American Airlines investigating after passenger’s family says she was abandoned in wheelchair

An American Airlines passenger, whose family says she has Parkinson’s and difficulty communicating, was abandoned in her wheelchair overnight Friday after her flight was canceled, a CBS affiliate in Chicago reports.

The family of Olimpia Warsaw told CBS Chicago she was traveling with the airline Friday to attend the funeral of her son’s father and was left at O’Hare International Airport after her flight to Detroit was canceled.

American Airlines told USA TODAY the company is “deeply concerned about what occurred.”

“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,” the airline’s emailed statement read. “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.”

American says its customer relations department has spoken with Warsaw’s family “multiple times” and refunded her ticket.

Warsaw’s son, Claude Coltea, told a local TV station that he tried to take every precaution to ensure she had a seamless flight.

“I walked with her all the way to her gate,” he told CBS Chicago. “I confirmed with the gate agent that the flight was on time. (I asked) ‘Everything’s OK?’ (And) she said, ‘Yup, all’s good. We’ll take good care of your mom.’ ”

Coltea was to follow his mom out on a later flight.

He said in light of the canceled flight, “The airline assigned a porter to take her back to the front, at which point they offered her a hotel room.”

However, family member Julian Coltea explained: “They weren’t willing to take her and she’s unable to find her own transportation, she has trouble communicating.”

Coltea said his mother was simply told by the porter: ” ‘Well, ma’am, I have to go home… because my shift’s done, and so I don’t know how to help you anymore.’ And he left her there. And she was crying and she was scared.”

Julian said Warsaw was left helpless even when it came to relieving herself.

“She had to actually find a random passenger to help her out just to go to the bathroom, because the porters had already left for the night,” he shared.

He added, “All we wanted was someone to pause and say ‘You know what, can we just make sure this human being is safe and then we can all go home?’ ” he said. “Not one person did that.” 

Per CBS Chicago, security helped locate Warsaw and she was able to fly out Saturday.

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