Finally, Delta got one last confirmatory call the day of the actual travel and they said everything would be fine. It seemed like overkill but, as it turns out, it wasn't. It really, really wasn't.
Boarding was smooth and I was delighted with my flat-bed seat and entertainment center but then came the flight attendant with pecans...for me. I was confused and politely declined the pecans (I guess I was lucky she handed me the pecans instead of "pelting" me with the nuts - see joke in paragraph 1). I politely told her I was allergic to nuts and that my travel agent had called ahead to let Delta know and I had been assured a nut-free meal - was that still in their notes? She gave me a look of death and said, "No, I have nothing in my notes and we never guarantee any meal will be free of any allergen on Delta" in a tone of voice that really said, "Wow. You are so high maintenance. How dare you bother me with your stupid allergy. Eat some pecans and die." OK. She handed me the pecans again. I said, "No, thank you." She shook her head as if to say I'd regret not eating the pecans and marched off. She returned with a menu with several options for that "Chef-Curated Meal & Plated Fine Dining" and - I kid you not - literally, every option had nuts! How is that even possible? Delta, after all, promises "a wide variety of entrees to suit every palate" and 17 different "special" meals from kosher to vegan (more on that later). But, ok, whatever. The flight attendant returned and asked which selections I'd made from the nutty (ha) menu. I politely explained again that I had a nut allergy; that it looked like pretty much every meal on the menu contained nuts from the salad with pine nuts to the pasta with walnuts and I couldn't eat anything and was she absolutely sure there was no nut-free option set aside since I had called ahead and confirmed one? She raised her eyebrows and replied, "I really have no idea. Maybe you can pick the nuts out." Pick the nuts out? This is Delta's First Class suggestion? Wow. That is service, all right. I explained I can't do that because the allergy is too severe. I asked if maybe one of the appetizers that didn't specify it had nuts might work, asking if there was an ingredient list or any allergen information. The flight attendant said, "Ma'am, I told you before, Delta does not provide ingredient lists or allergy information. Ever." Then, she walked away. No food for me.
OK, so take a pause. This is crazy. First of all, passengers pay an arm and a leg to fly first class, especially on international flights and if Delta is going to advertise 17 different meal options to suit every palate and confirms repeatedly a meal without nuts, I should be able to expect one and not rude, snide comments designed to make me feel high maintenance for being born with a life threatening allergy. Really sorry about that, Delta. My bad. I definitely would prefer not to be allergic to anything, too, but I don't really get to choose. Passengers should also be able to expect ingredient lists for the meals Delta serves and basic allergen information that every grocery store box of crackers provides. The fact Delta handed me pecans and was so blasé about what they were on notice was a life threatening allergy is even more astounding given that this allergy is so common. In the U.S. alone, over 3 million people have tree nut or peanut allergies. See FoodAllergy.org. From a legal perspective, given the notice and guarantees, the fact Delta gave me pecans is even more scary. What if I trusted them and unthinkingly ate something without quadruple checking (as I did here) and went into anaphylactic shock on the plane? What if I died?
Then, my traveling companion got wind of what was going on. He called his flight attendant (different person than mine because different aisle, I guess (?)) and told her what was going on. She apologized and said Delta had no notes about a nut free meal but she would check and see if they could put something together. This is where it gets truly "NUTS" (sorry, couldn't resist). A Delta flight attendant went on the loudspeaker to the WHOLE PLANE and announced:
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have a passenger on board with a nut allergy. As a courtesy to this passenger, we will not be serving anyone peanuts."
PEANUTS ARE NOT NUTS. Peanuts are legumes, like beans. Although many, many people suffer from peanut allergies, they are not the same as nut allergies. Nut examples include walnuts, pecans, etc. See Peanut Institute Facts. Delta basically said roughly the equivalent of "We have a passenger deathly allergic to peaches so we won't be serving any strawberries on this flight! We will be delivering fresh peaches to everyone in the cabin shortly." And, despite the fact my companion immediately informed them that peanuts are not nuts, they did NOT do me the courtesy of not serving nuts as they said about peanuts in their embarrassing plane-wide announcement; in fact, the very next thing they did was offer me a cheese plate with macadamia nuts mixed into the blue cheese. I began to think Delta was actually intentionally TRYING to kill me.
It gets better. My companion asked if he could buy a snack box from coach class for me since those usually have "safe" things like potato chips. The flight attendant said that was against policy so no.
I flew Air France on the way back and they were wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. See my post script, below, for their fabulous nut-free (and vegan and vegetarian!) options. My food was so great, the passengers around me were all eyeing it and I overheard one person asking if he could have a meal identical to mine. The Air France flight attendants even initiated the topic, saying, "Madame, we are aware you have a nut allergy. Do not worry. We have made sure your meals will all be safe for you." They reiterated this, smiling and charming, with every food option they brought. I wanted to kiss all of them.
In the future, I won't be flying Delta unless there's no other option and, if that happens, I'll pack my own meal.
P.s. note to vegetarians: also VERY difficult on Delta. If you're vegan, you might as well just pack your own meal and give up in advance. This flight offered lamb and lobster, among other things, but no vegetarian option. Yes, I requested a vegetarian meal, too, but, as with the nut allergy, Delta forgot all about it and acted like I was bizarre for not wanting to eat a baby sheep. I flew Air France on the way home. I was sad that they served foie gras which is understandably banned in some places (see info here) however I cannot say they were not wonderful to me - they smilingly and politely provided a delicious multi-course VEGAN meal including a fruit platter of strawberries, plums, kiwi, pineapple, and grapes with a mineral water; an appetizer of artichoke, grilled eggplant, red peppers, and asparagus in olive oil and lemon and herbs with some truly amazing Languedoc Blanc white wine, a hearty pasta with stewed tomatoes, brown rice, and peppers, and a dessert of dark chocolate pastries. Heaven.