Another day, another negative encounter on Turkish Airlines concerning a passenger with a peanut allergy. Even those who are skeptical about tree nut allergies must acknowledge the difficult issues arising in this case.
Concern Over Peanut Allergy Prompts Turkish Airlines To Kick 21-Year-Old Off Flight In KUL
On November 10, 2022, 21-year-old Marissa Williamson was set to return from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) to Atlanta (ATL) via Istanbul (IST) on Turkish Airlines. She shared her account of what happened on Facebook. Upon boarding, Williamson informed a flight attendant of her peanut and tree nut allergy and requested an announcement be made concerning her condition and that the passengers around her be verbally informed. Importantly, she did not demand that Turkish not serve nuts onboard. When her request was refused, she pushed back:
“They ask me more about my allergy and I reiterate that I can’t eat it and the manager tells me the meals offered that will be ok for me. And I reiterate my request to have an announcement made to the plane and possibly the passengers directly around me informed (this has been done on every flight that I have ever taken, being a minor request) The flight attendant says there are nuts on the plane that will be served to business class and that they can’t make an announcement. I asked them to please just make the announcement and that was all I ask.”
But as Williamson continued to ask that an announcement be made, the flight crew became more suspicious:
“They told me they couldn’t unless I was allergic to the smell. They asked me again if I can’t smell it. I told them the smell may make me nauseous but that I can wear two masks, this would protect me from the smell. And she kept telling me no about the announcement and how it cannot be made and the smell will travel from business class where they will be serving peanuts.
“My seat was row 16 and there was a whole section of passengers between me and business class. I never asked them to stop serving their snacks or other meals. I kept telling them no I will be fine just please make an announcement. And when they asked me if I had all my emergency medicine I said yes and pulled my Benadryl and 2 Epi pens out of my bag. I said it was ok and the manager said no it’s not okay. They kept telling me that my allergy, the one I have struggled with and lived with my entire life, was much worse than I was letting on.”
A flight attendant and member of ground staff then conferred off the plane. A few minutes later, they returned and told Williamson she would have to step off the plane and could not fly. Williamson began to “speak sternly” about how she would be just fine, but the ground manager opened the overhead bin, grabbed her stuff, and demanded she get off the aircraft. She then asked how they had come to this decision and was told it would only be discussed once she had stepped off the aircraft.
Grabbing her suitcase (“I probably did slam my suitcase” – not sure what she means), she stepped off the aircraft. She pulled out her phone to call her mother and was immediately admonished that she could not take pictures or video.
On the jet bridge, Williamson claims she was effectively left to fend for herself and that Turkish Airlines ground staff refused to even speak to her. She cried uncontrollably. Williamson called her mother, who arranged a meet-and-greet to come get her and sit with her while she drove to the airport (she was still in Malaysia, about an hour away from Kuala Lumpur International Airport).
All this time, according to Williamson, the Turkish staff refused to even speak to her.
“I was just standing there frozen and shaking. I have severe anxiety and bipolar disorder and with how I was just treated, I was in a complete psychological panic, I could not force myself to even move it was so horrible. Then one of the airport security staff brought me a rolling chair, after standing there in tears for 30 minutes.”
When her mother arrived, the Turkish staff refused to speak to her either, telling her to open a claim ticket on the Turkish Airlines website (speaking from personal experience, that’s a notorious black hole).
And now Williamson finds herself still in Kuala Lumpur, waiting for a resolution.
We’ve reached out to Turkish Airlines to address the matter.
There are a lot of complexities surrounding this issue, but I would not be so quick to dismiss the woman as a troubled person who became agitated onboard, prompting the removal. At the heart of the matter, her request was reasonable. She did not demand that business class passengers could not be served nuts. Rather, she just asked for an announcement to be made so that people could be mindful of her serious condition. Showing compassion for those like Williamson is really not too much to ask. It seems to me that whatever happened onboard and on the ground could have easily been avoided. It should not be that those with allergies of any kind feel too scared to bring them up for fear of being removed from their flight.
I’ll keep you updated on how this story turns out.