Olimpia Warsaw found herself all alone at Chicago O’Hare International Airport late at night.
But she wasn’t waiting for a redeye. The wheelchair-bound 67-year-old who suffers from diabetes and Parkinson’s disease was left to fend for herself after her late flight to Detroit on American Airlines was cancelled.
She was in town for the funeral of her ex-husband and returned to the airport with her son. She and her son Claude were scheduled to leave around the same time and were traveling to different cities. After her son wheeled her to the gate, he reportedly confirmed his mother’s flight was on-time and was assured that she would be well taken care of. He left her and caught his own flight home.
But Warsaw never arrived in Detroit. Family members became worried, especially when the flight was cancelled. Finally, hours later, security tracked her down at Chicago O’Hare. She was still sitting in her wheelchair in her funeral attire in the check-in lobby.
After her flight was cancelled, a porter wheeled her to the American Airlines’s customer service counter. She was offered a hotel room, but not offered help in getting there. I am going to assume that it wasn’t the in-terminal Hilton and thus required a fairly arduous indoor/outdoor walk to the bus station and a potentially long wait in the cold…that’s Chicago O’Hare. Perhaps that process was not clearly explained.
The porter’s shift was up and told Warsaw she would now be on her own. Warsaw, who also has trouble communicating, just waited near the customer service desk. No one came up to her. No one helped her. Finally, she flagged down a stranger and asked for help using the restroom.
It was not until hours later that she was found.
Response from American Airlines
American has apologized and refunded her ticket:
We are very concerned about this, and have launched an investigation with our Chicago team and the vendor we utilize that provides wheelchair services at Chicago O’Hare.
We have spoken with the family multiple times, and met with them both in Chicago and Detroit yesterday. Our team has already refunded back the fare for this trip.
American also allegedly lost her luggage on the way.
You don’t leave an elderly person alone at the gate. Sure, AA failed. Sure, the porter failed. But if my grandmother needed to travel you can bet that she would NEVER travel alone. Delays can happen after boarding. Flights can be diverted. If your loved one is essentially unable to fend for herself, you really should be with her the entire time.
Warsaw is only 67. I suppose her disability could be an exaggeration meant to extract compensation. But watch the video above. I doubt it. And therefore all parties failed her, including her family.
Thankfully, Warsaw is now safe at home. She made it back…a day late.
Would you put a loved one on a flight alone and leave before you knew she was in the air?
12/05 UPDATE: The story was FALSIFIED.