban peanuts!!!!!

Comments Against a Peanut Ban

1.  Banning peanuts is ridiculous. Are you going to pull them out of restaurants? I have celiac disease — I CAN’T have pretzels, crackers, etc. No wheat — in fact, I would argue that wheat is basically bad for most people. All of a sudden, everyone has food allergies. I do bring my own food, but I resent having to bend my life for everyone else’s issues. If they don’t eat the peanuts, they will not have a severe reaction. If they let the airline know, keep it off their row. Oh for heaven’s sake, serve cashews or walnuts — better for you, anyway.

2.  I am opposed to banning peanuts from flights. You are denying the rights of the vast majority of passengers to accommodate less than one tenth of one percent of the flying population. You are discriminating against passengers with diabetes who must watch their consumption of carbohydrates such as pretzels, snack bars, and chips which airlines serve. Denying a product that has near zero net carbohydrates is grossly unfair and dangerous for diabetics. The number of flyers with diabetes or other blood sugar disorders dwarfs the number of flyers with peanut allergies. I urge you to never invoke such a lopsided, unfair rule on the flying public.

3.  One more example of the government getting involved where they shouldn’t. Let the carriers promote Peanut free flights if they want to. Do not get the government involved. Next they will regulate body odors and perfume.

4. It would be the ultimate stupidity to ban peanuts when there are so very few people who are truly allergic. These people do NOT have a Constitutional right to fly on a peanut free aircraft. OK, maybe (just maybe) the 3 foot buffer makes sense, but that’s all. An allergy is not a disability, and if they are really that allergic they can choose to fly an airline that doesn’t serve peanuts. I know no one thinks about it anymore, but personal responsibility still should count for something.

To read more about the rule, or to comment, visit the Regulation Room

Comments should be filed by August 9, 2010. Late-filed comments will be considered to the extent practicable.

Comments can also be delivered by mail or hand delivery to:

Docket Management Facility,
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE.
Room W12-140
Washington, DC
Hand Delivery or Courier:
West Building Ground Floor
Room W12-140
1200 New Jersey Ave., SE.
between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.

(202) 493-2251