An Airline Flight Attendant’s Guide to Managing Passenger Allergies on an Aircraft

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Flight attendant careers are all about keeping passengers safe, secure, and comfortable in the air. Sometimes, the air itself can pose health threats to today’s passengers.

“You can find pet dander in about 50 percent of homes that don’t even have a pet,” explains researcher and immunologist Dr. Selina Gierer. “If you extrapolate that to a plane of people, you can imagine that there will be lots of dander in the air.”

When air cabins include not just people but also pets and peanuts (allergens affecting more Canadians each year) it’s no wonder that people with allergies can sometimes have anxieties about flying. When you become a flight attendant, your compassionate service and emergency management skills can help put their minds at ease.

Here’s our basic guide to how airline flight attendants handle passenger allergies:

Airline Flight Attendants Adhere to Airline Health Policies

In January 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Air Canada had no legal obligation to separate pet passengers from passengers with pet allergies in any airline cabins. This means that as it stands, the Canadian government does not require airlines to take any official actions on making flights safer for those with allergies.

Because risks are so high and governmental regulations are so low, individual Canadian airlines tend to set their own policies for managing passenger allergies. For example, most airlines have specific regulations about allowing service animals on flights. Passengers with these furry companions can generally book their tickets to include their animals unless a passenger with stated severe animal allergies books his or her ticket on that flight first.

Some airlines also practice a ‘5-row rule’ for separating pets from allergic passengers. Whatever the policy, it falls to airline flight attendants to carry it out.

Airline Flight Attendants Prep Passengers before Taking to the Sky

When you graduate from a top flight attendant program, you’ll be eligible for employment in a range of airline service positions. Whether you’re on the ground or in the sky, you’ll have a role to play in tackling passenger allergies.

Most airlines ask that passengers with serious allergies call and request accommodations when they book their tickets. These accommodations can be as easy as informing their cabin crew to avoid serving nuts.

When passengers arrive at the airport, it’s common for them to have prescription allergy medicine in tow. Airport staff will ensure these are labeled clearly and include in-case-of-emergency instructions.

“Advise passengers to take their allergy medications shortly before boarding the plane,” says Dr. Gierer, “to ensure they are at the greatest efficacy,”

And today’s flight attendants know that one of the most effective ways to reduce pre-flight allergens is also the simplest: ensuring the cabin is clean and tidy between flights. From wiping down food trays to airing out the cabin, this process helps to minimize many touch/airborne irritants that can enflame a range of common allergies.

As a skilled flight attendant, your input and expertise will help minimize risks of allergic reactions

As a skilled flight attendant, your input and expertise will help minimize risks of allergic reactions

Airline Flight Attendants Handle In-Flight Accommodations & Emergencies

With the cabin prepped for takeoff, professionals in flight attendant careers are ready to keep each of their passengers as comfortable as possible. If your airline allows, you may even go the extra mile by informing the cabin about the presence of a traveller with a particular allergy.

Some airlines also have masks you can offer passengers if airway irritants (like chemicals in perfume) cause any asthma or nasal symptoms to flare up.

In extreme cases, flight attendants may need to re-seat passengers to distance them from particular allergens, or even to administer medication by following basic instructions on the passenger’s medical ID jewelry or EpiPen label.

Managing everything from airway emergencies to seasonal sniffles, these jet-setting pros help keep every passenger breathing easy.

Are you interested in becoming an airline flight attendant?

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