Is Allergy-Friendly the Latest Airline Trend?

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Empty aircraft seats and windows.

When Swiss International Air Lines became the first certified allergy-friendly airline in the industry, travelers previously lugged down by Kleenex boxes and EpiPens jumped for joy. But the movement toward allergy-friendly airplane cabins means more than a decrease in in-flight sniffling for allergy-prone travelers, it means a healthier travel space for everyone who steps on board, and it seems that Swiss International Air Lines may have set an entirely new trend in airline customer service and quality.

The First Certified Allergy-Friendly Airline

Airplane cabins have long been an uncomfortable or even dangerous place for passengers with sensitivities to airborne allergens, food intolerance and even adverse reactions to certain materials. Recognizing those discomforts — often leading potential travelers to steer clear of airplanes entirely — Swiss International Air Lines has taken the steps to make their airplane cabins as neutral of an environment as possible. They were recognized for their efforts in April of 2014 when they received their “allergy-friendly” certification from the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF).

Photo credit: Doug
Photo credit: Doug

How They’re Reducing Allergens

From the lavatories passengers use to the food they eat and the air they breath, Swiss International Air Lines — while not entirely allergy-free —  is taking all of the necessary steps to keep allergens within their airplane cabins to a minimum. The company’s high-efficiency air-conditioning systems not only filter outdoor allergens, they filter out the animal hair and dander from on-board pets as well.

Instead of highly fragrant deodorizers and soaps in the lavatories, Swiss International airplane lavatories are outfitted with hypoallergenic soaps and they’ve done away with air fresheners and scents that can potentially irritate travelers’ respiratory tracts. Swiss International has even incorporated lactose-free and gluten-free meal and beverage options into their on-board galley, and passengers with specific food restrictions are welcome to a special menu provided they give notice in advance.

Mother and child smiling at female air stewardess on plane

Is it Enough?

While the ECARF has given Swiss International Air Lines their seal of quality, many advocates for allergy-safe travel don’t think it’s quite enough. Senior Vice President of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Mark Tringale, believes the airline must ensure that every part of the airplane — from the seats to the airline’s peanuts and pet policies — should be heavily reviewed for “allergy-friendliness” before receiving certification.

“As a patient advocate, when you call something allergy-friendly you better be darn sure you’ve taken these things into consideration and have a standard comprehensive enough to really pay off the promise of being allergy-friendly to the consumer,” Tringale said in a statement to NBC News.

Other advocates for allergy-safe travel feel a little more satisfied that Swiss International Air Lines may be leading the entire airline industry in the right direction.

“There’s still a lot of ambiguity, especially for people with severe food allergies, but clearly every step they take to help mitigate those things will help people in the long run,” Amy Wicker — the founder of Allergy Safe Travel — said in a statement to NBC News.

Taxiway Traffic Jam

A New Trend in the Industry 

Swiss International Air Lines’ director of in-flight products and services, Sarah Klatt-Walsh, believes the certification will help the airline set themselves apart from others in the industry. “It strengthens our market positioning, which focuses on Swiss quality, hospitality and care,” she said in statement to NBC News.

But while it seems that airlines across the globe are guaranteed to follow suit, Mark Tringale thinks it will be a long time before an airline in the Americas receives a similar allergy-friendly certification.

About the Author: Courtney McCaffrey

Courtney McCaffrey is a travel writer and editor based in Wilmington, N.C. In addition to writing, she lives for travel - seeing new places, experiencing new cultures and surfing new waves.

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