Two teenage boys were thrown off a Korean Air flight after mentioning their peanut allergy. The story again raises the question of how should these situations should be handled.
The Patel brothers were traveling from Atlanta to Manila via Seoul to visit their father, who is on assignment there. They booked the ticket with Delta and alerted Delta immediately to their severe peanut allergy. The longhaul Atlanta to Seoul flight operated by Delta was no issue: no peanuts were served.
But upon boarding the Korean Air connection in Seoul, the boys claimed they were met with an unsympathetic choice: deal with the peanuts or get off the flight. The crew claimed it would not “deprive other guests of peanuts” and appeared totally indifferent to their allergy. Left stranded in the airport, the boys returned to Atlanta on Delta.
Delta 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.
Meanwhile, Korean Air seemed to understand the bad optics of the situation.
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.
Airlines are in a difficult position on this issue. I understand the liability and it’s not totally unreasonable to wonder why 400 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. 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.
We’re all in this together. I hope we would all put aside short-term enjoyment in order to protect our vulnerable seatmates from a severe reaction. But if I knew I was going to die if I came into contact with traces of peanut in the air, I doubt you’d see me on a plane very often.
How do you think airlines should handle peanut allergies?