Monday, June 07, 2010


There aren't many pleasures involved with traveling by air these days. Delayed flights, security hassles, crowded planes, surly customer service, and being nickel and dimed for every "extra" feature (like being able to bring luggage on your trip) is pretty much par for the course for airline passengers today. Given all the downsides of air travel, fliers must cling to the little things that bring them any measure of pleasure.

Like peanuts. While some airlines no longer offer even this meager amount of sustenance, peanuts are still available on most flights. One of the few benefits that I've been able to see from Delta's buyout of Northwest is that Delta almost always seems to have peanuts available. Northwest had seemed to move away from peanuts as their staple snack and replaced them with pretzels, definitely a level down in the salty snack hierarchy.

But now, even the small amount of satisfaction that passengers can get from enjoying the seven or eight peanuts that typically come in the tightly sealed foil bag seems to be in danger of being eliminated. All in the name of safety of course. U.S. Proposes Protections for Airline Passengers:

The DOT may even effectively ban peanuts from flights to protect travelers with peanut allergies. The agency said it would solicit comments on three options: banning peanuts from flights, requiring airlines to offer a "peanut free" flight if passengers on a particular flight request it, or creating "peanut-free zones" on flights for passengers with allergies.

I don't have a peanut allergy so I'm not familiar with the sufferings of those who do. The fact that my oldest son's pre-school has indoctrinated him to believe that exposure to peanuts is akin to exposure to plutonium means they must be fairly serious. And I don't want to make light of these sufferings or seek to downplay them. But I can't believe that they necessitate that the heavy hand of government step in and impose "solutions" that impact everyone who flies.

Consider the three options:

The first seems draconian. It would ban all peanuts on all flights, thus depriving the 99% plus of the population who don't have peanut allegories of the opportunity to enjoy a snack. Given the government proclivities in these matters, this seems like the most likely "answer" if they do decide to act.

The second seems ludicrous. Are we all going to vote before the flight whether we get peanuts or not? Will it be a majority decision or based on some threshold of passengers saying "no" (20% or 25%)? Will there be campaigning for or against peanuts before the vote? Will the FEC be monitoring these elections to see that campaign finance laws are not violated? Will I be offered a position in the Obama Administration in exchange for not campaigning on my pro-peanut platform?

The third seems unworkable. How big do these "peanut-free zones" have to be? If 1% or less of the population has peanut allergies, that shouldn't have to be large, but what if you end up with a lot of sufferers on a particular flight? Will the DPZ (de-peanutizied zone) be extended? What if there are no other seats available and I get stuck in the DPZ? Will the airline have to compensate me for not being able to enjoy peanuts? What if I bring my own peanuts (or peanut-based by-product) on board and sit in the DPZ? Will that land me a one-ticket to Gitmo?

It seems incredible to consider that it wasn't really all that long ago, when smoking--the evilest of all evils--was allowed on airplanes. Now, we're at a point where we may no longer be able to even eat peanuts during a flight.