Alaska Airlines Apologizes For Ordering Cancer-Stricken Passenger Off Of Plane

Because she didn't have a doctor's note.

Alaska Airlines is apologizing for forcing a cancer-stricken passenger and her family off of a flight because she didn’t have a doctor’s note to fly.

Elizabeth Sedway, 51, has multiple myeloma. She was returning home from a Hawaiian vacation with her two sons and husband and had boarded the plane wearing a surgical mask. Once on the plane, she was told she would not be able to proceed without a physician’s permission. Her removal from the plane was caught on video. Not a good look Alaska Air.

Sedway and her family had to find a hotel room for the night, an expense that the airline wasn’t going to pay at first. She also says her children missed school, her husband missed work appointments and she missed a chemotherapy appointment.

However, now Alaska Air has apologized in a statement and made other concessions. Via The Washington Post:

“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.”

Apparently, what spurred the incident was the fact that Sedway said she would need more time to board the plane because she feels “weak.” A spokesperson for the company, Halley Knigge, says the airline has protocols in place such that a doctor, hired by Alaska Airlines, determined that Sedway was deemed unfit to fly. Since the flight was heading to California, the airline was being cautious because they were going over the Pacific Ocean.

This all makes sense actually. If Sedway seems ill and the airline wants clearance before flying over a large body of water, that’s reasonable. The way this situation was handled is really the big issue here.

Airlines need to have protocols in place so that they don’t make a show of booting customers off of planes. When did the flight attendants get word that Sedway hadn’t been cleared by the airline’s doctor? Maybe she and her family should’ve been told to wait by the gate for that note before being allowed to board? Why didn’t they take Sedway’s word that she would be fine? The story and the now-viral clip reflects poorly on the airline and its customer service even though they may have had good intentions.

There are things that are out of an airline’s control and things that they should be able to manage well. This is one of the things that can be better managed. If airlines really do care about their customers — or at least want to avoid the harsh glare of the media coverage of another travel horror story — they have to have the right policies in place and teach workers about the procedures to execute those policies is a respectful way.

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