Have a Nut or Peanut Allergy? Don't fly Turkish Airlines. The airline may be among the worst major international airlines when it comes to accommodating nut and peanut allergies. There have been several incidents where a passenger allergic to peanuts or nuts informed Turkish Airlines in advance of the allergy, yet were prevented from flying when reminded at check-in of the allergy.
In the most recent incident, a British family with a six-year-old daughter who is severely allergic to peanuts informed both British Airways a week before their outbound flight to Cyprus, and informed Turkish Airlines two weeks before their return flight, of their daughter's allergy. According to the father, Eren Dervish, British Airways told him “no worries, you can just tell staff at check-in and we will make the announcement and not serve nuts” while the Turkish Airlines representative said it was registered on the booking and the relevant staff would be informed.
The British Airways outbound flight proceeded without incident, but on the return flight, on Turkish Airlines on June 5, once he got onto the plane, a member of the flight crew started asking Mr. Dervish about how far away from his daughter someone could eat peanuts. When he asked if peanuts could not be served aboard the 90 minute flight from Northern Cyprus to Istanbul, the crew responded “The Captain and senior staff want to continue to serve peanuts.” Mr. Dervish offered to go speak to each of the first class passengers to explain the situation and ask if they could please not consume peanuts for the flight, but the airline's response was to insist that he sign a liability waiver in case anything happened to his daughter. Eren Dervish was understandably shocked, since no other airline had ever behaved this way, and no one at Turkish Airlines had said anything about the airline insisting on serving peanuts or forcing him to sign a liability waiver when he'd called two weeks prior.
Ultimately Turkish Airlines unloaded the family's luggage, forced them to deplane, and refused to help the family with their onward travel. The family incurred GBP 2500 (~USD 3070) in additional costs, in addition to losing the GBP 700 ($860) for the flight they were kicked off of for their daughter's allergy.
Whether it's botched internal processes for communicating allergies, discrimination against allergy sufferers, ineptitude, or something else, there's really no excuse for Turkish Airlines' treatment of these passengers. Given the severity of these kinds of anaphylactic nut and peanut allergies, we'd prefer to see more carriers, including Turkish Airlines, forego nuts and peanuts entirely in their catering (airlines aren't going to be awarded Michelin stars anytime soon for their gastronomy, even if they occasionally consult a Michelin star chef to design a menu, and it's not as if anyone has to eat nuts, otherwise they'll die). But if Turkish Airlines refuses to accommodate allergy sufferers, the airline should at least be transparent about it. Perhaps before passengers can purchase tickets, have something in all caps to the effect of “ALLERGIC TO SOMETHING? DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT FLYING TURKISH AIRLINES.” Unfortunately we're not joking. So if you have a severe allergy that can't be managed by wearing an N95 mask and/or not consuming anything on board, don't fly Turkish. And don't just assume an airline will be able to accommodate your allergy–do your due diligence on the airline's allergy policy and search to see what other passengers' experiences have been, before booking your ticket.
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