When I last wrote, the three of us were left sitting in the gate area of US Airways, waiting. Waiting for a flight home. Waiting to hear what was going to happen to us. Waiting. I called my husband first. His helplessness and anger at the way we had been treated was evident. Although it wasn't until later that evening that he fully realized we had actually been removed from the airplane. I began writing friends, and I put a status update on Facebook : "Pass the word... Mother traveling alone with her peanut allergic child thrown off US Airways flight because they "Don't want the responsibility" and policy has changed over the weekend. Tears. "
I had messages within seconds. Friends wanting to help. Asking how they could help. I was talking to my husband, who was on the other side of the airport. He was literally walking up to the airline counters, asking them their policies for traveling with a child with a nut allergy. The thought of driving to another airport that Jet Blue or Southwest flew out of was in the front of my thoughts. How long would it take to drive to Birmingham? Jacksonville? How long would it take to drive home? With one change of clothes for my son, and only a few snacks in my back pack, I was afraid of that thought. Not AS afraid of being 30,000 feet up in the air when he had a reaction, but still afraid. I prayed...
After an hour sitting in the gate, Mr. Cole came to my mother (Joey and I were in the restroom) and told her that he could get us on a 4PM Delta Airlines flight. Delta! This is after Mr. Cole was told about our entire fiasco with Delta. I couldn't believe that not only did this man lack compassion, he also had the audacity to not give a rip about listening to WHY we ended up at his doorstep to begin with. Delta would not work, thank you very much. He reassured my mother that they were still "working on it".
Dave had found that United Airlines flew into Orange County, and was a safe carrier for our needs. He was able to find a couple flights, all with connections to get us to our destination. But I was hoping to avoid BUYING three more tickets. During this same time, a friend of mine text messaged me the same flight information on United. The flight number, connections, times, and price of each ticket. She was also able to tell me they had open seats! I took this information up to the desk area where the guys from US Airways were "working" on our flight home. Amazingly, they had found nothing! I told them, I wanted three tickets on United's 3:40 PM flight to Denver with a connection to Orange County. They agreed, and the tickets were issued.
We had another trek through the Atlanta airport, this time to concourse T.
It was another 2.5 hours of waiting at this new gate until we saw the United gate agent. I explained my situation to her. She told me that she would let the pilot and crew know as soon as they checked in. Again, no promises about a courtesy announcement, but they did not have any nut containing food on board the plane that they sold to customers. I waited until I saw the lovely ladies in blue suits approach the door of the gate. They were the crew. They held my future in their hands. Please God, let them be understanding. Let them have compassion and be empathetic...please, please, please.
It was about 10 minutes later that the gate agent made the announcement that pre-boarding would begin...and she also told the crowd that there was a child traveling on this flight with a severe peanut / nut allergy. That they would very much appreciate it if people did not eat nuts during the flight, as to maintain a safe environment for this child.
AMAZING!!! She was kind and direct and clear...and the people...they were wonderful. One man approached the podium with a bag of nuts he had just purchased, and told her that he completely understood. That he had a friend whose child was also very allergic to nuts...and then he put those little legumes in his carry on luggage, not to be seen until we reached Denver!
As we got on board, I thanked the crew, again with tears in my eyes, for their kindness. They told me it was "no problem". Ironic choice of words!? Before taking off, the pilot once again made the courtesy announcement to the plane...and you know what happened? The folks on the plane clapped! They did, I swear to you, they cheered. I honestly didn't get it then, and I still don't...but those people actually cheered the Captain's choice to announce a safety precaution for a child. How is that for goodness in the common man?!!
We reached Denver. Almost home! Just one more small jaunt, and we would be home! Thankfully giddy I approached the gate agent. Following protocol, she notified the crew. Again, we had our announcement made prior to take off. The flight attendants were so nice. I thanked them profusely!! We can taste that California sea air...almost home, almost home...
We DID get home that night. *(Our luggage was on the original flight, still, and wound up in Long Beach. We picked it up the next day). It seemed like one of the longest days I have ever lived through. But it was over, finally. Thank you, God...thank you for answering our prayers. For getting us home, safely. Thank you!
Things like this shouldn't happen. Not just because this story was about my child. I have a good friend, an adult friend, who is allergic to peanuts. She has to take 3 Benedryl tablets before getting on an airplane, and hope that it's enough to cover her allergy. Without those antihistamines in her system, her throat itches and she has what feels like an asthma attack.
Air born allergies are real!! The inconvenience a person might feel who really wants to nosh on that Reese's Peanut butter cup or that yummy bag of trail mix pales in comparison to the fear of what it must feel like to have an allergic reaction to those foods.
There are people who say that individuals, like my son, have to take such risks when using public transportation. I have to say that I strongly disagree.
Back in the late 80's the Department of Transportation, in association with the Americans with Disabilities Act, tried to start treating this very issue as a disability. They began offering the buffer zones and got the ball rolling in the right direction, seeing this allergy to peanuts as a true disability. Lobbyist from the peanut industry put pressure on the DOT, and further legislation seemed to stall.
A change needs to happen. Sometimes it takes a squeaky wheel to get someone to take notice. If that's the case...then by all means....
SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK...NOTICE ME! I'M HERE AND I'M NOT GOING AWAY!!