Family Annoyed That Southwest Misplaced 85-Year-Old Woman

We recently published a post about a 7-year-old traveling as an unaccompanied minor who Delta handed over to the wrong relative. Families pay for extra supervision when kids fly unaccompanied, but what about unaccompanied seniors? A family in Colorado says that instead of escorting her to her Southwest Airlines flight, airport staff parked her wheelchair out of the way for hours instead of putting her on the plane.

There is no formal “unaccompanied senior” program at Southwest, but the 85-year-old, who has diabetes and is sometimes forgetful, navigated the airport in a wheelchair. A skycap at Newark was supposed to help her to the gate. That wasn’t what happened.

“[The skycap] pushed me there and left me. I was just sitting all day in a wheelchair,” she explained to local news station CBS4. Sitting for hours with no food is particularly dangerous to a diabetic. She was visiting one daughter on the East Coast, and her other daughter back in Denver started to worry when her mom wasn’t on her scheduled flight.

There was some confusion about who was responsible, though. Skycaps, who help people and their stuff get to the gate, don’t work for airlines. They can be assigned to a particular airline’s terminal, but the person who parked this poor passenger and left her doesn’t work for Southwest.

The airline did apologize and offer the family $200 worth of travel vouchers. That’s nice, but what they really want is for airline and airport staff to take their responsibilities toward passengers who need extra help more seriously.

In a statement to the TV station, Southwest said that a “processing error” during checkin meant that the staff at the gate didn’t know to expect a passenger using a wheelchair.

We’ve researched the details of this Denver customer’s travel and can verify that she checked in for her flight at Newark Liberty International Airport two hours prior to her scheduled departure, but a processing error in that check-in process did not alert our employees at the gate to her special need (wheelchair) in boarding the aircraft.

Family Angry After It Says Airline Lost Aging Mother [CBS Denver]

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  1. Airwave says:

    How fecking cheap can you be?! When my mom was in her 80s, we never let her fly alone and that was International! This woman is 85, diabetic and forgetful. Sure, let’s let her fly alone. You love your family? Don’t trust the airlines to do something you should do.

    • furiousd says:

      Sadly we live in a society where the concept of accepting personal responsibility is all but gone. We expect to be able to pawn off our ‘loved’ ones and need someone to sue when something happens that’s out of the ordinary. Certainly though the airline and airport’s Skycap service want to help from a financial/customer service perspective, but neither are liable for what happened.

  2. lmbrown says:

    My Mom is 89 and has flown alone. On top of her age she has dementia. It’s not hard to do this – we get a gate pass and take her to her departure gate, wait with her, and walk her to the ramp where an airline employee takes her to her seat. On the other end my sister gets a gate pass and meets Mom at the gate as the passengers deplane.

    Not hard to figure out …