The Korea Herald


Korean Air refuses to let cancer patient onto flight

By 조정은

Published : May 11, 2011 - 10:40

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Korean Air denied a terminal cancer patient in the United States a seat on a flight to Korea because she “looked too frail.”

Crystal Kim, a Korean-American with stage 4 breast cancer, was to take the flight on Saturday for Mother’s Day. 

Even though she had two doctors’ notes explaining that her terminal breast cancer wouldn’t be a problem during the flight, Korean Air still refused to let her board at an international airport in Seattle. Kim was accompanied by her daughter.

The two were told by Korean Air agents that Kim looked too frail and weak to fly.

A Korean Air flight readies to take off. (Yonhap) A Korean Air flight readies to take off. (Yonhap)

Korean Air said the agents in Seattle were informed that Kim has been visiting emergency room recently suffering from abdominal pain. Her doctors’ notes showed that the cancer had spread to other organs including brain, lungs, bones and abdomen.

“(Korean Air) could have the patient on board. But after having a series of consultations with our medical staff, we decided not to have her to take the plane if she has no medical support on board,” an official at the carrier’s PR office said.

Korean Air’s Seoul office told The Korea Herald that it was following the carrier’s rule based on International Air Transport Association’s advice.

IATA advises that airliners can deny transportation to passengers needing medical clearance, unless they meet the requirements of the carrying members, Korean Air said. 

There should be proper medical equipment or medical staff with such a sick patient because the in-flight environment is quite different than on the ground, due to lower atmospheric pressure and possibility of air turbulence, the official said.

“We had to think what if anything goes wrong,” he added.

Korean Air has offered the 62-year-old patient and her daughter a hotel room until the carrier finalizes its decision on whether to let the pair on board.

The official said on Wednesday afternoon that the two sides are still consulting the matter whether to have the dying patient on board.

Delta Air Lines previously said they would accept the woman on its flight to Incheon, South Korea’s main airport.

The Korean Air official said the carrier does not know if the regulation on passengers in a similar state is like Delta’s.

By Cho Chung-un

<한글 기사>

대한항공, 美서 암환자 `탑승 거부' 논란

대한항공이 미국에서 암환자의 비행기 탑승을 거부한 것으로 알려져 논란이 일고 있다.

10일 MSNBC방송 등 미 언론에 따르면 유방암 4기 진단을 받은 한인 동포 크리스털 김(62) 씨는 미국의 어머니날(8일)을 맞아 시애틀에서 대한항공을 이용해 한국으로 갈 예정이었다.

하지만 대한항공 측은 지난 8일 수속을 밟으러 온 김 씨의 안색이 안 좋다며 의 사의 진단서를 받아올 것을 권유했다.

김 씨 가족은 장거리 항공여행을 해도 괜찮다는 의사의 진단서를 다음날 제시했는데도 대한항공 측이 한국 본사의 허가를 받아야만 탑승할 수 있다며 탑승을 허용하지 않았다고 주장했다.

대한항공 미주본부의 페니 펠저 대변인은 김 씨가 장거리 비행을 할 수 없을 것으로 생각했으며, 적절한 탑승 승인이 날 때까지 김 씨 가족을 위해 호텔까지 알선했다고 밝혔다.

그러나 김 씨의 딸은 시애틀 지역방송 KING5-TV에 "어머니날을 맞아 어머니를 한국에 모시고 가고 싶었다"며 "어머니는 여행할 수 있을 정도로 충분히 건강했다" 고 말했다.

대한항공 시애틀지점 관계자는 "휠체어를 타고 탑승절차를 밟으러 온 김 씨의 건강이 좋지 않아 보여 내부 규정에 따라 본사 의료팀과 협의해 김 씨에 대한 의사의 소견서를 한국으로 보내 정해진 검토절차를 밟고 있는데 현지언론 보도가 나온 것"이라고 설명했다.

한편 델타항공 측은 오는 11일 김 씨 모녀에게 한국행 항공편을 제공하기로 했다고 KING5-TV가 전했다.