Alaska Airlines knows cancer is not contagious, right?
A woman suffering from multiple myeloma was kicked off a flight from Hawaii to California on Monday with her husband and two sons after the Alaska Airlines cabin crew insisted she needed a doctor’s note to fly.
On her Facebook page, Elizabeth Sedway, 51, said she had been waiting to board her flight while wearing a surgical mask on her face. That’s when she was approached by an Alaska Airlines employee who asked if she needed anything. Sedway initially declined assistance, but later told the employee that she might need extra time to board because she sometimes feels weak.
After her family boarded the plane, Sedway said, an airline employee told her that she could not “fly without a note from a doctor stating that I was cleared to fly.”
In a video of the incident posted on her Facebook page, Sedway can be heard desperately arguing with the airline employee and holding back tears.
“I’m being removed as if I’m a criminal or contagious because I have cancer,” she can be heard saying. “No note to fly. Does anybody wonder how I got to Hawaii? My family is being forcibly removed from the airplane because I have cancer.”
In the video, Sedway repeatedly apologizes to her fellow passengers for delaying their flight.
“God bless you,” one passenger can be heard saying.
“I am scheduled for chemo, at home, on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Sedway wrote on Facebook after the incident. “Because of this, I will miss my chemotherapy, my children will miss school, and my husband will miss important meetings.”
Sedway, who lives in Northern California, noted that her family struggled to find a hotel room for the night — and, when they eventually did, Alaska Airlines initially “refused to pay for anything.”
In a statement sent to The Washington Post, Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Halley Knigge said the airline has since reversed that stance:
“We regret the inconvenience Ms. Sedway experienced yesterday. Her family’s tickets have been refunded and we’ll cover the cost of her family’s overnight accommodations in Lihue. Our employee had the customer’s well-being in mind when we sought the advice of trained medical professionals.”
On Tuesday, Knigge told the Daily News that a doctor employed by the company had determined Sedway should not fly. She said the company’s protocols remain in place for the health of its customers and noted that the flight was crossing the Pacific Ocean, a prodigious body of water.
“You never want to have a medical emergency while flying over water,” she said.
“Because I said the word weak, the Alaska Airlines employee called a doctor she claimed was associated with the airlines,” Sedway wrote on Facebook. “After we board the plane. An Alaska representative boarded the plane, and told us I could not fly without a note from a doctor stating that I was cleared to fly.”
Sedway said her family booked another flight the following day and finally made it back home to Granite Bay, Calif.
“As with most unpleasant times, there are silver linings, if we’re determined to find them,” she wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday. “Here, we plan to donate the airfare, to be refunded by Alaska Airlines, to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation — MMRF. Additionally, this airline will likely look at future events of this kind with increased wisdom and sensitivity.”