American Airlines is investigating how a 67-year-old woman in a wheelchair was left alone in the early morning hours Saturday…
American Airlines is investigating how a 67-year-old woman in a wheelchair was left alone in the early morning hours Saturday at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport when her flight was canceled.
The incident started Friday night when Olimpia Warsaw’s flight from Chicago to Detroit was canceled and a porter was assigned to take care of her. Her son, Claude Coltea, said Warsaw was offered a hotel room, but she did not know how to get there on her own and was worried about staying overnight because she did not have her medications with her. The porter left her unattended at the airport when his shift was over, Coltea said.
Coltea and Warsaw were in Chicago for her ex-husband’s funeral and were booked on flights scheduled to depart around 1
0 p.m. Coltea said his mother has Parkinson’s disease and diabetes and has trouble communicating. He waited with her at her gate until he had to leave to catch his own flight, he said. He did not realize her flight had been delayed until he got a call from his stepfather who was supposed to meet Warsaw at the airport in Detroit, saying she never arrived.
Warsaw’s cellphone had died, so family could not reach her, Coltea said. He contacted the airline, who was not aware she had not made it to the hotel, he said. meanwhile, his stepmother and half-brother in Chicago went to O’Hare and, with help from airport security, found Warsaw around 1:30 am
“Everyone handed her off, and she was left sitting at the airport,” Coltea said.
The airline refunded Warsaw’s ticket, and she made it to Detroit on Saturday afternoon, Coltea said.
“If he thinks airlines should treat travelers who depend on additional assistance more like unaccompanied minors. someone is traveling who has a dependence, then someone along that chain needs to say, ‘I’m not going to let go of this person until they’re in safe hands,’ ‘Coltea said.
American spokeswoman Leslie Scott said in a statement that the airline is investigating the incident with the vendor that provides its wheelchair services at O’Hare.
“While this investigation is still underway, we are already developing a process with our vendor to ensure this does not happen again,” Scott said.
The incident was first reported by WBBM-Ch. 2 in Chicago.
The Associated Press contributed.
Follow @ChiTribBusiness on Facebook and @ChiTribBiz on Twitter.