An American Airlines Passenger Was Left Overnight In a Wheelchair at the Airport. Here’s What the Airline Says

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

In recent times, some airlines have struggled with the concept of customer service like a mountain lion struggles with the concept of afternoon tea.

Yet what happened to American Airlines passenger Olimpia Warsaw seems to go beyond even the most basic tenets of looking after your customers.

67-year-old Warsaw can’t walk easily. She has Parkinson’s and diabetes. She also struggles with communication.

Yet, she wanted to fly to her ex-husband’s funeral.

All went well, CBS Chicago reports — except that the airline apparently lost her luggage on the way out — until she arrived back on Friday at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for the homeward journey. 

She was booked on a different flight from her son Claude Coltea.

He told CBS: 

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

Some might wonder whether good care would involve abandoning a woman who has difficulties communicating at the airport, still in a wheelchair.

Yes, overnight.

Her flight was, in fact, canceled. 

The airline offered her hotel accommodation, having given the job of getting her back through the airport to a porter.

Coltea explained that the porter wasn’t willing to go out of his way to help:

Ma’am, I have to go home — this is what the porter explained — because my shift’s done. And so I don’t know how to help you anymore. And he left her there.

Warsaw had no means of getting to her hotel, says Coltea. She was in her wheelchair hoping that someone, anyone would help.

Another family member, Julian Coltea said that she even had to attract the attention of a stranger in order to get to a bathroom.

How could it have happened that someone with such difficulties was simply abandoned?

I asked American Airlines whether it felt it had responsibility in this matter. A spokesperson told me: 

Of course we do, she is our customer.

Why, then, was this customer not looked after? Family members say that when she didn’t arrive back to Detroit, American didn’t know where she was. The airline spokesperson told me:

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. 

One might imagine, however, that a refund is insufficient. Warsaw was seriously traumatized at being simply left by herself. 

The airline told me that the porter had taken her to the hotel shuttle area. What happened next is less clear, said its spokesperson: 

After that point, we are trying to understand what transpired.

Of course there could have been some sort of miscommunication here. But a measure of customer service is how you look after your most vulnerable customers.

In this, it seems someone seriously erred.

Claude Coltea put it succinctly: 

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. 

Recently, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker suggested that the nuances of customer service were less important than simply getting customers to their destination on time.

There’s surely more to being a reliable airline than that.

This article is from Inc.com

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