Alaska Airlines apologizes after not letting cancer patient fly

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ben Popken

Alaska Airlines has issued an apology and refunded airline tickets for a cancer patient they wouldn't let fly Monday without a doctor's note.

The woman, Elizabeth Sedway, 51, was returning to California from a Hawaiian vacation Monday when she boarded an Alaskan Airlines flight while wearing a surgical mask, according to a post she made on her Facebook page. She said an airline employee twice asked her if she needed anything, and the second time Sedway said she might need a little extra time to board because she was feeling weak.

That's when things got dicey.

"Out of concern for this customer’s safety, our employees made the decision to call MedLink, a service which provides on-call advice from trained medical professionals who specialize in air travel to assist employees in making decisions about a customer’s ability to safely travel," said the airline in a statement. "MedLink advised that our customer provide a doctor’s note stating she is clear to travel."

Without the note, the woman was asked to leave the flight, along with her husband and two sons.

In a cellphone video of the incident the woman posted to Facebook afterward, she addresses the airline flight attendants and the other passengers.

“I’m being removed as if I’m a criminal or contagious because I have cancer,” she said. “No note to fly. Does anybody wonder how I got to Hawaii?"

Sedway later posted on Facebook that the delay caused her to miss a chemotherapy appointment and her husband and children to miss work and school.

Alaska Airlines later refunded her tickets, covered the cost of her accommodations for the evening and sent her back on a new flight the next day.

"We could have done some things differently and the things we have learned from this situation will influence how we approach similar situations in the future," the airline said in a statement. It said that the airline's policy allowed patients who were feeling ill to fly without a doctor's note, but in cases where the passenger's fitness to fly wasuncertain, the airline follows the advice provided by MedLink.

The woman said she would be donating the airfare to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Email or tweet @bpopken.