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Let’s face it.  Sometimes air travel can be quite uncomfortable, especially for people suffering from asthma, allergies and migraines.  The air that recirculates throughout the plane alone can make anyone sick and strong scents like perfumes, body odor, dirty seats and food smells can trigger an outbreak of some sort at any time.

A few days ago I was watching the news on television and a story was reported that was quite interesting to me.  It was about a Swiss Airline that is the first to become completely allergy-friendly.

As a mother and an allergy-sufferer myself, I think this is a wonderful idea.  Airlines and hotels need to make some greener, healthier choices for us.  As a nurse and consumer health advocate though, if a hotel or airline is calling themselves “allergy-friendly,” they need to make sure they actually are “allergy-friendly in every way to be successful.”  For example, even though airlines are not serving peanuts as snacks, are they still cooking some of the meals with peanut oil, or, is the airline completely “peanut-free?”

According to the European Centre for Allergy Research Foundation (ECARF) based in Berlin, Swiss International Air Lines has now become the world’s first certified “allergy-friendly” airline.

ECARF’s advisory board has a list of criteria that hotels and airlines wanting to become allergy-friendly have to abide by.  For example, airlines need to replace peanut snacks with pretzel snacks.  The airlines also have to include beverage alternatives and offer gluten-free and lactose-free meals on their flight menus.  Pillows are stuffed with synthetic instead of down-filled materials.  Hypoallergenic, unscented soaps are used in the lavatories.  Special air filters are equipped to pull particles and animal hair downwards and out of the cabin.  Some airlines even go as far as creating buffer zones of seats around concerned passengers.

ECARF has to look at every item in the plane and take into account its allergy-friendliness, including the seats, the airline’s policies regarding peanuts and serving shellfish, and their policy for allowing pets in the cabin.

Concerning hotels, ECARF requires items like cosmetics, food, vacuum cleaners, and other products to have their allergy-friendly seal of approval on them.  Hotels also have to keep allergy-causing green plants out of guest rooms.

ECARF foundation members make unannounced checks throughout the two year period that the certification is valid.  When the certification expires, the airlines and hotels need to get recertified.

About 50 million people suffer from allergies in the United States.  Converting airlines and hotels to becoming allergy-friendly is certainly a step in the right direction but, in my opinion, it has a long way to go. It’s nice to see this Swiss airline taking charge of the movement!

What do you think?  Share your opinions with us!