Our Pledge To You


Woman in wheelchair only alone 45 minutes at O’Hare: American Airlines

Olimpia Warsaw, 67, at O'Hare Airport.

Olimpia Warsaw, 67, at O'Hare Airport. | Photo taken by Pusha Colteau

The 67-year-old woman who said she was left alone in a wheelchair for five hours after her flight out of O’Hare Airport was canceled was only by herself for 45 minutes, American Airlines said.

Olimpia Warsaw described being “scared to death” when her porter’s shift ended and she was left alone, unable to walk or communicate due to Parkinson’s and diabetes.

The airline apologized to the family, saying they had launched an investigation. A customer service representative also refunded her ticket.

“American apologized because, in the end, her trip wasn’t completed as booked, so she deserved an apology,” American Airlines spokeswoman Gianna Urgo said. She said the apology was based on the information the airline had at the time.

On Tuesday, American Airlines said it interviewed employees, reviewed camera footage, call records from the wheelchair attendant’s phone and airline reservation call records, and found that Warsaw was only alone from 12:30 a.m. to 1:13 a.m. on Saturday, when her relatives arrived to pick her up. The timeline was pieced together late Monday night, Urgo said.

After Claude Colteau, Warsaw’s son, dropped her off at her gate around 9 p.m. Friday, Warsaw boarded her plane. The plane was set to take off when, at 11:14 p.m., a maintenance issue resulted in her flight being canceled. She disembarked half an hour later, at which point a porter joined her.

From 12:02 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., Warsaw is seen on security footage with a wheelchair attendant, American Airlines says. She was dropped off by the attendant at a wheelchair waiting area. During this time, Warsaw used her walker to go outside and take two smoke breaks, American said.

At 1:13 a.m., Warsaw’s family is seen arriving at the airport to pick her up. American said at this point, Warsaw had made contact with her family members by phone. At 1:46 a.m., a relative is seen pushing Warsaw in a wheelchair.

“If American wants to come back and try to defuse, that’s fine. The point is that someone did leave her, she was alone,” Colteau said.

Colteau said when his flight landed at midnight, Warsaw called him to tell him what had happened. He started calling customer service and was told by American Airlines that Warsaw had checked into a hotel. But that was not the case, he said.

“They lost track of her,” Colteau said.

RELATED: Woman, 67, left alone in wheelchair at O’Hare overnight: ‘I was scared to death’