Alaska Airlines Is Sorry, Sort of, for Kicking Cancer Patient off Plane

Thursday, April 09, 2015
Elizabeth Sedway

Alaska Airlines is sorry. They now know it was wrong to kick a Sacramento-area woman off a plane flying from Hawaii to San Jose because she has cancer. They feel very bad that she missed two chemotherapy appointments, but are probably thankful she didn’t die because of their ignorance and bad judgment.

Before Elizabeth Sedway’s Facebook page was shut down, the 51-year-old mother of two posted a video of her ordeal.  “I’m being removed like I’m a criminal or contagious because I have cancer,” Sedway said. “My family is being forcibly removed from an airplane because I have cancer, no note to fly.”

Sedway was sitting in the handicap section of the boarding area at the airport with her husband and two kids when an employee asked if she needed any assistance. She had already donned a surgical mask to lessen the chance of picking up a germ in her vulnerable state, and that seemed to have caught the attention of someone in authority.

Sedway said she would appreciate some extra time boarding the plane because she felt a bit weak. That triggered a phone call by the airline to medical personnel and a decision to require that Sedway have a note from her physician clearing her to fly. By that time, she was seated on the plane.

Sedway emailed her oncologist during the encounter and was told she should be able to fly if she felt up to it. She’s been doing just that for five years. But the airline was unimpressed and escorted her off the plane.

Alaska Airlines recognized the error of its ways after a media shit storm rained down on them. “We regret the inconvenience Ms. Sedway experienced yesterday and are very sorry for how the situation was handled,” the airline said in a press release.

They offered to refund the price of the tickets and the cost of the Sedway family’s overnight accommodations in Lihue.

Sedway, who suffers from multiple myeloma, is apparently used to looking on the bright side of dismal events. In this one, her children also missed school and her husband missed some important meetings.

“As with most unpleasant times, there are silver linings, if we're determined to find them,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “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.”

Or not.

The airline apologized for not handling the incident perfectly, but maintained it followed the proper procedures. The airline, like many others, uses MedAire’s MedLink to remotely analyze the condition of a customer when the occasion arises and provide “quality, sensitive customer care.”

That will change about the time airlines widen the seats.

–Ken Broder


Alaska Airlines Apologizes After Kicking Woman Off Flight for Having Cancer (by Peter Holley, Washington Post)

California Woman Says She Was Kicked Off Alaska Airlines Flight Because She Has Cancer (by Tracy Bloom and Mark Mester, KTLA)

Woman With Cancer Told She Can't Fly Back Home (by Greg Botelho and Tony Marco, CNN)

Leave a comment