Family accuses airline of abandoning woman in wheelchair after her flight was canceled

Disabled woman left alone in airport wants policy changes

CHICAGO (WBBM/CNN) - Family members say American Airlines and a porter at the Chicago airport lost a 67-year-old disabled woman overnight after her flight was canceled and she couldn’t make it to a hotel.

Olimpia Warsaw, 67, flew into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport to attend her ex-husband’s funeral, but she didn’t make it back home before family members say American Airlines lost track of her.

Warsaw’s son Claude Coltea said after his father’s funeral, his mom, who has Parkinson’s and diabetes, was set to return to Detroit. He had a flight shortly thereafter and went with Warsaw, who was in a wheelchair because she has trouble walking, to her gate.

“I walked with her all the way to her gate,” Claude Coltea said. “I confirmed with the gate agent that the flight was on time. Everything was OK. She said, ‘Yep, all’s good. We’ll take good care of your mom.’”

But when Warsaw didn’t arrive in Detroit, her family began calling the airline.

It turned out Warsaw’s flight had been canceled.

After the cancellation, the airline assigned a porter to take the 67-year-old back to the front, at which point they offered her a hotel room, Claude Coltea said. However, they weren’t willing to take her to the hotel, and she couldn’t find her own transportation because she has trouble communicating.

Warsaw’s family says the porter explained his shift was over and he didn’t know how he could help her anymore. Then, he left, even though Claude Coltea says his mother was crying and scared.

Family members say by the time they called the airline, no one knew where Warsaw was.

“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,” said family member Julian Coltea.

Eventually, security helped find the 67-year-old, who was still in her wheelchair, dressed for her ex-husband’s funeral.

Claude Coltea said his mother was let down by both the airline and porter.

“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.”

American Airlines has since apologized to the family. They said they’ve launched an investigation into the porter involved, who is not an airline employee.

Julian Coltea said that in addition to leaving Warsaw alone in the airport overnight, the airline also lost her luggage on the trip to Chicago.

“She had to miss the first part of [the] funeral because she had to go get clothes,” he said.

Copyright 2018 WBBM, Claude Coltea via CNN. All rights reserved.