It looks like people with nut allergies are about to find flying the skies to be a bit friendlier.
The Canadian Transportation Agency ruled on Tuesday that Air Canada should create nut-free buffer zones around passengers who request special accommodation. The onboard snack and meal service would not include nuts or peanuts, or foods containing nut and peanut products, to passengers seated in the buffer zones.
The decision stems from complaints filed by Dr. Sophia Huyer and Rhonda Nugent (on behalf of her daughter, Melanie Nugent). After travelling on Air Canada flights in 2006, they argued the airline did not do enough to address the needs of those who suffer from severe nut allergies.
Dr. Huyer hoped to see nuts banned on Air Canada flights in which a passenger onboard indicated they have an allergy.
The CTA, however, thought that was going a bit too far.
"Simply put, it is neither practical nor possible to ban all substances to which any person may be allergic in a mass transportation system," the ruling said. Instead, the agency sided with the buffer zones proposed by Air Canada.
The size of the buffer zones will vary depending on where a passenger is seated.
For people in executive first class, the buffer zone will consist of the pod-seat occupied by the person with allergies. In North American business class seating, the buffer zone will consist of the bank of seats in which the allergic person is seated. In economy class, the buffer zone will consist of the bank of seats in which the allergic person is seated as well as the banks of seats directly in front of and behind the person.
People who wish to receive special accommodation should notify the airline within 48 hours of their flights, the ruling said.
And what about those passengers who want to nibble on a small bag of nuts but find themselves seated in the buffer zone? Sorry, pal. They'll get a briefing that "will inform the passengers seated in the buffer zone that a passenger(s) is allergic to peanuts or nuts and invite them to refrain from consuming these products," according to the ruling.
"The airline's next step is to let the agency know within 10 days whether it intends to implement this appropriate accomodation," a CTA spokesperson said. "If it does, then the airline will have 30 days to submit a formal policy on peanut and nut allergies for the agency's approval. If Air Canada chooses not to go along with the agency decision, it will have 30 days to file arguments demonstrating that the accomodation will result in undue hardship or submit an alternative proposal that would equally meet the needs of the persons in the complaint."
Editor's Note: An earlier online version of this story stated that Air Canada had 30 days to respond to the decision. This version has been corrected.