The parents of two teenage brothers say there were allegedly removed from their flight after the airline was unwilling to accommodate a life-threatening peanut allergy.
Prajakta and Rakesh Patel told "Good Morning America" that their sons, ages 15 and 16, were flying alone from Atlanta while on their way to see their father in the Philippines.
They took Delta Airlines to transfer in Seoul, South Korea. The Patels said they alerted Delta ahead of time about their eldest son's peanut allergy and that Delta ensured them no peanuts would be served on the first leg of the boys' flight, according to ABC affiliate WSB-TV.
But as they boarded the flight to Manila, Philippines, by way of Delta's partner Korean Air, the boys said the crew told them that peanuts would be served on the flight and they could either risk being exposed to peanuts or get off the plane.
"I was very shocked and almost in tears," mom Prajakta Patel said in an interview with "GMA." "It was the most, most stressed out I've ever been."
Over 5 million children under the age of 18 have food allergies, with peanuts, milk and shellfish among the most common, according to the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE).
According to the Patels, the teens pleaded with the airline's agents and offered to sit in the back of the plane with the eldest son, who has the allergy, wearing a mask. The teens said the Korean Air agents refused.
The boys eventually flew back to Atlanta but the family is now filing a complaint with Korean Air.
Dad Rakesh Patel told "GMA" that the family typically never has issues when it comes to their kids flying Delta.
"When you're sitting halfway around the world and your children are stranded at an airport because they got kicked off a plane because of a food allergy, it's a punch in the gut," Rakesh Patel said.
Korean Air released the following statement to ABC News, saying, "Korean Air sincerely apologizes to Mr. and Mrs. Patel and their sons. We are reviewing this incident and will strive to create a better customer experience."
WSB-TV received the following statement from Delta airlines regarding the incident. The airline said, “We’re sorry for this family’s ordeal, particularly during what is already a difficult time for them. Delta and our partner Korean Air are communicating with the family and examining the processes surrounding this incident; we will use our findings in our work to create a consistent experience for customers flying Delta and our partner airlines.”
"I think the call to action here is for us to raise awareness on how airlines could do a little bit better to ensure they're minimizing the risk for certain passengers with allergies," Rakesh Patel said.
Jennifer Ashton, ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, said 1 in 25 children have a food allergy.
"Some of these allergens are airborne," Ashton said on "GMA" today. "There can be contact on surfaces and in the food that's served on these airlines and once you hit 35,000 feet, if you get into trouble over the Atlantic Ocean that is a major problem."
Flying with food allergies: what are the concerns?
Ashton said there are ways people with allergies can stay safe.
Check airline's policy
"Every airline is different in terms of what type of provisions or accommodations they make," Ashton noted.
Inform the person sitting next to you.
Carry an emergency allergy kit
This includes auto injectors, oral steroids and Antihistamine.
Bring food from home rather than eating the airline's food
Ashton also suggests bringing your own handwipes.