Research airlines: Before booking your flight, research or contact airlines to obtain information about their varying abilities to cater to your specific needs. If you're allergic to peanuts, are they serving peanuts on the flight? If you're vegan, do they have vegan options? If you're allergic to dogs, do they allow those furry pets on flights? This might help narrow down which airlines to consider (make sure that the airline with which you are speaking is in fact the one operating the flight). Also, if you get any of this information in a printable form of communication, make sure to do so and bring your printouts with you in your carry on.
Of course, if you're trying to be frugal, you may have to weight the pros and cons. If the significantly cheaper airline does allow dogs on your flight, would you be able to travel without severe consequences if you took certain allergy medication before your flight or is it worth several hundred dollars more to avoid the risk of allergic reaction? Only you know based on your personal allergy requirements and history.
Advise the airline of allergies as soon as reservations are made: As soon as your reservations are made, if not before, contact the airline and advise them of your allergies. Try requesting a meal that meets your dietary needs, and request that they make note in their system of your allergy. I've also taken the extra step of calling again a few days before the flight is scheduled to depart, to ensure that my dietary needs were properly documented.
(Please keep in mind that even though I've never seen it happen, I have hear rumors of airlines denying passengers due to fear of severe allergic reactions (to nuts in a plane that is serving them as snacks, for example.), so keep this possibility in mind as you navigate the challenge of traveling with allergies.)
Pack your own meal: If possible, bring your own meal on the flight, that way you don't risk being hungry during your 5 hour flight. This way, if the communication didn't quite work out and you end up on a flight where they don't have a dairy free meal as you were promised and all the meals being served are covered in cheese and creamy sauce, you won't be starving (5 hours feels much longer when you have only granola bars to eat for lunch!).
Upon check in for the flight and during the flight: Make sure to advise all the staff who are welcoming you, from check in to once you're seated, so that they are aware of your allergies in case you experience a medical emergency resulting from these. You should also inquire at check in to ensure that your specific requests are still registered in the system and that your special meal will in fact be available on the flight, no nuts will be served on the flight, or whatever it is that's required to accommodate your needs. Perhaps even request (if possible) that the attendants provide the flight with an announcement advising that you have airborne allergies to nuts, in case fellow travelers have brought snacks with nuts with them and may be able to eat other nut free snacks they brought with them, hence avoiding a possibly complicated flight experience for everyone!
Bottom Line: Always keep in mind that you are unlikely to be the only individual on the flight that requires special accommodations, so staff may benefit from reminders to avoid confusing you with other travelers' restrictions. Don't stress, just smile and be aware of your body language and tone of voice as you remind them (sometimes for the fourth or fifth time) of your allergies. Always be understanding that they are very busy and appreciative that they are going out of their way to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
Have any other recommendations of steps that fellow travelers could take in order to ensure a smooth flight? Please share them in the comments section below!
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