Elizabeth Sedway and her family were boarding an Alaska Airlines flight from Hawaii to San Jose, CA, when the airline asked them to leave. Sedway, a mother of two who also happens to be a travel writer, has cancer and admitted to an employee that she might take some extra time boarding because "sometimes I feel weak." Sedway was wearing a surgical mask to protect herself from her sons' runny noses because her white blood cell count was low.
The employee then called a doctor associated with the airline, who gave the opinion that Sedway shouldn't be cleared to fly without a note from her doctor. The mother hadn't had a note when she and her family flew to Hawaii, but during the encounter she quickly emailed her oncologist, who replied to give her clearance and permission to fly.
But Alaska Airlines claimed they were worried about Sedway flying over an open ocean with the possibility of collapsing from a lack of oxygen, and they asked her and her family to leave the plane — an experience that Sedway captured on a cell phone video.
One of the main reasons Sedway is so frustrated is that missing her flight caused her to miss her scheduled chemo appointment for her multiple myeloma — something that's never happened in the five years she has been battling cancer.
"I was crying — my children were sitting there, and we were being pulled off an airplane like we were criminals," Sedway told NBC Bay Area News. "In a climate of fear, people need to make sure they don't lose their humanity. You can't be so concerned about your corporate image or liability such that you end up treating people very poorly."
The airline has apologized publicly and directly to Sedway, and the company is characterizing the incident as a "communication breakdown." Alaska Airlines has promised to refund her family's airfare and any additional costs caused by the delay.
In the end, Sedway just wishes the airline had been more understanding. "They need to polish their policies, apply some common sense," she said. "A simple mask, a word, shouldn't be enough to pull a whole family off an airplane."