Incident involving pet on board and allergy

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  • Anonymous


    Here’s an incident I’d be grateful for the forum’s views on:

    A passenger with an allergy to dog hair arrives at the gate to board a 3 hour flight. He discovers that a dog is booked to travel with its owner in the cabin. The passenger alerts the cabin crew who arrange for the dog and owner to be moved to back row.

    Aircraft is an A320 with euro style business class. No passengers in the business cabin – it’s empty. Passenger asks if he can sit in row 1 (booked at an exit in row 11) so as to be as far from dog as possible. Crew only offer row 3 (first row of economy) saying that putting passenger in row 1 would be against airlines policy, notwithstanding the passenger’s allergy. Captain also denies passenger re-seating due to allergy even though row 1 and 2 are empty. Passenger told only other option is to leave aircraft and take next flight 2 days later. Passenger is corporate passenger with status.

    Passenger moves to row 3. Subsequently develops allergic reaction soon after take off and is ill for the rest of the flight. Crew still don’t allow passenger to sit in row 1 even though he is ill. Passenger leaves flight ill at the other end.

    Do you think the airline handled it appropriately, given rows 1-2 were empty.


    I hope this wasn’t you Alex, but I think there was a question mark over whether the passenger should have been allowed to board in the first place.

    I have ZERO medical knowledge about dog hair allergies, so don’t really know how severe the reaction will be/is. But if the passenger became ill in row 3, I would have thought the same reaction would have occurred in rows 1 or 2..

    I presume the dog was a working dog….

    I would have thought once the passenger became ill, the crew were playing a dangerous game, not moving the passenger.

    As I said, I have ZERO medical knowledge of the issue…..


    I agree with you Martyn, also have no medical knowledge but surely the gap between rows 1-3 is minimal and therefore would have probably been affected wherever they sat on the plane??

    I remember in years gone by when smoking was allowed it was restricted to the back rows of each cabin, which meant nothing as due to the air conditioning and the air circulation everyone had to suffer and could be the same situation here..

    Have to ask that was the dog a working dog? I was on a flight between JFK and SFO recently and there was a blind man sitting next to me with the most beautiful working dog sat laying down between us which for me was absolutely no issue but I am sure wherever anyone sat on the aircraft would have been subject to allergy as it was a 757 hardly the biggest craft!


    Frankly, given the large amount of transfer (the CSI term) between all pet dogs and their owners, am surprised such a hyper sensitive person doesn’t have a problem in any confined environment even if a dog isn’t present.


    I agree with the previous posters, I can’t see how it would have made any difference if the passenger had been a mere two rows forward, but it does seem a bit churlish if the seats were empty, for the airline, to not seat them there. But what if the business class section had been full?

    I have to say that if the passenger’s allergies produces such a severe reaction, did this passenger not carry anti-histamine or some such preventative medicine or homeopathic remedy with them for this exact purpose? Would that not be sensible?

    I wonder what would have happened had this passenger been sat next to me, a dog owner, who always travels with a dog hair or two 😉 🙂 – what would their reaction have been then as they would not have “seen” a dog? And I bet I would not be the only person on board who has been in close contact with animals!

    I don’t think it’s the airlines responsibility to cater for anyone’s allergies! And with such a sensitivity, one has to take responsibility for one’s own health and well-being!

    Personally, I would have put said pax doon the back, and let the dog, I imagine it was a service dog/assistance dog, up front! Why on earth didn’t they do that, then there would have been no doubt that the pax would have been as far away as possible and the dog would not have had to pass them or go anywhere near them. Just saying! 🙂


    Here Here Papillion Im with you on that definitely


    Sadly airlines can’t cater to every eventuality.

    In this case how could a foolproof solution be found. For example how do you know there had not been a dog on the inward flight – surely the hairs could still be in situ unless the plane is sterilised after every flight.


    I am sure I am not the only doctor on here, but I am one, so here I go – recognising that high blood pressure is more my subject than allergy.

    If a person has allergy to dogs of such severity that a dog at the back makes them ill when they are in row 3, then (1) to be in row 1 rather than row 3 would not have made any difference and (2) the patient surely has an obligation at the time of booking to explain their condition, and to explain at the time that they cannot fly on a plane that is also carrying a dog.

    Also, they should be under treatment powerful enough to minimise any allergic reaction. In the normal world you cannot completely avoid dog hairs and dander – it might be in the taxi, in the post office, or wherever, or on the clothes of the passenger on the next seat, if the allergic person is lucky enough to be sat next to Papillion.

    So I regard the responsibility here to lie with the patient and not primarily with the airline. I have some sympathy – as we discussed on another thread, I find the chemical irritation of the atmosphere of a shop selling gallons of perfume enough to set off my asthma, but it is up to me to avoid it when I can.

    Two further small points:

    It was not necessarily a working dog. We don’t often see non-working dogs boarding planes in the UK but there are plenty of toy dogs and other pets on planes in other cultures. I have seen a pair of huskies heading in to the cabin on Air Greenland!

    Second, I can’t agree with you, Papillion, about the homeopathic remedy. You would expect me to say that.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    Thanks for your responses. All very interesting and insightful.

    No, it wasn’t me thankfully, but it was a incident relayed to me by a law colleague. The question was whether the airline did all they could to assist the passenger given he was on the flight, had to travel that day on that flight and that there also were empty seats further away from the dog which ‘might’ have lessened the impact.

    I found it an interesting story because I’ve never flown with a pet in the cabin before and didn’t even know they allowed that! Don’t know whether it was a working dog or just a pet, it was described as a pet though. I now have become aware that some airlines allow pets on board even though they aren’t there in an assistance capacity.

    I must say I was surprised the passenger wasn’t allowed in row 1 given the opportunity to mitigate any damage caused by the dog being onboard with the allergic passenger. I would have seen this as basic customer service. The airline was apparently Aegean which is about to go head to head with Ryanair in the Greek domestic market which won’t be pretty for Aegean/Olympic. I would have expected Aegean to have handled this better myself from a customer service perspective, although not sure how it’s been handled post incident.


    Agree with all,the above. I’m not allergic to dogs or anything for that matter, but I don’t particularly like them sitting next to me on a plane, train or bus since you don’t know if they’ll stink or not. Even if they don’t, I still don’t like them and feel all dogs (cats and other pets) should be carried in the hold, with the exception of guide dogs of course.

    I await the hate “posts”….


    I can’t disagree with you Lugano. I’m curious which airlines allow pets onboard as I’ve never seen it myself. Hence my surprise.

    It was really the way it was handled that shocked me. The fact that the airline still refused to allow the passenger to sit in rows 1-2 of an empty J class cabin even after he fell ill. I see this as being unacceptable, regardless of whether he should have been flying on the same plane as the dog in the first place.


    The allergic passenger knew the risk & still chose to travel.

    End of.


    If the passengers allergy is that bad, they should be taking serious medication to ensure they can travel / move about in public.

    The airline has already assisted by seating the passenger and animal as far apart as possible in the same cabin.

    Why should they then give an upgrade to a higher class?

    That would be a good one. Sorry airline, I know I have an economy ticket but I noticed a passenger get on board with an animal. I have an allergy, best you move me to first class row 1 so I can travel in comfort.

    Next it will be, airline, I have an allergy to economy seating being too cramped, I have claustrophobia, please upgrade me.


    I believe all western airlines allow working dogs in the cabin. Some US airlines allow toy dogs under the seat in front (caged)..

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