SAN JOSE (AP) — A California woman with cancer says she got kicked off a flight home from Hawaii after being told she could not fly without a doctor’s note.
Elizabeth Sedway, who has a type of blood cancer said that she and her family were asked to leave the Alaska Airlines flight to San Jose on Monday.
Sedway says she told a flight attendant that she might need extra time to board because she sometimes feels weak. She wore a surgical mask in the boarding area.
A doctor was consulted about Sedway’s condition after she had boarded the plane, and she was then asked by airline employees to leave. The family, including her husband and two sons, stayed in Hawaii overnight Monday. She says the delay caused her to miss her chemotherapy appointment.
Sedway said in an email to The Associated Press on Wednesday that all she could say is that she and her family “have been humbled by all the attention.”
“We are spending the evening together as a family,” she added. “I’m sorry I can’t offer you any more than that tonight.”
Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said that while the airline regrets the inconvenience to Sedway and her family, airline employees followed company procedures and the advice of trained medical personnel in the case. The airline, like most others around the country, uses a company called MedLink to assess passenger’s health when concerns are raised, Egan said. The airline follows the medical professionals’ advice as employees of the airline are not qualified to make medical decisions, she said.
“We are doing a thorough investigation ourselves of this situation,” Egan said, “and we certainly apologize and regret the inconvenience that Ms. Sedway experienced.”
Egan added that the flight from Hawaii to the mainland offers no opportunity to make medical emergency landings for many hours while over the ocean and that the employees involved “acted out of the concern and for the welfare of our customer. That being said, there are some things that we could have done differently.”
There are precautions that travelers with cancer should take, according to Cancer.net, the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s patient information website.
Some patients may not be able to fly because oxygen levels and air pressure changes at high altitudes can be dangerous. Changes in air pressure during a flight can also trigger swelling in the arms, legs or other parts of the body for people who have had lymph nodes removed.
The website also notes that people with cancer are at a higher risk of developing a blood clot after sitting through a long flight.