Child's peanut allergy warnings ignored on Southwest Airlines flight to Houston, family says

HOUSTON – A family in The Woodlands said peanuts served on a Southwest Airlines flight set off a severe allergic reaction in their 9-year-old son.

Christian's parents, Chelsia and Derrick Calvert, of The Woodlands, want answers.

They say they notified Southwest Airlines of the their son, Christian’s level 6 (most severe) allergy to peanuts when they made their reservation and at the ticket counter.

“We checked in and made sure they knew about the peanut allergy,” said Chelsia Calvert, Christian’s mom. “It was also on his original ticket.”

It happened, the Calvert family said, Tuesday morning on their Southwest flight back to Houston from Atlanta.

“She (an attendant) handed me some peanuts and that's when, as a mom, I just basically broke down -- 'what do you mean?'” said Chelsia Calvert. “How many have been handed out?”

The family said the peanut dust in the air of the cabin became life threatening.

“And so with his throat closing up, we're making decisions like, OK, we have to do this because this is life or death,” said Chelsia.

Ten thousand feet up in the air, they pulled out an EpiPen and administered it to Christian.

“In all honesty, we were not sure what was going to happen,” said Derrick Calvert. “We still had another 45 minutes at least in the air before we were able to land.”

“He's 9 years old and he's our oldest and we protect him and it's hard, as a mom, to administer a needle into your son's thigh,” said Chelsia Calvert.

The Calverts said they had notified Southwest about their son's allergy when they made the reservation and at the ticket counter.

“As my wife said, the head flight attendant said, ‘Oh, I forgot,’” said Derrick Calvert.

Shaken up and upset, the Calvert’s are relieved their son is OK.

“This could have been, oh my goodness, I can't explain it,” said Derrick.

Peanut policy

In our most recent communication with Southwest Airlines, they said they were looking into this case.

Lisa Tiller of Southwest Airlines also sent us this statement about their policy on peanuts.

Because it is nearly impossible for those who have an allergy to peanut dust to avoid triggering a reaction if peanut dust is in the air, Southwest Airlines is unable to guarantee a peanut-free or allergen-free flight.

We do have procedures in place to assist our customers with severe allergies to peanut dust and will make every attempt not to serve packaged peanuts on the aircraft when our customers alert us of their allergy to peanut dust.

Tiller followed up Wednesday with another statement:

We have followed up with the appropriate Southwest teams in regards to the Calvert family’s experience on our flight yesterday.  We have communicated our sincere apologies to the family, and our Customer Relations Department will continue to work directly with Ms. Calvert.  

Their complete policy can be found here.

Airline experts said that according to the Air Carrier Access Act regulation (14 CFR Part 382) airlines are required to inform passengers, upon request, of any service-related or other limitation on their ability to accommodate passengers with a disability, as well as the types of services available to passengers with a disability on a particular flight.

Many airlines have made their peanut and tree nut policies available on their websites to help passengers make decisions about their travel.