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California cancer patient asked to leave flight; crew says she can't fly without doctor's note

04/08/2015 10:37 EDT | Updated 06/08/2015 05:59 EDT
SAN JOSE, Calif. - A California woman who has cancer and was travelling from Hawaii to San Jose on Monday was asked to depart an Alaska Airlines plane before takeoff.

Alaska Airlines confirmed Wednesday that Elizabeth Sedway was asked to leave the plane after airline employees consulted with a physician about her condition.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said that while the company 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 a passenger's health when concerns are raised, Egan 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."

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." Messages from the AP seeking further comment were not answered.

"We are spending the evening together as a family," Sedway wrote in the email. "I'm sorry I can't offer you any more than that tonight."

It was not clear Wednesday if Sedway was back in San Jose or if she remained in Hawaii.

There are precautions that travellers 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 changes in air pressure 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.

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Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com

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