Air Canada has been told to create a special "buffer zone" on flights for people who are allergic to nuts.
The Canadian Transportation Agency has ruled that passengers who have nut allergies should be considered disabled and accommodated by the airline. The CTA has advised Air Canada to come up with an appropriate section of seats where passengers with nut allergies would be seated.
"It is clear from the evidence that there is a need for a formal policy to accommodate persons with disabilities due to their allergy to peanuts or nuts," the agency said in its ruling. "Such a policy would remove the uncertainty that an individual experiences each and every time they travel, mitigating the risk that they will be exposed to an allergen with the possibility of experiencing serious consequences as a result."
The CTA added that it "has determined that the appropriate accommodation for persons with disabilities due to their allergy to peanuts or nuts, when advance notice is provided, is to be seated in a buffer zone," including an announcement to the other passengers within that zone.
The airline has about one month to come up with a plan to address the issue, or challenge the CTA's decision.
Air Canada stopped serving peanuts years ago, but the airline still serves cashews and other snacks that contain nuts.
The ruling involved a complaint from Sophia Huyer who has a severe nut allergy and travels frequently. Ms. Huyer has notified Air Canada about her allergy before flying but the airline had difficulty accommodating her, according to Ms. Huyer. She once spent 40 minutes in the washroom during a flight while snacks were being served. On another flight the captain demanded she sign a waiver before boarding in order to release Air Canada from any liability if she had a reaction.
Ms. Huyer said she is unhappy with the ruling because it won't solve the problem. "It's not enough," she said. "You know that in grade schools if there is a child with a nut allergy nuts are banned either from the classroom or the entire school because that's how dangerous it is."
She wants all nuts banned from all airlines.
The CTA ruling only applies to Air Canada, but an agency spokesperson said other airlines typically follow suit in such situations.