Updated April 3, 2019: Korean Air Lines has announced that it will stop serving peanuts as in-flight snacks. The move follows a week of international media attention over an incident in which two teens were stranded in the Seoul airport because they’d made a request to accommodate the older brother’s severe peanut allergy.
Korean Air said in a statement on March 31 that, aside from snacks, it will additionally remove foods that contain peanuts from in-flight meals in several weeks as a safety precaution.
“We are extremely happy that Korean Air took swift action and will stop serving peanuts as both snacks and eventually as an ingredient in meals,” Prajakta Patel, the boys’ mother, told Allergic Living. “I hope this will be a catalyst for change across all Delta partners but, more importantly, across the airline industry.”
The Korean Air policy changes follow the unsettling experience of Patel’s 16- and 15-year-old sons, who had been visiting their critically ill grandfather in Atlanta. They needed to fly home to Manila (where their father Rakesh Patel is temporarily assigned to work) in order to return to school. Their parents were staying on in Georgia with Rakesh Patel’s father.
Prajakta Patel said her sons’ flights were booked through Delta, which was aware the teens would be traveling as minors and was informed about the allergy. Delta has a policy of not serving peanut products when an accommodation request is made during booking.
However, the boys had a connecting flight from Seoul to Manila on Delta’s partner Korean Air. Their mother wrote in a blog post on Nonuttraveler.com that a Korean Air gate agent first told her sons the accommodation would be made. But once on board, crew told her sons that peanuts would be served throughout the aircraft despite the older boy’s allergy. After the teens explained the severity of the allergy and tried to discuss other strategies, such as wearing a mask or a buffer zone, Patel says they were ordered off the flight.
“It was the most, most stressed out I’ve ever been,” she told ABC’s Good Morning America, describing the hours in which her boys were stranded without on-the-ground assistance. By phone, “I was in tears pleading with them not to leave my children stuck in the airport, but they just didn’t care,” she said in her blog post. The family in the end had to fly the boys back to Atlanta.
Delta swiftly apologized for what it called “this family’s ordeal,” and Korean Air followed suit. On March 28, a Korean Air spokesperson told USA Today: “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. We are examining this incident and will work out to create a better customer experience.”
That led to the announcement on March 31 that Korean Air would be phasing out both peanut snacks and meal ingredients. (When it comes to meals, Allergic Living recommends bringing your own allergy-friendly food for air travel, whenever possible.)
For more information on flying safely with food allergies, see:
- Flying with Food Allergies Tips
- Airlines and Allergies Policies Directory
- American Airlines allows pre-boarding for some food allergies