American Airlines Apologizes to Elderly Passenger Left Overnight in a Wheelchair After Her Flight Was Canceled
American Airlines apologized to an elderly passenger and her family after she spent a night in Chicago’s O’Hare airport in a wheelchair when her flight was cancelled.
According to CBS 2 in Chicago, Olimpia Warsaw flew into Chicago, where her luggage was misplaced, to attend the funeral of her ex-husband. Her son left her at the boarding gate for her return flight to Detroit on Friday, Nov. 30, before catching his own flight, assured that American would take care of her.
When the flight turned out to be canceled, Warsaw, who has Parkinson’s and diabetes, was taken by porter back to the front of the airport and offered a hotel room, but not any transportation there. The porter explained his shift was over and he couldn’t help her anymore, then left.
Airport security found Warsaw after her family discovered she hadn’t arrived on the flight home. “She actually had to find a random passenger to help her out just to go to the bathroom because the porters had already left for the night,” Julian Coltea, a family member, told CBS 2. “I really think they need to revisit their policies for dealing with the elderly, for dealing with the disabled.”
In a statement to Fortune, LaKesha Brown, an American Airlines spokesperson, said the airline was “deeply concerned” about the incident and has spoken with the Warsaw family several times since it happened. American also refunded the cost of her ticket.
“This is not the level of service we aspire to provide to our customers, and we apologize to Ms. Warsaw and her family for letting them down,” Brown said. “We have launched an investigation with our Chicago team and the vendor we utilize that provides 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.”
In recent years, other airlines have apologized for the way passengers in wheelchairs have been treated. In 2017, a Japanese airline apologized after a wheelchair-bound man was forced to crawl up a staircase to board a flight. And last year, United apologized after a disabled passenger had to crawl off an airplane.