Security Footage Shows Woman in Wheelchair Was Not Stranded in Airport Overnight

Dec 4, 2018

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Newly discovered security camera footage contradicts family claims that American Airlines employees stranded an elderly disabled woman overnight in Chicago O’Hare.

The woman, Olimpia Warsaw, had flown into Chicago from Detroit in order to attend a funeral. On the return route home, her son, Claude Coltea, said he wheeled his mother to her gate and delivered her into the care of the American Airlines gate agent before heading off to his own return flight to his home in another state.

But Warsaw’s flight was canceled later that evening, after Coltea’s plane had already left the airport. Coltea told CBS Chicago that he and other family members were not notified either of the flight status or of his mother’s whereabouts until she failed to appear in Detroit as scheduled. Coltea also said that his mother was unable to communicate clearly or arrange transportation to get herself from the airport to the hotel that American Airlines provided for her accommodation. As a result, the family claimed that Warsaw spent the night in her wheelchair, unable to even go to the bathroom without assistance. The family did not ask for financial compensation from the airline; however, they did call for AA to improve its policies supporting disabled and elderly travelers.

However, American Airlines conducted an internal investigation that determined Warsaw did not, in fact, stay overnight in the airport. Rather, AA claims that Warsaw was only left alone in O’Hare for about 45 minutes before she was picked up by someone in an SUV. The airline’s conclusion came from reviewing security camera footage, call records from the wheelchair attendant’s phone, American Airlines reservations call records and other time stamped systems.

American Airlines has not released the security camera footage to TPG or other publications as of the time of this post. However, an airline spokesperson released the following timeline based on reviewing the security camera’s footage:

Friday, Nov. 30:

  • 8:30 p.m. CT: Mr. Coltea checks in for his flight to Bradley International Airport (BDL), Flight 2472 from ORD to BDL
  • 8:31 p.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw checks in and checks two bags for Flight 3155
  • 9:42 p.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw boards Flight 3155 from ORD to DTW in seat 2C
  • 9:55 p.m. CT: Mr. Coltea boards his flight – Flight 2472 from ORD to BDL – in seat 4E
  • 10:15 p.m. CT: Scheduled departure time of Flight 3155 from ORD to DTW
  • 10:31 p.m. CT: Mr. Coltea’s flight for BDL takes off
  • 10:32 p.m. CT: Flight 3155 departs the gate
  • 11:14 p.m. CT: Flight 3155 ground interrupts and returns to the gate due to a maintenance issue
  • 11:20 p.m. CT: Flight canceled
  • 11:21 p.m. CT: Rebooked for the 8:55 a.m. CT flight on Dec. 1 from ORD to DTW
  • 11:32 p.m. CT: Wheelchair attendant picks up Ms. Warsaw at the gate
  • 11:36 p.m. CT: Hotel voucher printed for the Chicago O’Hare Hyatt Place + meal voucher
  • 11:58 p.m. CT: Mr. Coltea’s flight lands at BDL

Saturday, Dec. 1:

  • 12:02 a.m. CT: Mr. Coltea’s flight arrives at the gate at BDL
  • 12:06 a.m. CT: Wheelchair attendant is seen on closed circuit TV assisting Ms. Warsaw in the public area of the terminal near the wheelchair waiting area
  • 12:10 a.m. CT: Wheelchair attendant calls relative – Claudiu Coltea’s cell phone – and is on the phone for six minutes via the call log
  • 12:21 a.m. CT: Wheelchair attendant calls relative – Claudiu Coltea’s cell phone – and is on the phone for two minutes via the call log
  • 12:30 a.m. CT: Wheelchair attendant drops Ms. Warsaw off at the Upper Level (UL) wheelchair waiting area
  • 12:32 a.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw uses her walker to go outside via UL Door 3D to smoke a cigarette for seven minutes
  • 12:39 a.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw returns inside after smoking
  • 1:00 a.m. CT: Claudiu Coltea contacts American reservations via telephone and rebooks her for the 1:40 p.m. CT flight on Dec. 1 for ORD-DTW. He then said someone was en route to the airport to pick her up
  • 1:12 a.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw uses her walker to go outside via UL Door 3D a second time to smoke a cigarette for six minutes
  • 1:13 a.m. CT: A male and female relative arrive in an SUV and park between UL Door 3A and 3B. The female relative exits the vehicle and enters the terminal thru UL Door 3A, and the male remains with the vehicle
  • 1:18 a.m. CT: Ms. Warsaw returns inside after smoking
  • 1:46 a.m. CT: The female relative meets with Ms. Warsaw at the wheelchair waiting area and begins pushing her towards UL Door 3B
  • 1:48 a.m. CT: The female relative stops and takes a picture of Ms. Warsaw sitting in the wheelchair, then leaves Ms. Warsaw sitting there and walks towards TSA Checkpoint 6
  • 1:49 a.m. CT: The female relative comes back to Ms. Warsaw and is met by a CPD officer at UL Door 3B, has a very short conversation with the CPD officer. She then pushes Ms. Warsaw outside to the waiting vehicle and they both get inside. The male relative exits the vehicle when they arrive and puts the walker in the rear of the SUV
  • 1:53 a.m. CT: All parties involved leave the area in the SUV

The Washington Post reported that Coltea had not responded to several requests for comment.

Featured photo by Getty Images. 

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