Two teenage boys were kicked off a Korean Air flight after informing the ground crew of their severe peanut allergy. The story raised questions about how airlines should handle these types of situations.
What are the details?
The boys were traveling from Atlanta to Manila via Seoul to visit their father in the Philippines. They booked the ticket with Delta and notified the airline of their severe allergy in advance. The 14-hour Atlanta to Seoul flight operated by Delta was no issue, as nuts were not served onboard.
Upon arriving at the gate for their Korean Air operated connection flight in Seoul, the boys informed the gate agents of the allergy and asked for three things:
- to board the flight early in order to clean their tray tables and seat surroundings
- have flight attendants make an announcement for fellow passengers not to consume their own nut-based snacks on the flight
- to request flight attendants not serve nut-based snacks around them.
Initially, it seemed the gate agents accepted these requests, since the boys were allowed to board early to wipe down their seats. When the boys entered the aircraft, they claimed they were met with an unsympathetic choice from the crew: deal with the peanuts or get off the flight. The crew claimed it would not “deprive other guests of peanuts” and appeared indifferent to their allergy.
In the end, the boys were forced off the Korean Air flight, leaving them stranded in Seoul. The family decided it was best for the boys to return to Atlanta later in the day.
Delta was made aware of the situation and apologized, stating
“Delta and our partner Korean Air are communicating with the family and examining the processes surrounding this incident; we will use our findings in our work to create a consistent experience for customers flying Delta and our partner airlines.”
Korean Air also released a statement regarding the incident, saying
“Korean Air is aware that peanut and food allergies are an industry issue and no airline can guarantee a food allergy-free environment. But we are reviewing ways to deal with this issue in a safe and feasible way. We totally understand the risks faced by passengers with nut and food allergies and will certainly try to accommodate them better in the future.”
The way airlines handle nut allergies can vary enormously from carrier to carrier. Delta and American Airlines both allow pre-boarding for passengers with nut allergies so they can wipe down the area around their seat. Last year, Southwest announced they would stop serving peanuts on board their flights.
While it’s acknowledged that it’s impossible to guarantee a completely nut-free environment onboard, the standard for airlines’ should be to accommodate passengers the best they can.