A Northern California woman with cancer said she and her family were kicked off an Alaska Airlines flight shortly before takeoff on Monday because she didn’t have a doctor’s note to fly.
Elizabeth Sedway, her husband and two sons were on a return flight from Hawaii to San Jose when a representative from the airline boarded the plane and informed her she could not be on the flight without a clearance note from her doctor, the 51-year-old woman wrote on her Facebook page.
“I’m being removed like I’m a criminal or contagious because I have cancer,” Sedway can be heard saying in video she posted on Facebook. “My family is being forcibly removed from an airplane because I have cancer, no note to fly.”
As she makes her way to the front of the plane, the video showed her apologizing to passengers for holding them up.
Sedway, who has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, told Bay Area television station KNTV that the incident began when she put on a surgical mask prior to boarding the flight.
She wrote on Facebook that an airline employee went up to her while she was seated in the handicap section of the boarding area and wanted to know if there was anything she needed.
At first she told the employee she did not need anything, but when asked a second time, Sedway explained she would possibly need some extra time to get on the plane since she sometimes felt weak.
“Because I said the word weak, the Alaska Airlines employee called a doctor she claimed was associated with the airlines,” she wrote. “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.”
She was later told by airline officials they were concerned about her flying over an ocean because she had felt weak and they were worried she might collapse, according to KNTV.
Sedway, who lives in the Sacramento suburb of Granite Bay, added that at one point during the encounter, she emailed her oncologist.
“He said … ‘if you feel fine you should be able to fly,'” Sedway told KTLA in a telephone interview.
But that wasn’t good enough for the airline. “He did not say that I was cleared to fly, so they pulled us off,” Sedway said.
As a result of being booted from the flight, Sedway said she would miss two upcoming chemotherapy appointments.
“I am scheduled for chemo, at home, on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of this, I will miss my chemotherapy,” she wrote on Facebook.
Sedway told the station that she spent the night in Maui and expected to take a Hawaiian Airlines flight back to San Jose on Tuesday.
A spokesperson from Alaska Airlines emailed KTLA Tuesday afternoon and said they refunded the family’s tickets and would cover the family’s overnight stay as well.
“We regret the inconvenience Ms. Sedway experienced yesterday and are very sorry for how the situation was handled,” Bobbie Egan wrote in an emailed statement. “Her family’s tickets have been refunded and we’ll cover the cost of her family’s overnight accommodations in Lihue. While our employee had the customer’s well-being in mind, the situation could have been handled differently.”
Sedway said she wants to see changes.
“We need to make sure that … corporations aren’t so concerned with liability and bottom line that they overlook common sense and common decency,” she said.
KTLA’s Steve Bien and Kennedy Ryan contributed to this story.