Southwest Airlines will stop serving peanuts on its flights this summer, nixing a snack that has been nearly synonymous with the carrier itself.
The Dallas-based airline says it's making the change to help protect passengers who have severe peanut allergies.
Peanuts have historically been the one snack perhaps most linked to airline service. That's especially true at Southwest, which has used peanuts as part of its marketing over the decades. Among its efforts, the low-cost carrier has suggested those booking its cheapest fares were essentially flying for peanuts.
Underscoring the connection, Southwest's corporate blog once went by the name "Nuts about Southwest.' Even a 1998 book about the company was titled, "Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success.'
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But Southwest's connection with peanuts as an in-flight snack will come to an end in August.
"Peanuts forever will be part of Southwest's history and DNA," Southwest said in a statement to USA TODAY's Today in the Sky blog. "However, to ensure the best on-board experience for everyone, especially for customers with peanut-related allergies, we've made the difficult decision to discontinue serving peanuts on all flights beginning August 1."
The move comes as awareness of peanut allergies has increased, especially in the context of the confined space of airplane cabins. Even trace amounts can cause major complications for those with the most extreme nut allergies.
The federal Food and Drug Administration lists peanuts as one of the eight food types that account for 90 percent of all food allergies in the United States.
For Southwest, the elimination of peanuts does not mean that the carrier is doing away with free snacks. Instead, the airline will now serve pretzels. Other complimentary snacks, such as cookies, will be offered on some of the company's longer routes.
"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," the carrier added in its statement. "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."
"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," Southwest said.
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