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Korean Air refuses to let cancer patient onto flight

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.

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

“(Korean Air) can 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 (christory@heraldcorp.com)
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