A family claims it was removed from a Turkish Airlines flight after the airline responded to its request not to serve nuts onboard due to their allergic six-year-old by insisting it would serve nuts anyway and then trying to strong-arm a liability waiver in order to let them remain onboard.
Family Kicked Off Turkish Airlines Flight Due To Their Six-Year-Old Daughter’s Nut Allergy
Eren Dervish and his family were on vacation in Cyprus. They had flown from London (LHR) into Larnaca (LCA) on British Airways and were flying back to London from Ercan (ECN) via Istanbul (IST). Ercan is the main airport in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. At least that was the plan.
Dervish told The Independent that he had phoned up both British Airways and Turkish Airlines a week prior to his trip and alerted them about the nut allergy of his six-year-old daughter. Both registered the concern and nuts were not served on the BA flight from London.
But upon boarding their Turkish flight to Istanbul, Dervish mentioned the issue to the crew who looked at him blankly (in my experience, there is often an English language barrier on Turkish Airlines). Dervish speaks a bit of Turkish and was able to explain the issue.
According to Dervish, the crew asked him how far away their daughter could be from eating nuts. Dervish explained that in a closed environment like an airline, it would be safest not to serve nuts at all. But the crew responded:
“Oh well, the captain and senior staff want to continue to serve peanuts.”
The conversation continued, with Dervish offering to ask each business class passenger individually if they would voluntarily abstain from eating nuts on the 90-minute flight to Istanbul. The crew refused.
A member of ground staff then boarded and motioned for Dervish to step off the airplane. There, he was told that if the family wanted to remain on the flight, he would have to sign a waiver accepting all responsibility if anything happened to his daughter.
Dervish refused to sign, the family was kicked off the flight, and Turkish Airlines refused to rebook them. The family ended up driving back to Larnaca and flying British Airways home.
There were witnesses onboard, including a reporter from the London Guardian.
I was party to this disgraceful behaviour by @TurkishAirlines.
So 1st class could eat peanuts family taken off plane (6 security waiting), crying children, no support, £2,500 for new flight from different airline/airport – beggars belief. https://t.co/yStylsaq90 @ErenDervish
— Mark Sweney (@marksweney) June 13, 2022
How Should Airlines Handle Nut Allergies?
Airlines are in a difficult position on this issue. I understand the liability and it’s not totally unreasonable to wonder why hundreds of people should suffer on account of one or two. But put it in perspective. What’s more important? Your enjoyment of a bag of peanuts or a Thai dish with spicy peanut sauce or the life of another person? As annoying as it is, I’m willing to forgo peanuts or nuts of any kind. But I also don’t want an airline to be sued if they ask other passengers not to consume their own peanut-based products they have brought onboard and that request is ignored.
> Read More: Korean Air Ejects Passengers With Peanut Allergy. Fair?
> Read More: Woman With Nut Allergy Thrown Off American Airlines Flight Because Flight Attendants Claim They Are “Contractually Obliged To Serve Hot Mixed Nuts In First And Business Class”
Here, if Dervish’s account is accurate, I think Turkish Airlines failed the family in a big way. There is a certain irony in flight attendants dressing like hospital surgeons for a year and only serving sealed sandwiches on longhaul flights for “health and safety” reasons but being unwilling to accommodate a request to forgo nuts for the same reason here.
Threatening the family to sign a blanket waiver or be denied boarding is not cool, though I don’t think a waiver is unreasonable if it pledges that the airline will not serve nuts, but cannot be held responsible for passengers who may consumer their own nuts onboard.
One other observation. I fly Turkish Airlines quite often and in my experience the carrier does not even serve peanuts on flights like this. It does serve hazelnuts, however.
These nut allergy situations are so difficult. I do understand the inherent risk in transporting someone so prone to death from ingredients that are so common. But the answer is not to deny boarding or intimidate with legal waivers. Instead, the answer is to take steps to make reasonable accommodations, treating others the way we would want to be treated if we were in a similar position.
Based upon the passenger report, how do you think Turkish Airlines handled the incident?