By Andrea Romano
December 04, 2018
Empty wheelchair in empty airport
Credit: Getty Images

American Airlines is denying a family’s claim that the company left their wheelchair-bound mother stranded for several hours at O’Hare International Airport on Friday after initially issuing an apology.

On Monday, according to The Washington Post, American Airlines said the company was “deeply concerned about what occurred Friday evening at Chicago O’Hare,” when it was discovered that 67-year-old Olimpia Warsaw, who has Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and has trouble communicating, was allegedly left alone at the airport for five hours after her flight to Detroit was canceled. Warsaw was in Chicago attending her ex-husband’s funeral.

“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,” American Airlines said in the statement released Monday. According to The Washington Post, American Airlines has reached out to the family and refunded Warsaw’s ticket. She was able to fly to Detroit on Saturday, USA Today reported.

However, new footage from closed circuit television revealed that Warsaw was not abandoned as her family originally claimed, The Washington Post reported.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, her son, Claude Colteau said his mother was “found in an empty hallway near a restroom, where another passenger had taken her upon request.” He also claimed he had no idea that his mother had been left alone until he discovered she did not arrive in Detroit, and was found by security officers in Chicago several hours later, according to The Washington Post.

WGN News in Chicago acquired a timeline of the camera footage from American Airlines, which shows that Warsaw had actually been picked up at O’Hare about 45 minutes after her flight was canceled and an attendant had left her to wait.

According to the timeline, Warsaw’s flight was canceled at 11:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30. At that time, she was given a hotel and meal voucher since she would have to rebook her flight for the next day. At 12:06 a.m., the wheelchair attendant for American Airlines is seen on CCTV with Warsaw, and is seen on a six-minute call with Colteau at 12:10 a.m. The wheelchair attendant dropped her off on the Upper Level waiting area at 12:30 a.m. Warsaw waits there until 1:13 a.m., when two relatives arrive to pick her up.

As Warsaw waited, it is seen on the CCTV that she uses her walker to go outside to smoke a cigarette two separate times. The full timeline is published on WGN News.

It is unclear how the original claim came up in the first place, given the new evidence. American Airlines said in a statement to The Washington Post, “We launched an investigation with our Chicago team and the vendor we utilize that provides wheelchair services at O’Hare.” That investigation found the claim to be inaccurate.