SW Airline makes medical decision and takes passengers' tickets

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Apr 21, 2019
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#1
My queezy stomach from Tampa to MPLS via Dallas turned into airline personel demand EMT's take me off the plane (despite my objections), take my wife's & my tickets for the 2nd leg until I take the ambulance to the ER and have a DR clear me to fly. Then they bill me for it all? The EMT's never checked my pulse by hand, only by machine that I protested was broken. SW should be liable for the entire $3,000 expense to get my tickets back, right? BTW-ER agreed I had no irratic pulse problem.
 
Feb 21, 2018
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#2
You mention a queasy stomach...did you express those symptoms to passengers/flight attendants? Did you show signs of illness? If you did, then the flight crew was being proactive. A medical issue in mid-air is not something they want to deal with.

Have you checked to see if your medical insurance (or trip insurance, if purchased) will cover some of the costs?

I was recently flying home from Atlanta when a passenger became suddenly ill in her seat, after boarding had completed but before we pushed back. It created a 75 minute delay, as the passenger had to be escorted off by medical personnel (she expressed that she wasn't feeling well earlier), and then have a haz-mat team come on board to clean the mess. None of us were pleased to be delayed, but it would have been worse if we'd been forced to land someplace in between Atlanta and home for the crew to deal with.
 
Feb 12, 2019
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#5
Unless they took you to an ER that was 5 minutes or less away - them saying your pulse is fine is not an indication that it was always fine and the EMTs were wrong. My brother has had heart issues that righted themselves by the time EMT showed up - he wears an apple watch so he had a record of his heart rate and they took him in due to the record even though he was fine by the time they showed up. I would also think the equipment EMTs use would have to be calibrated and certified every so often.
 
Likes: krisseye
Dec 19, 2014
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#6
Sorry, but there are too much missing information in your post to make a comprehensive assessment of the situation.

Exactly how sick were you during the boarding process? What exactly do you mean by a "queasy" stomach? If you were appearing uncomfortable, or showing any signs of distress, the airline employees have a duty and obligation to tend to you.

Here is reality:
1) 36000 feet is NOT the place to have a medical emergency. Had you had a medical emergency, the plane would have to make an emergency landing, and the delay in your care could cost you your life.
2) EMTs are certified professionals. They have protocols to follow.
3) Hindsight is 20/20. Personally, I would be thankful that you did not have a serious medical issue.
4) Southwest didn't bill you $3000. Health insurance covers the $3000. I'm sure Southwest rebooked you to the next flight at no additional cost?

Frankly, you must have been pretty sick for airline employees to call EMS and insist that you be evaluated.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#8
Ronald we can’t help you unless you tell us exactly what happened. An airline doesn’t make an arbitrary decision to take you off a plane. What symptoms did you exhibit? Were you dizzy and unable to stand? Did you get sick to your stomach? How did they know you were sick?

We need to know exactly what happened. “Queasy” can be a sick stomach or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke. They are not equipped to help you at 30,000 feet nor make an emergency landing if something did happen.

As others have said, there is more to the story and we need all the information before we can help. Full what you posted- it doesn’t look like SW did anything wrong.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#9
This must have been a nasty experience. Why not make a list of the facts in chronological order so we can determine our ability to advise you?
 
Apr 21, 2019
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#10
To respond to the questions, my upset stomach was 1.5 hr into the flight. There were no throw up bags in the seat, so I asked for one. If I hadn't I would have been unnoticed. Asking for the bag started more attention than I wanted. Continually asking if I was ok, I thought I'd get rid of my queezy stomach by forcing myself to throw up in the bathroom. The dry heaves got rid of my queezy stomach, but left me perspiring (normal for me). The attendants continually asked if I wanted a dr when we landed in Dallas, I told them each time I was fine. They gave me a mask and said there was a boy in the back of the plane who had similar symptoms. They looked at our ages, he was young and I was old, so mine was deeemed possible heart issues. Upon landing, we stalled getting off, because we had a 4-hr layover. The attendants demanded I get off first (no one else allowed off before me and the little boy). I was put on a stretcher, the boy was carried by his father. Both taken to the airport medical exam room. They put an EKG on me, bp was fine, all fine but the heart rate was irratic to the extreme that would have affected the other readings. But didnt. I insisted their machine was broken-numerous times! They never used their hand on my wrist nor used a stethescope to re-affirm the machine.
The airline rep took our tickets. Said I needed a dr to approve my flying.
The ambulance was in no hurry to get me to the hospital. No siren, no hurry-waited on airport grounds for more than 10 minutes.
ER tested again, all was right. They saw no need for enzyme tests because they had no reason to suspect an attack. Thank goodness, I had a 4-hour layover, so I made it back in time for my original connecting flight-otherwise I'd have had the added expense of a hotel to go out the next day, as SW Airlines had booked an exit flite for then.
As one comment pointed out, irregular heart can right itself, then go back to irregular, so there's ABSOLUTELY no guarantee of nofuture attack.
The point is I was misdiagnosed. Dispite feeling fine, (even ate on the 2nd leg of the flight)and treated as not knowing how I was feeling.
Once home, I checked with a heart doctor and an EMT, both said the measurement has to be affirmed with manual testing or a stethescope, as the machines are notoriously incorrect. Wish I'd known that then.
Our Insurance will not cover this expense, which was the result of a misdiagnosis. Dallas EMTs and SW Airlines together incurred these expenses.
Who of you would accept being mis-diagnosed by lack of professionals double checking from the get-go. In that situation, I was at the their mercy and am being forced to pay for their errors.
 
Likes: agnostic
Dec 19, 2014
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#12
Sorry @ronaldmax but based on what you posted, Southwest is not responsible. Southwest staff are not qualified medical personnel.

Once they identify that you are needing medical assistance. By your own admission, you were nauseated, dry heaving and diaphoretic. They absolutely had the obligation to call for medical attention. To any reasonable observer, you were in medical distress. Had they not called for medical attention, and you had a heart attack at 36000 feet, you could be dead and your estate's attorneys would be licking their lips. Hindsight is always 20/20.
 
Feb 16, 2018
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#13
Unless you are unable to make the choice due to your mental or physical condition, you have the right to refuse medical treatment. The medical bills will be your responsibility, because you were required by Southwest to have a doctors clearance to fly, you chose to see these medical professionals. Also an EKG is used for more than heart rate measurement.
 
Nov 20, 2015
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#14
I believe that you are a victim of circumstance. I can understand why you're upset at spending $3000 when there was nothing seriously wrong with your health. It sounds like the flight attendants were worried about you. Maybe they overreacted, but they did what they thought was right. Once the EMT's got a hold of you, they were looking for objective reassurance that nothing serious was happening to you. Unfortunately, when they hooked you up to the cardiac monitor, they were not reassured. (Incompetence, negligence, or defective equipment may have played a part here, but they erred on the side of caution, and you won't be able to prove any of this.) At this point, they had to pass you along to a physician. The airline has to respect the judgment of the EMT's.

I am not so certain(as some of the other posters are) that you must have appeared very ill to warrant the evaluation you received. It's quite possible that overreaction, misinterpretation, incompetence, ageism, etc., played roles. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. Southwest had the right to require medical clearance before allowing you to complete your trip.

In hindsight, maybe you could have insisted on taking a cab to an urgent care clinic near Love Field to get clearance instead of the hospital. They can't force you to go to the hospital against your will. Please don't take this as criticism. I'm sure they pushed you hard to go to the ER.

If you do have insurance that normally covers ER visits, you should appeal the decision not to cover your evaluation. You had symptoms and were medically advised by EMT's to go to the ER--the ultimate diagnosis shouldn't matter.
 
Apr 21, 2019
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#15
Sorry @ronaldmax but based on what you posted, Southwest is not responsible. Southwest staff are not qualified medical personnel.

Once they identify that you are needing medical assistance. By your own admission, you were nauseated, dry heaving and diaphoretic. They absolutely had the obligation to call for medical attention. To any reasonable observer, you were in medical distress. Had they not called for medical attention, and you had a heart attack at 36000 feet, you could be dead and your estate's attorneys would be licking their lips. Hindsight is always 20/20.

I agree, they aren't medical personnel. By my own admission, I had flu-like symptoms which I explained was from what I ate for breakfast. I had dry heaves in the bathroom because I put my finger down my throat. I told them I did that and it caused my sweating. The nausea was then gone. The airport exam showed all key body functions were well, except my heart beat which was not verified by hand. When other body measurements are perfect except the heart rate, re-check the heart rate. EMT's have the equipment there in that room; normally in an emergency, the test for heart rate is by hand....or at best a stethescope. As a result of that misdiagnosis, I was put in an ambulance, waited 10 minutes, then driven to ER and there was nothing wrong. The result is an almost $3,000 ambulance, ER and Dr expense to me.
The EMT's equipment was not questioned at all. And I kept telling them it can't be correct becauase I should feel it, right? I got no answer.
I've since talked with a physician's assistance, a Minnesota EMT, and a heart specialist, and all agree that I would have felt a heart fluctuation like that.
As I told them then, I felt fine, strong, and not needing any help.
I was totally bewildered when arriving at the gate, EMT's and a stretch awaited me.

Again, I had no choice. May be they all think the insurance company will pay-but it will not-I have a high deductible.
 
Likes: agnostic
Feb 12, 2019
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#16
So it's not that insurance won't pay, it's just that you haven't met the deductible on your plan yet so you currently pay 100% of your insurance negotiated rate. Did you have trip insurance? Does the credit card you use have any trip insurance?

You won't be able to argue that SW staff were wrong. Trying to argue that you knew better than medical professionals (the EMTs) will also not work. The opinion of medical professionals hundreds of miles away and after the fact doesn't change anything either.
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#17
What a terrible experience. Your symptoms were numerous and serious, the crew did the right thing. If you felt so well and were ambulatory, you should have departed the plane at DFW and rebooked your flight for later. Why did you agree to be transported? I don't see how the airline or emergency personnel can be blamed for your actions, or lack thereof. They have a job to do, and all you needed to do was politely refuse assistance. I'm sorry this happened to you, but it's good that you are feeling fine.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
17,505
15,836
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www.promalvacations.com
#18
What a terrible experience. Your symptoms were numerous and serious, the crew did the right thing. If you felt so well and were ambulatory, you should have departed the plane at DFW and rebooked your flight for later. Why did you agree to be transported? I don't see how the airline or emergency personnel can be blamed for your actions, or lack thereof. They have a job to do, and all you needed to do was politely refuse assistance. I'm sorry this happened to you, but it's good that you are feeling fine.
I believe he agreed to be transported because they weren’t letting him connect without a doctors note.

I agree with my colleagues- SW did nothing wrong. What if you had something contagious?
What if you were a fellow passenger around another passenger who was vomiting? Wouldn’t you be concerned they had something upon could catch? Even the flu could be deadly to some people.

SW did what they felt was the proper protocol to insure the safety of a plane load of people in a confined space with no fresh air.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#20
Certainly an unpleasant and expensive ordeal. The airlines are concerned about diversions, infectious diseases, and liability. It is worse when there are 2 sick people on the flight. And I would not call it ageism -- statistically the young and the older are the ones that die of the flu.

It is very hard to second guess the treatment later and from afar with limited information.

Is there anyway that you can negotiate with the service providers to reduce the bill?

What actually makes me the most angry is what a mess the health insurance situation is in this country but I will not digress.