An elderly woman suffering from Parkinson’s disease and diabetes was left overnight at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Friday in a wheelchair after her flight was canceled.
Olimpia Warsaw, 67, was on her way back to Detroit, Michigan, after attending the funeral of her ex-husband in Chicago, Illinois, when the incident took place. Claude Coltea, Warshaw’s son, told CBS Chicago he had checked his mother to the gate of the airport for her American Airlines flight when an agent assured him that Warshaw will be looked after well.
“I walked with [my mom] all the way to her gate,” he said. “I confirmed with the gate agent that the flight was on time. Everything was ok. She said, ‘Yup, all’s fine. We’ll take good care of your mom’.”
Coltea was supposed to take a different flight a while later. So he left his mother with the agent. Soon after, Warshaw’s flight was canceled, instead of calling Coltea, the airline designated a porter for the elderly woman, who took her to the front of the airport.
Although the airline booked hotel accommodations for Warshaw, it was not prepared to assist her to the location. And given her condition, it was not possible for the woman to avail public transport services on her own since she had trouble communicating with people. Hence, the porter had no other choice but to wait with her until his shift was over. He left Warshaw at the airport once it was time for him to go 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, another of Warshaw’s family members, said.
When Warshaw failed to show up at her house, her family members called American Airlines to find out her whereabouts. Initially, the company was unable to locate her. When they finally tracked her down, the 67-year-old was still in the wheelchair, wearing the same clothes she had attended the funeral in.
The airline company said they were unsure as to how the incident transpired and was investigating the matter.
“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,” a statement regarding the incident read.
However, both Claude and Julian said they were waiting for an explanation as to why their family member was mistreated.
“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. Not one person did that,” Claude said.
Julian said: “I really think they need to revisit their policies for dealing with the elderly, for dealing with the disabled.”
An elderly woman with Parkinson’s disease and diabetes was left overnight at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Friday in a wheelchair after her flight was canceled. In this photo, workers load luggage onto an American Airlines aircraft at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, May 11, 2018. Photo: Getty Images/ Scott Olson
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