Southwest Airlines has announced that it will stop serving peanuts on its flights in order to protect passengers with allergies to the nuts. The peanuts will be replaced by pretzels and other free snacks on some longer flights.

Testing of new snacks is underway.

Southwest says that the decision comes after months of discussion and isn’t in reaction to any specific incident involving a passenger. It’s unclear if there has been an increase in complaints about peanuts.

Just because Southwest hasn’t had major complaints, however, doesn’t mean that incidents haven’t occurred elsewhere. In the past, American Airlines has been accused of implementing policies that discriminate against those with nut allergies.

The change will go into effect on August 1.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an environment where all customers — including those with peanut-related allergies — feel safe and welcome on every Southwest flight,” Southwest said. “We hope that our free pretzels (and the wonderful portfolio of free snacks on longer flights), served along with our legendary Southwest Hospitality, will please customers who might be nostalgic or sad to see peanuts go.”

Though many airlines serve peanuts on their flights, the snack is arguably identified most closely with Southwest. The carrier has used the nuts in marketing campaigns over the years, and its website features an employee blog called “Nuts About Southwest”. The snack has even been dubbed “LUV bites” in reference to Southwest’s stock ticker symbol.

As a cost-cutting tactic, Southwest first started offering peanuts on flights in the 1970s instead of the traditional onboard meal. Southwest served more than 106 million packs in 2017.

Southwest Airlines has announced that, effective on August 1, it will stop serving peanuts on its flights. The move aims to protect those with allergies.
Image from Dallas Morning News

 

“Southwest was the first to serve only peanuts, and did so proudly, to show how cost efficient it was,” said Bob Van der Linden, the Chair of the Aeronautics Division at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. “It was all about marketing”.

“Peanuts will forever be part of Southwest’s history and DNA,” the carrier said, calling the move to ground peanuts a ‘difficult decision’. “We’ll miss the peanuts, but, at the end of the day, it’s our Southwest employees and the hospitality they deliver that set us apart, far more than peanuts ever could.”

In a further step to protect passengers with allergies, Southwest says that it will let customers with peanut allergies onboard early in order to wipe down seats and tray tables just in case they have been contaminated. Passengers with peanut allergies are also encouraged to identify their allergy on their boarding pass. Southwest says that, though it will no longer serve peanuts, contamination could still occur if passengers decide to bring personal packs of peanuts onto a plane.

Delta Air Lines already allows passengers with allergies on early to “decontaminate” their area and won’t serve nuts to passengers who have identified an allergy.

The move has been both criticized and praised by passengers.

“So you’re telling me that because others might have peanut allergies, I don’t get peanuts on my flight?” wrote one Twitter user. “Y’all have been flying with them since you first start a long time ago, and now it’s 2018 it’s going to solve an alleged ‘problem’?”

“I loved peanuts…until we discovered that my daughter had an airborne peanut allergy,” another passenger tweeted. “This move from @SouthwestAir opens up additional flying options for her, and thousands of others w/peanut allergies. For that, I say thanks.”

Southwest, when announcing the decision, added a little flare on its social media accounts, writing, “We will miss the peanuts as well…They’ve worked for us for 47 years and have decided to retire. We’re still trying to figure out what peanuts do in retirement though…”

Just because the move has been made, however, doesn’t mean it’s here to stay. In May, United banned Tomato juice on planes. That decision was reversed due to passenger uproar. Neither American Airlines nor United Airlines offer peanuts on their flights.

Featured image by Charles Dharapak/Associated Press