Woman in wheelchair left alone at Chicago airport overnight after flight canceled

A woman in a wheelchair was left alone at Chicago’s O’Hare airport overnight after her flight was canceled. Now her family is looking for answers.

Olimpia Warsaw has Parkinson’s disease and diabetes and uses a wheelchair because she has trouble walking. Warsaw traveled from Detroit to Chicago for her ex-husband’s funeral, and right away things went wrong, her family says. Her luggage was lost and she ended up missing part of the service as a result.

Then on her way back home to Detroit, Warsaw experienced an even worse travel nightmare. Her family told CBS Chicago an airport porter left her alone in her wheelchair overnight after her flight was canceled.

Claude Coltea said he and his mom went to the airport together after his father’s funeral last week. “I walked with her all the way to her gate,” he told the station. “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 then went to his gate for a flight leaving shortly after his mother’s flight was supposed to depart.

But it turned out, Warsaw’s flight was not going to depart. It was canceled.

Coltea said American Airlines assigned a porter to take Warsaw back to the front of the airport. She was offered a hotel room since her flight was canceled, but they weren’t willing to take her there. Warsaw has trouble communicating and couldn’t arrange her own transportation to the hotel.

Instead of helping, the porter told her his shift was over and he couldn’t do anything. Then her family says he just left her there. 

“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,” Warsaw’s other son, Julian Coltea, told CBS Chicago. 

When she didn’t arrive in Detroit, Warsaw’s family began calling American Airlines. Not only had the airline lost her bags on her flight to Chicago, but they lost her on the way home, the family said.

Hours later, security eventually helped the family connect with Warsaw. Images taken shortly after she was discovered show her alone in her wheelchair, still dressed for her ex-husband’s funeral.

Warsaw’s son said his mother was let down by both the airline and the 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,'” Claude Coltea said. “Not one person did that.”

His brother, Julian, agreed. “I really think they need to revisit their policies for dealing with the elderly, for dealing with the disabled,” he said.

American Airlines apologized to the family in response to CBS Chicago’s story, the station reported. The airline said it is investigating the porter involved, who is not an airline employee. CBS Chicago reports that the family is still exhausted from the incident, but is more content after speaking with an airline representative. 

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