Citing newly reviewed security footage, American Airlines is suggesting that an elderly passenger and her family weren’t being truthful when they claimed the carrier’s staff left her sitting in an airport terminal overnight.
Claude Coltea, the son of 67-year-old Olimpia Warsaw, had originally told CBS Chicago that his mother was left unattended in a terminal at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on Friday, Nov. 30 after her flight home to Detroit was canceled, and a porter assigned to assist her with her hotel arrangements simply abandoned her at the end of his shift.
“I walked with her all the way to her gate,” Coltea had told CBS Chicago of dropping his mother off at the gate following the funeral of Warsaw’s ex-husband, before he himself left to catch his own flight home. “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.’”
According to Coltea, the airport porter assigned to his mother by the airline offered Warsaw a hotel room for the night after her flight was canceled. However, the porter would not take her to the hotel and, due to her trouble communicating, Coltea said she could not find transportation to get there on her own.
American Airlines met with the family and launched an investigation into the incident, and confirmed in a statement to Fox News on Sunday that they had refunded Warsaw for her trip.
On Monday, however, the carrier came forward to contradict Coltea’s claims, saying in a statement that “approximately 45 minutes” had passed before someone came to retrieve Warsaw from the airport. The airline also released a timeline of events, citing CCTV footage and call logs.
According to American Airlines’ timeline, Warsaw’s flight to Detroit was canceled at 11:20 p.m., and she was issued a voucher for a hotel and a meal at 11:36. A wheelchair attendant retrieved her and phoned relatives, after which the attendant dropped Warsaw on an upper level of the terminal at 12:30 a.m.
American Airlines says security footage captured Warsaw leave her wheelchair and use a walker to go outside and smoke a cigarette, twice, before a man and a woman in an SUV arrived to pick her up at 1:13 a.m.
The airline said the footage also showed Warsaw sitting back in her wheelchair for a moment while the female relative took a picture of her before walking off to speak with police.
The airline had not released the CCTV footage as of Tuesday morning.
"Ms. Warsaw was dropped off in the terminal at 12:30 a.m. CT on Dec. 1, and a family member arrived at the airport to pick her up at 1:13 a.m. CT,” the airline said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Coltea did not return “several” requests for additional comments from the Post, the outlet reported.