Turkish Airlines kicks family off flight due to six-year-old child’s nut allergy

A family claims Turkish Airlines removed them from a flight due to their six-year-old daughter’s peanut allergy.

Eren Dervish was traveling to Cyprus with his wife and two children during the May semester when the incident occurred.

They had planned to fly to Larnaca with British Airways and then fly to the northern side of the island, Ercan, via Turkey to reach London Heathrow.

“My six-year-old daughter has a peanut allergy, so I tend to call ahead and let the airline know,” Dervish said. The Independent.

“I called BA and Turkish Airlines the week before the holiday – so two weeks before our Turkish flight. BA said: ‘No worries, you can just tell the staff at check-in and we’ll make the announcement and will not serve nuts.” Turkish said he was checked against our reservation and the staff would be notified.

That’s exactly what happened on British Airways, but Mr Dervish says when the family arrived for their Turkish Airlines flight – TK961 on June 5 – it was a different story.

“I arrived at the airport to check in and mentioned it as always – but the crew member didn’t seem to understand what I said.”

Mr. Dervish is of Turkish origin and speaks a little of the language. “I know the word for peanut, so I know they discussed it,” he adds.

However, he says: “Once we got on the plane, our crew member started asking weird questions – like, ‘How far can someone be eating peanuts?’ »

“I said, ‘It’s an airplane, it’s airtight. Can you just not serve peanuts? They said, “Well, the captain and the senior staff want to keep serving peanuts.”

Mr Dervish says he spoke to staff on board and offered to go and speak to first class passengers, of whom he estimates there were around 12, to explain the situation and ask them to refrain from eat nuts during the 90 minute jump.

“A man from flight operations then came on board, got me off the plane to hold me on the steps,” he said.

“He said, ‘If you want to fly on this plane, you have to sign this piece of paper that you take full responsibility if anything happens to your daughter’.”

The family was shocked. Mr Dervish said he had never encountered this response from any other airline and that Turkish Airlines had not informed him of such a policy when he rang the bell before the flight.

“If something terrible happens, it’s anaphylactic shock, death,” he adds.

He said he would not sign a waiver, but instead offered to write down exactly what happened at every stage of his reservation. He says staff then left and made phone calls, before another man boarded wearing a high-vis vest.

“Finally they said your bags are on the runway, you have to leave the plane. They said, ‘We have six security guards waiting outside.

“The staff weren’t aggressive, but they were trying to convince me that we were wrong. At this point, my wife and children are crying, they are traumatized. My six-year-old daughter knew it was her,” says Mr Dervish, who pleaded with the Turkish Airlines crew to at least let them disembark without the intimidating guards.

“They didn’t even let me take the piece of paper they asked me to sign – they said they tore it up,” he adds.

The family was removed from the flight and asked to sit in an immigration office, where Mr Dervish said he could hear several police officers sitting around discussing it but not speaking or helping the family.

When he arrived at the Turkish Airlines office in the terminal, he was shocked to find that the airline would not offer them any assistance to continue their journey.

“The customer service guy said, ‘No – because you got kicked off the plane, you have to fill out some paperwork, leave for two days and then we’ll look into it.’ I thought they would have us on the next flight to Istanbul so we can go home.

In the end, the family bought new return flights for the next day with British Airways. As the next flight departed from Larnaca, 164km (101 miles) away, Mr Dervish also had to cover a £130 taxi between the two.

The family’s car was at Heathrow, while their rearranged flights were to Gatwick, and their dog was in a kennel for another day, further driving up costs.

“We’re talking over £2,500 for all the extras – not to mention the £700 for the flight I was kicked off of,” he says.

“Even with that, we missed work – my wife and I each missed a day of work and the kids missed school.”

Since then, Mr Dervish says he has only been able to submit a standard online complaint form about the incident. He contacted the airline on two social media platforms as well as by email, but received only one email in return.

“On Sunday we received an email saying ‘We couldn’t find anything about allergy against booking, but we take allergies very seriously’.”

“I definitely let them know two weeks before – I have an entry in the call log proving I called.”

“I understand that an administrative error can occur without having written it in advance on my reservation, but I also informed them during check-in,” he adds.

“What bothers me is the moral position of, ‘We’re going to kick the crying six-year-old so we can serve peanuts in first class’.”

Mr Dervish said they had no problem logging the allergy on their quickly arranged flight home from Cyprus with British Airways.

Again, the family informed the staff at check-in, an announcement was made on board asking all passengers to refrain from eating nut products, and no nuts were served by the airline company.

“We’ve never had a problem with any other airline, you can usually tell them at check-in, but on this occasion I had made the effort to say something in advance,” he says. .

The Independent has approached Turkish Airlines for comment.

In the FAQ section of the airline’s website, it says: “Our snacks offered on our flights may include nuts and peanuts. If nut-allergic passengers provide information through Turkish Airlines sales channels up to 48 hours before their flight, passenger menus are loaded accordingly. However, there will be no changes to the menus of other passengers on board.

“If passengers allergic to hazelnuts and peanuts declare their allergies through Turkish Airlines sales channels up to 48 hours before their flight, food containing allergenic ingredients will not be taken on board.”

This is not the first time the carrier has been accused of penalizing passengers with allergies.

In 2019, Turkish Airways made headlines twice after kicking people with nut allergies from flights.

In June that year, Josh Silver, 25, was flying from Antalya, Turkey, to Gatwick with his girlfriend when he informed a flight attendant of his condition.

He was told to leave the flight just before takeoff. When he refused, armed police boarded the plane to escort the couple.

Meanwhile, in September, Norine Khalil said she felt ‘devastated’ and ‘helpless’ after Turkish Airlines denied her boarding and forced her to pay almost £1,500 for new flights because that she told them she had a nut allergy.

The 32-year-old dietitian and nutritionist living in Toronto was returning to Canada from Istanbul after celebrating her sister’s wedding when the incident happened.