A woman says that as she was having a severe allergic reaction to pine nuts aboard a United Airlines airplane, a stewardess continuously asked her to return to her seat.
In a TikTok posted on Saturday, Erin Kelley (@sciencewitherin) says that she “almost unalived” when she had an allergic reaction on the flight after eating the dinner provided and had to be injected twice with an EpiPen.
An EpiPen is a portable injectable device that individuals with severe allergies carry on their person to slow severe allergy symptoms, which can include one’s throat closing up.
In her video, Kelley says that she has a severe allergy to pine nuts and that the airline’s allergy policies were lacking. But when she was served a meal that wasn’t labeled with allergens, she assumed it was safe to eat.
“Unbeknownst to me, it had pine nuts in it,” Kelley says.
She says she then started having allergy symptoms, including hives, and had a panic attack.
When Kelley told a flight attendant that she needed her to administer an EpiPen, the flight attendant didn’t know what to do and asked Kelley if her symptoms were caused by the glass of wine she’d consumed earlier in the flight.
Kelley says luckily, her seatmate was a doctor who was able to administer her EpiPen for her. Later, however, she fainted, and the doctor sat her in the flight attendant’s seat so he could monitor her in a well-lit area.
As she was breathing with an oxygen mask and hooked up to a pulse oximeter, Kelley says, “The flight attendant is just making a huge deal and saying that I need to go back to my seat and that I’m not allowed to sit in the flight attendant seat.”
“Every other word out of her mouth from then on was, ‘Well maybe if you just go back to your seat,'” Kelley says.
When she asked the flight attendant for Benedryl, an antihistamine medication that quells allergy symptoms, Kelley says the flight attendant said they’d have to wait for the pilot to return from his break to get his permission—despite time being of the essence when it comes to food allergies.
And when the doctor insisted that Kelley bring the pulse oximeter to her seat with her to keep an eye on her oxygen levels, the flight attendant initially pushed back.
“I don’t think United Airlines gets enough hate,” Kelley says in her TikTok. On Wednesday, Kelley’s video had almost 740,000 views on TikTok. (The Daily Dot reached out to Kelley and United Airlines.)
@sciencewitherin @United Airlines has one of the worst records for food allergies. They do not give a 💩 #united #foodallergy #unitedairlines #nutallergy #foodallergyunited #unitedairlinesincident #foodallergycheck ♬ original sound – Science with Erin🧪🧬💻
In follow-up TikToks, Kelley says she was not able to request an allergen-free meal and that other experiences on United flights have demonstrated that some of the airline’s flight attendants are not equipped to deal with passengers with severe allergies.
After Kelley filed an internal complaint with the airline, she shared a United representative’s response saying that food allergies are not covered under the Department of Transportation’s Air Carriers Access Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in air travel.
However, that’s not the case: In 2019, the Department of Transportation began considering food allergies a disability under the Air Carriers Access Act.
United Airlines’ allergy policy states that the airline does prepare food “utilizing a variety of other ingredients including major food allergens” and that it cannot “guarantee an allergen-free meal or environment” on flights.
Travelers with allergies are told to inform flight attendants so that they can sit in an “allergy buffer zone,” away from other passengers who might be eating food that contains allergens—though such a zone is not guaranteed.
Many commenters on Kelley’s initial video about her in-flight allergic reaction expressed disappointment in how the flight crew responded to her situation.
“The food isn’t even the biggest issue here,” @danijim48 commented. “It’s how badly they handled things once the reaction was brought to their attention.”
“Wow, I was a stewardess, and I would have offered you my crew bed!” @madpiano51 wrote. “That stewardess is in the wrong job!”
“It’s insane to me flight crew can’t administer an Epipen,” @brittanyturbitt commented.
Others were less sympathetic to her case and said Kelley should have told flight attendants she had a severe allergy before taking off—which Kelley says in a TikTok that she should have done.