Allergies are a problem, and it can seem inconsiderate of people to do something that exposes innocent people to allergens, like travel with their pets in the cabin of a plane. One person, suffering from animal allergies, wrote to the Detroit Free Press about pets on planes, saying she was horribly allergic, and her husband suffered from asthma. She wondered why the airlines allow it, when they make a big deal about peanut allergies. It turns out, there are a couple of reasons why the airlines behave this way.
The writer in question is allergic to both cats and dogs, but much, much more allergic to cats. She and her husband ended up on a flight with at least six dogs on board, and a cat right under her seat. She successfully got the flight attendant to move the person behind her, and their cat, a few rows back, but feels it’s inconsistent of the airlines to make such a big deal about peanuts when they allow pets, knowing that people are allergic to pets, too.
Ellen Creager, who answered the question, first said that pets on airlines are a revenue stream, which is true. People will pay anywhere from $95 to $125, or possibly more, to carry their pets on board the plane. Because of that, the airlines are not likely to banish pets back to the cargo hold, or altogether, anytime soon.
She said that one thing people suffering from allergies can do is alert the airline to their allergies when they book their ticket. They can also talk to the gate agent, or another ticketing agent, when they arrive at the airport, to ask to be away from anybody on board who has pets.
There are some companies that are working on long-term solutions for people who suffer from pet allergies. One such company is working on a drug called CATALYST, which, basically, desensitizes a person’s immune system to cat allergens. It’s a shot that consists of synthetic allergens, and people would receive one shot per month, over the course of a year.
This treatment, and others, like traditional allergy shots already available, probably won’t work for this kind of situation though, because the people taking them want to not be allergic to cats. Not everybody who has the kind of concern the woman in the story had wants to go through allergy treatments just to fly on a plane.
For that, Creager says that, in addition to alerting the airline to your allergies and other problems, you can also bring any medicines you take for other allergies with you. If her husband is asthmatic, chances are he already flies with his inhaler(s), so this shouldn’t be a problem.
As far as the comparison to peanut allergies, the main difference between the two is that, even the most severe pet allergies don’t often result in anaphylaxis, like peanut allergies do. Most people with asthma, who travel, already have medicine with them to handle an attack. People suffer, but they’re not as likely to die because they came into contact with an animal to which they’re allergic. The same just isn’t true of peanut allergies.
Plus, replacing peanuts with pretzels on planes is considerably easier, and likely a lot less costly, than banning pets from the cabin. Our culture is changing, and with increasing numbers of people considering pets as part of their family, the airlines want to capitalize, instead of ban. So allergy sufferers must adjust, however difficult it may seem.