Two unaccompanied 15 and 16-year-old teen boys were recently kicked off a Delta flight after the eldest of the two told attendants that he has a peanut allergy, both ingested and airborne.
The boys’ father, Rakesh Patel, explained that his two sons were flying back to the Philippines alone for the first time after visiting their ill grandfather in Atlanta, Georgia. Their trip consisted of two flights: Atlanta to Seoul, South Korea; then the second connecting leg from Seoul to Manila, Philippines.
Unfortunately, due to unfortunate circumstances in their first leg, the boys did not reach the connecting flight, which was to be with Delta’s partner Korean Air.
“My oldest son explained to the gate agents his severe peanut and tree nuts allergy — ingestion and airborne — which is what he does when boarding all Delta flights,” their mother, Pooja Patel, wrote in the now unavailable Facebook post, but was later shared on the No Nut Traveler website, according to TODAY Parents.
She continued that her sons requested at the gate to not serve peanuts and that they also made an announcement asking fellow passengers to refrain from eating peanuts. Her son also asked to board the plane ahead of the other passengers to clean the seats, to which they reluctantly accepted.
After boarding the plane, however, a flight attendant informed the boys that they would still serve peanuts during the flight even after telling them that doing so could give someone with an airborne allergy anaphylaxis. The flight attendant then offered the boys two options, with no middle ground: either deal with it or get off the plane.
“Why are we putting people through that kind of distress?” the father told TODAY Parents. “These are kids who are traveling alone, literally on the other side of the world, and they’re being forced off a plane — so people can eat nuts on the plane?”
The boys were then allegedly forcibly removed from the plane and were stranded in Seoul before they took a flight back to Atlanta.
“The gate agent reaches over and tries to tug on my son’s shirt to encourage him to get off the plane,” Patel said, WSBT-TV reported. “It’s not easy being in that position when you are that far from your kids.”
“My wife and I are livid and angry; this is not right,” the father told TODAY.
Korean Air sent a statement to TODAY in regards to what happened:
“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… Korean Air sincerely apologizes to Mr. and Mrs. Patel and their sons. Customer service is a mainstay of the Delta and Korean Air partnership and we regret that the Patels experience did not reflect our common values.”
Meanwhile, Delta Air sent the following statement to the network: “We’re sorry for this family’s ordeal, and we are working with our partner Korean Air to examine the processes surrounding this incident. We will use our findings to create a consistent experience for customers flying Delta and our partner airlines.”
Patel, while speaking to TODAY Parents, expressed that it’s important for airlines and their partners to have and follow consistent allergy guidelines to make sure that all their passengers are safe.
“Instances like these leave an imprint on a young adult. It’s not right,” he said. “Personally I would advocate for a ban on serving raw peanuts on any plane — but until that happens, how about using common sense and consistent enforcement of policies? Make an effort to be sensitive to your passengers, which would tell the passenger, ‘We care about your life, we understand you have a severe allergy, and we’re going to take some common sense measures to limit your exposure as best we can.’”