On Friday, Claude Coltea took his 67-year-old mother to O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to catch a flight back home to Detroit.
They were visiting Illinois for his father’s funeral. Mom Olimpia Warsaw was still wearing her black clothes, as American Airlines had lost her bags on the flight in.
Coltea was booked on a separate flight, but airport staff assured him that his mother, who has Parkinson’s disease and is wheelchair-bound, would be well taken care of.
Coltea told CBS Chicago:
“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 fine. We’ll take good care of your mom.'”
But when Warsaw’s flight was canceled, she was allegedly left to fend for herself.
Coltea said American Airlines assigned the 67-year-old a porter who brought her back to the front of the airport and that the airline offered her a hotel room but would not provide transportation to the hotel.
When the porter’s shift was over, they apologized and left her there alone, her son said.
Because she struggles to communicate or get around easily, she was unable to book her own transportation.
She remained at the airport overnight, wearing the clothes she donned for her ex-husband’s funeral.
At one point, she had to ask a stranger to help her use the bathroom “because the porters had already left for the night,” another family member, Julian Coltea, said.
Her family wasn’t aware that she didn’t make it onto the flight until she never showed up in Detroit. The family frantically called American Airlines, and airport security started to search for the mom.
They found her in O’Hare several hours later. Coltea said he’s upset over how the situation was handled:
“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.”
American Airlines said the porter is not an airline employee, but it has launched an investigation into the incident.
In a statement to People, an airline spokesperson said:
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.
Warsaw’s family said they hope the airline looks into improving how they treat elderly and disabled passengers.
UPDATE [12/4/18, 1:46 p.m. EST]:
An investigation by American Airlines revealed that Coltea was alerted his mother’s flight had been canceled shortly after she was unable to board, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Security footage shows that Warsaw was picked up by a woman sent by Coltea and taken home after waiting roughly 43 minutes.
It’s unclear why the family told a different version of events.