Alan Sugar’s Apprentice Stars Slam Finnair’s Nut Allergy Policy

Two candidates on the popular UK BBC show ‘The Apprentice’ have lashed out at Finnair over alleged bad handling of their nut allergies. Ryan-Mark Parsons and Pamela Laird were traveling to Helsinki from London for the show that aired last night. Both say the airline refused to make an announcement, nor would it stop passengers from purchasing nuts on board.

Finnair A350 on ground
Finnair is under fire for its nut policy. Photo: Finnair

What happened?

Both Ryan-Mark and Pamela have serious nut allergies and carry EpiPens as a precaution when they travel. According to the contestants, they alerted cabin crew to their condition when boarding the flight, asking if the airline would make an announcement to warn other passengers.

However, the airline apparently refused to give any such warning. A member of The Apprentice production team told the Independent,

“They asked the cabin crew to make an announcement telling other passengers not to eat or buy nuts onboard. The flight attendant said this wasn’t part of their policy, that they couldn’t do anything to help.”

Apparently Ryan-Mark then asked to speak to the captain about the situation. However, he alleges that the captain then told him there was nothing he could do and to get off the plane if he had an issue.

The production team then went up and down the aisles asking other passengers to refrain from eating nuts. Despite this, the cabin crew continued to sell packets of nuts on board the flight. One particular group is said to have been unhappy with the request of the production team, deliberately buying and opening a packet of nuts in protest.

Ryan-Mark Parsons posted about his experience on Twitter,

What did Finnair say?

Although the airline has been suitably apologetic in its response, it does confirm that there is no policy in place with regards to making announcements about passengers with allergies. Simple Flying got in touch with Finnair to confirm this, who told us,

“Finnair does not make onboard announcements asking people to refrain from consuming nuts. Because we carry so many customers from different nationalities we cannot guarantee that they will hear or understand such announcements. Instead, our cabin crew can ask passengers on nearby seats to refrain from eating nuts or snacks containing nuts, when we have a customer with severe nut allergies on board. We are very sorry if this practice was not followed in this instance.

“Finnair is unfortunately not able to guarantee a nut-free environment in our cabins, as nuts are part of our buy-on-board offering, nor can we control what customers bring on board. For example, in many Asian cuisines, nuts are widely used and many of customers are from the Far East and Asia. We provide a range of special meals for customers, including a dish for our Business Class customers which does not contain nuts and is therefore suitable for most people suffering from a peanut allergy. Due to the processes used in our kitchens, however, we cannot guarantee that any meal is 100% free of traces of peanuts.

“We provide food allergy advise on so that customers with severe nut allergies are aware of this and can take necessary precautions for safe travel. For example, customers with severe nut allergies are advised to bring in their carry-on baggage an epinephrine/adrenaline auto injector like EpiPen, if they have a prescription for one.”

Alan Sugar’s Apprentice Stars Slam Finnair’s Nut Allergy Policy
Some airlines have banned nuts on board. Photo: Jay Singh/Simple Flying

Airlines are often in the news for the way they handle the sensitive issue of nut allergies. Several airlines including Flybe, Southwest and easyJet have banned nuts from the cabins of their aircraft to circumvent this problem. However, other airlines have been known to go so far as to remove passengers with nut allergies rather than deal with the situation.

What do you think? Was Finnair right to stand by its policies, or should they have not allowed the sale or consumption of nuts on that flight?