Turkish Airlines is once again in the news for booting a nut allergy sufferer from one of its flights. In the latest incident, passenger Hanna Olsen had already successfully flown to Istanbul with Turkish Airlines before staff on a connecting flight stopped her from boarding due to allergy worries.
Olsen told the Mirror that she doesn’t suffer from a life-threatening nut allergy but likes to inform cabin crew of her issue and often asks to review the ingredients list of food provided onboard to make sure it is safe for her to eat.
Travelling on holiday to Cape Town, the first of two flights Olsen needed to take with Turkish Airlines from Manchester passed off uneventfully and cabin staff were more than happy to oblige her request to review the menu.
But when she told staff on the second flight to South Africa, they allegedly asked her to sign a blank piece of paper that they said was a declaration that the airline would not be held responsible if she suffered an allergic reaction during the flight.
Despite signing the sheet of paper and reassuring cabin staff that she did not have a severe nut allergy, the pilot apparently refused to transport, and she had to be removed from the aircraft.
Turkish Airlines initially attempted to charge Olsen £700 to rebook her on a flight the next day, although the carrier eventually waived the charge. Unsurprisingly, Osen says the incident has put her off ever telling crew about her allergy on future flights.
Olsen’s story is far from unique. In August, an eight-year-old girl was barred from boarding a Turkish Airlines flight from Bodrum in Southwestern Turkey to London Gatwick due to her nut allergy.
In that incident, the girl’s mother claimed Turkish Airlines “stranded” them in Bodrum for 30 hours with no food or drinks. The airline’s refusal to transport the girl came even after her mother presented a ‘fit to fly’ certificate from her doctor.
In another incident just a couple of months earlier, a family were refused boarding because a six-year-old had a severe nut allergy. Turkish Airlines allegedly wanted to continue to serve nuts in Business Class and rather than make passengers go without nuts, the family was offloaded from the flight.
Last month, an American traveller asked a Turkish Airlines crew to make an announcement requesting other passengers not to eat nut-based snacks due to her allergy. The airline refused to make the announcement and then became suspicious about the severity of her allergy before having her removed from the plane.
There are numerous other similar stories involving Turkish Airlines and its approach to nut allergy sufferers.
Officially, Turkish Airlines doesn’t ban allergy sufferers from its planes and the airline even suggests that it will swap out nut-based snacks if allergy sufferers give them more than 48 hours’ notice.
Turkish Airlines also says it can provide nut-free meals to allergy sufferers, but the airline also urges passengers with any form of allergy to “consult your doctor and evaluate travel risks before your trip.”
The airline asks passengers to have a doctor’s report ready to present to cabin staff in “case an emergency arises”, but the carrier stops short of allowing pre-boarding of allergy sufferers or making announcements to request other passengers refrain from eating their own nut-based snacks.
“Despite the precautions taken on your flight, we cannot accept any responsibility for any allergic reactions that may occur as we cannot ensure our aircraft is free of nuts such as hazelnuts and peanuts,” Turkish Airlines explains on its website.
Despite this well-meaning policy, there is a growing list of incidents in which Turkish Airlines have barred nut allergy sufferers from flying. No wonder some allergy sufferers are thinking twice before booking a ticket with Turkish Airlines.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.