People with severe food allergies are used to taking precautions when outside of the home. Some public facilities, schools, and businesses have taken measures to be allergy-friendly, and American Airlines has just taken a small step in that direction.

Effective December 12, the airline will allow passengers with nut allergies to board early. This will allow them the chance to wipe down any surfaces ahead of a flight’s departure. In general, there is not enough time to do that during regular boarding procedures.

The move seems to be a response to a complaint filed with the US Department of Transportation by Food Allergy Research & Education. The group pointed to AA’s written policy of prohibiting those with food allergies from preboarding and stated that the carrier was violating their legal rights by discriminating against their disability.

Citing the Air Carrier Access Act, the organization asserts that airlines are required by law to allow people with disabilities special accommodations, including extra time for boarding. Exposure to food allergens can be life-threatening, therefore sanitizing the seating area would help mitigate a potentially harmful situation.

American, for their part, is updating their flight service manuals with the new policy and filing the change with the Department of Transportation. A snippet of the new plan was shared on Twitter where it states that although the planes are cleaned, it cannot be ensured that their procedures or filtration systems were enough to eliminate nut allergens.

Additionally, they also stated that there is no buffer zone on the plane that is allergen-free. The airline does not serve peanuts, but this does not mean that passengers will not be exposed to tree nuts. They still serve warmed nuts and they cannot guarantee that other passengers will not bring their own nuts on board.

A spokesperson told TODAY:

Customers with nut allergies who would like to board flights early to wipe down surfaces may ask to do so at the gate. 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. 

We strongly encourage those with allergies to take all necessary medical precautions before flying.”

However, they believe it is in the best interest of the customer that those with nut allergies be allowed to preboard.  While Delta already has a similar policy in place and Southwest has discontinued serving nuts on flights, it is unclear whether any other airlines have addressed food allergies and preboarding.

Although many on social media are applauding the move, some wonder if this will lead to an abuse of the policy, opening the way for line-cutters. The airline doesn’t seem to be concerned, and people with legit allergies are happy to provide proof with medical documentation.

If you are flying with a food allergy, air carriers urge you to bring your Epipen on board with you in case of emergency. As serious as food allergies are, it can be nerve-wracking if you are flying with one (or more). Hopefully, this policy will help make flying a tiny bit easier.

Are you on board with this new policy? Do you travel by air with nut or other food allergies? What preventive measures do you take?