Finnair tells Apprentice contestants with life-threatening nut allergies: ‘If you have an issue, get off the plane’

Exclusive: ‘I’m astounded at the airline’s policy,’ says Ryan-Mark Parsons

Helen Coffey
Wednesday 13 November 2019 13:31 GMT
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Two contestants on the BBC’s The Apprentice were left “shocked” and “appalled” after crew on a Finnair flight refused to refrain from serving nuts onboard.

Ryan-Mark Parsons, 19, and Pamela Laird, 29, were flying with the rest of the cast and crew from London to Helsinki in May to film an episode of the show, which is airing tonight.

Both contestants have life-threatening nut allergies and carry epipens.

However, when they informed the cabin crew of this, they were told that nothing could be done, an Apprentice insider told The Independent.

“They asked the cabin crew to make an announcement telling other passengers not to eat or buy nuts onboard. The flight attendant said this wasn’t part of their policy, that they couldn’t do anything to help,” they said.

Ryan-Mark asked to speak to the captain, who allegedly told him there was “absolutely nothing” he could do, saying: “If you have an issue, get off the plane.”

The programme’s production crew were forced to go up and down the aisles, pleading with other passengers not to eat any nuts.

One group allegedly kicked up a fuss, with a traveller purposefully buying and eating a packet of nuts after being told of the contestants’ allergies.

“I’m appalled at the policy adopted by Finnair with regards to their passengers travelling with a nut allergy,” said Ryan-Mark. “Though I made the staff aware of my allergy, they refused to stop selling nuts and refused to ask other passengers to avoid eating them during the journey.

“Though the production team asked other passengers if they’d be okay to avoid eating nuts on the flight, I’m astounded that the airline’s policy even required them to have to do so. I would urge them, and all airlines, to consider their policy as it is a very simple action which can help protect their customers.”

Pamela Laird added: “It was shocking to hear about Finnair’s policy regarding passengers travelling with a severe nut allergy. They need to understand the seriousness of the situation around nut allergies and that they simply cannot refuse to accommodate the passengers who travel with them.

“If nothing else I want other nut allergy sufferers to be aware of this policy before booking a flight with Finnair.”

A Finnair spokesperson told The Independent that, as the airline operates more flights to and from Asia and the Far East than any other European carrier, its menus reflect Asian cuisine in which nuts are widely used.

“These are valued by the vast majority of customers onboard,” they said. “Finnair is therefore unable to guarantee a completely nut-free environment in-flight and is also unable to control what other customers may bring onboard and consume themselves, even before any cabin announcements are made.

“We advise customers to check our website at so that those with severe nut allergies are aware and can take necessary precautions for safe travel.”

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It’s not the only airline to operate a controversial nut policy.

Turkish Airlines has had several high profile cases of kicking passengers with allergies off flights and refusing to refund them.

In September, Norine Khalil, a 32-year-old dietician and nutritionist living in Toronto, was left feeling “devastated” and “helpless” after Turkish Airlines denied her boarding and made her pay almost £1,500 for new flights, because she told them she had a nut allergy.

A Turkish Airlines spokesperson told The Independent: “Turkish Airlines has been contacted by the passenger who has shared her full experience. We take allergy attacks extremely seriously and our priority is always to ensure our passengers are safe to enjoy a pleasant flight. This matter is in the hands of our customer relations and customer services management team who are treating it with the utmost importance.”

In June, Josh Silver, 25, was flying from Antalya, Turkey, to Gatwick with his girlfriend when he notified a Turkish Airlines flight attendant of his nut allergy.

He was told to leave the flight immediately shortly before take-off. When he refused, he said armed police boarded the aircraft to escort the couple off.

“We clearly state on our website that anyone with a nut allergy must inform us before the flight,” a Turkish Airlines spokesperson told The Independent.

“In this case, our records show that no such information was provided by the passenger until they boarded the flight, which unfortunately is too late for cabin crew to prepare for and take precautions against potential allergy attacks in advance. Our priority is always to ensure our passengers are safe to enjoy a pleasant flight.”

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