American Airlines will soon start allowing passengers with nut allergies to board flights early to wipe down their seats

By Julie Mazziotta
November 08, 2018 04:50 PM
Credit: Robert Alexander/Getty

American Airlines is working to make the skies a little friendlier for people with nut allergies.

Beginning December 12, the airline will allow passengers with nut allergies to board flights early so they have time to wipe down their seats in case of contamination from a previous passenger.

“Though we do not serve peanuts in flight, we can’t guarantee our customers won’t be exposed to peanuts or other tree nuts during their trip,” a spokesperson tells PEOPLE.

Passengers can ask to board early at the gate, the airline says, but they “strongly encourage” anyone with allergies “to take all necessary medical precautions before flying.”

The decision was prompted by a complaint filed against the airline last year from a mother whose son had a life-threatening peanut allergy, Bloomberg reported.

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Delta Airlines also allows people with nut allergies to board early, while several airlines, including Delta, JetBlue and Southwest plan to create a “buffer zone” and ask passengers in rows surrounding the person with an allergy to refrain from eating nuts.

American Airlines adds that it is waiting until Dec. 12 for the policy to take effect “because we need to communicate the update with team members across our system of 350+ airports and our crew members to make sure everyone understands and moves forward the same way.”

An estimated 15 million Americans have food allergies, with 5.9 million of those being children under 18.