Southwest Airlines will no longer serve peanuts onboard as of August 1. Citing passenger allergies, the airline announced this week that it will discontinue peanut service. The cut may seem rather inconsequential, but the peanut is almost inextricably linked to the history of the airline.
While Southwest was not the first airline to serve peanuts onboard, it was the first that made the snack an integral part of the flying experience. Instead of lavish meals, “Southwest was the first to serve only peanuts, and did so proudly, to show how cost efficient it was,” Bob Van der Linden, chair of the aeronautics division at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, told Quartz.
Southwest became known as the “peanuts airline.” Because airfare was available for “peanuts,” passengers got peanuts (and only peanuts) onboard their flights. When airline executives remarked that they should bring in different snacks, then-CEO Herb Kelleher reportedly remarked, “Do you know what the difference in cost is between peanuts and Snickers?”
The Southwest Airlines blog was once even known as “Nuts About Southwest.”
“Peanuts forever will be part of Southwest’s history and DNA,” the airline said in a statement. “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 Aug. 1.”
The airline will now serve pretzels, with other food available on longer flights. Passengers with peanut allergies should be aware that even though the snack will not be served, tray tables could still carry traces of peanut.