Crystal Kim, Cancer Patient, Denied Flight On Korean Air For Looking "Too Frail"

Posted May 10th 2011 08:15 AMUpdated May 12th 2011 11:23 AM



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Korean Airlines denied a woman with Stage 4 breast cancer a seat on a South Korea-bound flight because she "looked too frail," MSNBC reports.

UPDATE Thursday, May 12: The Kims are still hoping to get to South Korea. Kim told Seattle news station King5 that "I like America, but I want to go die in my country." Kim has been given 2 months to live and she wants to be with her family and buried next to her grandmother who raised her, she told the station.

Korean Airlines has still refused the Kims a flight. The Kims are now booked on a Delta flight on Thursday. Her daughter, Mimi, told the station: "I think we're going to fly to Seoul on Thursday. Definitely. It's important to stay positive."

Check out the Kim's interview here.

Tuesday, May 10:

Crystal Kim had a doctor's note from not one but two doctors saying she was OK to fly from Seattle to South Korea over the weekend, KING5-TV, a local NBC affiliate reports.

Yet a Korean Airlines spokeswoman Penny Pfaelzer said the carrier thought she might not be up for such a long flight, so they arranged a hotel until they could confirm "proper authorization."

Pfaelzer told the affiliate that other passengers would be "traumatized" if a passenger were to die while mid-flight.

Crystal's daughter, Mimi, told MSNBC that she wanted to take her her mom to South Korea for Mother's Day.

On Monday, the mother-daughter duo again went to a doctor to get a third note, but the airline would still not put her on a flight.

"It's absolutely ludicrous, heartless and unbelievable," Mimi Kim said.

In a stroke of luck, Delta agreed to fly the Kims to South Korea on Wednesday.

Filed Under: Air Travel, News, Video

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At the end, reading about the accommodations about Delta, my first thought was, "that's great that they stepped up to transport this woman in a time of great need." Second thought: "I believe I just read an article about Delta paying $2-million in a lawsuit involving the mistreatment of disabled passengers."

Obviously, they're trying to improve their reputation, but on the other hand, I wonder if these ladies know what they're in for with this particular airline.

June 20 2011 at 7:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

@korhhouston...what exactly is contagious about breast cancer? You have twice mentioned the traveller could be contagious. Where is your medical degree from?

May 13 2011 at 10:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People die every day every moment, with Drs standing behind this woman there should have been no reason for the denial at all. Doctors are trained professionals and able to determine health conditions. Since when have airlines began training their personal medical care as though they are doctors. From my understanding they only get a first aid course not a Doctors medical degree.
Thumbs up Delta for getting this woman the trip she has eagerly waitied for. Thumbs down to those heartless SOB's who run Korean Airlines. You should be ashamed for your lack of compassion. You lost face.

May 11 2011 at 10:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gina Dubyak

Seriously, that breaks my heart!! Shame on the Korean airlines, I do not see any rights that Korean airline could possibly endanger or harm any other passenger. So if someone was an amputee, would they have the right to say whether or not this perosn could fly?? Because it MIGHT upset some passengers? This is so wrong in so many ways.

May 11 2011 at 9:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

State governments have been allowing insurance company personnel to overide the treating physicians decision and recommendations so why not airline staff?

May 11 2011 at 9:30 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

way to go delta. shame on you korean airlines.

May 11 2011 at 6:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

even though she had clearance from her doctors, she still was denied...not treated very well....anyone can die on an airplane at any given don't have to be a stage 4 cancer patient, you can be the "picture of health" and drop dead in a what does that mean??? should we all now have to have proof of good health in order to fly?....

May 10 2011 at 11:04 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

My husband got very sick in China and we needed medical clearance for him to fly. It was very difficult because the paperwork needed had to be done and the flight needed to be arranged and they had to be within a matter of days of each other. They also needed to arrange for oxygen to be delivered to the plane. We were going to fly first class because his company offered, but they would only allow us to fly in business class. He had travel insurance, but needed to go on a non stop commercial flight to Los Angeles, because they felt that too many landings and takeoffs would be detrimental to his health. They arranged for a doctor to fly from France to China and then to fly with us to Los Angeles on the plane. The time came to fly and we had to see a local doctor once more. He advised that we give my husband Tylenol the morning of the flight to be sure that his fever would be down. I sang to my husband "When You're Smiling" and "Put on a Happy Face" as we wheeled him through the airport. They still had the right to cancel his flight. Another tough thing was that without a doctor willing to admit him to a hospital upon arrival from China, we could not board the flight. The hospital that his doctor works out of was full, and could not guarantee him a bed. We had to find a doctor willing to accept the patient blindly, and to do that, we had to call in some favors and pull some strings. My husband almost dies, but I would have done whatever it took to help him. He is still alive today, and doesn't remember most of what he went through. It took a team of people and a lot of money to accomplish what we did. I feel very bad for this woman and I although I don't know what discomfort her disease causes her, I do know that it was a major undertaking to get my husband back to the United States. For that reason, I do not believe that I will ever leave this country to travel. There is plenty to see and experience here. Unless you are traveling to a place where you feel comfortable that they have modern facilities that can handle your particular situation, I would not go if i were you. It was a nightmare for all of us.

May 10 2011 at 10:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I agree! Absoutely no reason to deny the poor woman a trip for Mother's Day

May 10 2011 at 8:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

korhhouston......Really? You are a poor excuse for a human being. Anyone at anytime could die. You're worrying about the price of a plane ticket? Yikes!

May 10 2011 at 8:31 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Laura's comment

Your darn right I'm complaining about the price paid for a plane ticket. The same way people complain about disruptive kids in movie, or restaurant. I'm not without compassion but when you pay a certain price for anything, you have a right to expect a certain level of ambiance and enjoyment. I'm sure you would be singing another tune if while dinning some kid was smacking you in the back of the head with a spoon, or thumping your seat while the parents looked like, what's the matter with you? They are just kids being kids, That is if they acknowledged the kids acting up at all. I'm not saying don't extend a helping hand. I'm saying let's all be more considerate of each other, by taking a minute to think how what you want in the moment will imact others long after.

May 11 2011 at 3:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply