Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Continental Airlines, I await your response

I'm used to hearing about peanut allergies on airplanes, but I have never seen the issue of pets on airplanes addressed in the allergic community. If there are stories and/or links that I am missing, please let me know.

Recently, as you know, NAH and I went to Vegas. The experience with Continental started badly, and was then fixed by some very competent and congenial customer service representatives. We were originally flying out of Philadelphia, with a connecting flight through Cleveland. Before we left the house for our trip, we checked the flight status only to find out it was delayed close to four hours,and we were going to miss our connection. After about an hour of phone calls with various customer service people, we were in the car on our way out to Newark, to fly direct out of there to Las Vegas. Like I said, bad beginning, good end result.

When we arrived at the terminal, there was a woman travelling with a very small dog in a carrying case. Cute puppy, well behaved (i know this b/c he was walking around our gate at the terminal), but I was quite perplexed. What was I going to do if I ended up next to her? My reaction would be far worse if she kept the case on her lap, but as a plane is pretty much several hours of recycled air, what was I going to do? Take enough Benadryl to knock me unconscious and just pray I didn't get blowfish syndrome?

Luckily, I was not seated next to or in proximity to the woman, the puppy slept the whole flight, and we all made it to Las Vegas safe, sound and blowfish-free.

But I was intrigued. For a peanut allergy, they inform the passengers, so how do they handle pet allergies? Shouldn't I have been notified in advance of boarding the plane that there would be a dog on board? What if I hadn't seen him in the terminal?

So I sent the following letter to Continental this morning,

Flight out of EWR to Las Vegas on Thursday, November 6, 2008. Flight was fine - this is NOT a complaint.

To Whom It May Concern:
I was recently on a flight run by your airline. When I got to the airport, I noticed that there was a passenger traveling with a small dog. I have a severe pet allergy. While I was lucky enough not to be seated next to or in proximity to the passenger with the canine companion, had I been, it would have been problematic.
Does Continental have an allergy policy? I am aware that if there is a peanut-allergic person on board, then your staff will notify the rest of the passengers. Is there a policy in place for when people are allergic to the pets travelling on your airline?
I’m a freelance writer who reviews companies for their allergy policies, and I’d be happy to share Continental’s policy with other allergic consumers. I have read your FAQ on travelling with animals, but it does not address pet allergy concerns. Please contact me at your earliest convenience. I’m sure my readers would be interested to hear how an airline handles pet allergic-patrons.

So now I wait. I will keep you apprised. But quite frankly, it' s just one more reason to stop travelling! Staycation, here we come!

~Allergic Diner

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