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June 10, 2021

Should peanuts be banned from airplanes?

It’s the joke that Jerry Seinfeld owes much of his stand-up success: "What’s the deal with airplane peanuts?"

844754_some_peanuts And while that line has endured for decades, airline peanuts, however, have not.

Due to increased allergy concerns, Air Canada and WestJet removed peanuts from their flights years ago, choosing not to actively serve them to passengers. But there’s one caveat: other travelers can still bring their own peanuts onboard …

… which begs the question – should peanuts be banned from airplanes altogether?

News out of the U.S. this week has people talking about the issue, as the nation’s Department of Transportation has posed new sanctions against peanuts onboard aircrafts.

The proposed rules would prevent airlines from serving peanuts (some American carriers still do), but could also include an important precedent: if passed, the new policy could actually prevent other passengers from bringing their own peanuts onboard, something airlines have never been able to.

For example, two spokespeople – one from WestJet, one from Air Canada – told me today that, while no peanuts are served on their airlines, there’s little they can do about travelers bringing their own nuts onboard.

According to WestJet’s allergy policy, passengers with heightened peanut allergies can contact the airline ahead of time, whereupon they’ll set up a safe zone of three rows surrounding said traveler where other passengers will be asked to refrain from consuming nuts during the flight.

Moreover, Air Canada has been urged to set up nut-free zones by the Canadian Transportation Agency, but any action is still in talks with the government, an AC spokesperson said this afternoon.

Yet for all WestJet's and Air Canada’s willingness to comply with the needs of allergy-prone passengers, in many ways their hands are tied.

While they can provide zones where no peanuts will be consumed during the flight, it’s nearly impossible for airlines to eliminate the presence of nuts entirely from planes – whether they exist in trace elements on food, seat cushions or wherever.

"There really is no practical way to ban guests from bringing nuts on board," says WestJet spokesperson Robert Palmer. "You could put a ban in place, but how do you enforce it?"

Adds Peter Fitzpatrick, spokesperson for Air Canada: "It is really impossible to police, because the issue is oil from peanuts gets on people's fingers and can linger from some time. So in order not to give customers with peanut allergies a false sense of security ... this is why we cannot and do not promise a peanut free environment."

Tell us: should peanuts be banned – across the board – on airplanes, or is it the responsibility of those with allergies to protect themselves?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

James HaversJames Havers

James is the senior editor of MSN Money living in Toronto. He has worked for the Nikkei Shimbun (Tokyo),,, Canadian Business and other publications. Havers turned to journalism after teaching overseas.

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...