Is there an airline in existence that isn’t in need of some serious PR help at this point? The story of a working mom flying Delta who was forced to check her carry-on containing her breast pump already enraged mothers everywhere. Now Alaska Airlines is making headlines for kicking a woman and her family off their flight because she has cancer, and didn’t bring a doctor’s note.
Elizabeth Sedway says she was putting on a surgical mask before she boarded a plane back to San Jose from Hawaii Monday, when a flight attendant approached her, asking if Sedway needed anything. Sedway, who suffers from multiple myeloma, mentioned that she sometimes feels weak and may need extra time to board, which she said prompted the attendant to call a doctor.
“Because I said the word weak, the Alaska Airlines employee called a doctor, she claimed was associated with the airlines,” Sedway wrote on Facebook Monday.
Soon after Sedway, her husband, and two sons boarded the plane, a representative from Alaska Airlines reportedly informed her that she could not fly without a note from a doctor stating that she is cleared to be on an airplane.
Sedway posted a video she took as they walked off the plane, and you can clearly hear the tears and frustration in her voice as she announces to her fellow passengers: “I’m being removed as if I’m a criminal or contagious because I have cancer. No note to fly."
She then (accurately) points out, “Does anybody wonder how I got to Hawaii?”
Sedway acknowledged to KTLA, the Bay Area NBC station, that the airline representatives were concerned about her ability to fly over the Pacific Ocean without collapsing. (She told KTLA that she put on the surgical mask because other passengers had runny noses—multiple myeloma patients can have weakened immune systems.) But Sedway said that she’s been able to fly for the last five years and even emailed her oncologist during the exchange with the flight attendant, and her doctor said she was fine to fly.
Sedway and her family were forced to stay in Hawaii for another night after re-booking with Hawaiian Airlines for a Tuesday flight, which she says caused her to miss a chemotherapy appointment.
Alaska Airlines has since apologized to Sedway, and reimbursed her family for their travel costs.
"We regret the inconvenience Ms. Sedway experienced yesterday and are very sorry for how the situation was handled," they wrote in an email to KTLA. "Her family's tickets have been refunded and we'll cover the cost of her family's overnight accommodations. While our employee had the customer's well-being in mind, the situation could have been handled differently."
Sedway, though, told KTLA that she thinks Alaska Airlines needs to reevaluate how they treat people. “They need to polish their policies, apply some common sense,” she said. “A simple mask, a word, shouldn’t be enough to pull a whole family off an airplane.”
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