US Airways Loses Your 83-Year-Old Mother

It’s bad enough when they lose your luggage, but what do you do when the airline loses your 83-year-old mother? File a claim? Poor Vera Kuemmel had to answer this very question as she waited in vain at the baggage claim of the Tampa airport.

From 10Connects:

Wheelchair-bound Elfride Kuemmel was on her way back home to Tampa Monday when a US Airways employee wheeled her on to the wrong connecting flight.

The 83-year-old wound up in Puerto Rico, where she was initially told she’d have to spend the night at the airport.

Vera, of course, objected to this idea.

“I was upset, and I told them there was no way they were going to leave her in the airport all night waiting to leave on a flight at 3:30 in the afternoon,” she told the local news.

US Airways ended up buying Elfride dinner, a hotel room, and a flight back to Florida. First class.

Elderly Tampa woman ”lost” by US Airways [10Connects]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Burgandy says:

    How can I arrange for this service for my MIL? I don’t care where they loose her, as long as it’s some place without phones.

    • Burgandy says:

      @Burgandy: Lose, errrr …

      • jdhuck says:

        @Burgandy: Don’t worry, when my MIL breaks loose there is always hell to pay.
        The hard part is refastening the restraints before she bites someone.

    • xnihilx says:

      @Burgandy: Sign me up for the “Lose your MIL” service. That’s a fantastic idea! Of course knowing my MIL she’d gripe about how the first class flight had something wrong with it…you know how she is.

    • am84 says:

      @Burgandy: Haha agreed!

    • quagmire0 says:

      @Burgandy: I thought it was hilarious. (your comment). But what the hell – she got a free trip to PUERTO RICO!!

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @Burgandy: I lol’d.

      Or is it l’dol?

    • drdom says:

      @Burgandy: What’s to complain about
      1: She probably got the extra frequent flyer miles
      2: She got to fly back first class
      3: She go to go to Puerto Rico
      Some people are so ungrateful
      Plus, I’m sure US Air is taking this seriously, and somehow it’s probably Mrs. Kuemmel’s fault anyway. US Air just needs to investigate further so they can find a way to sell that story. Or if it was their fault, I’m sure there is a perfectly reasonable explanation, and that it happens all the time, so it’s no big deal, right?
      I especially love the part where they wanted to just leave her parked in the airport in a wheelchair for God knows how many hours.
      Any bets on whether they can screw up and send her somewhere else she didn’t want to go on the way back?? Where’s her luggage? And did they charge her extra for it.

      In all seriousness, it raises a huge security question. Her luggage (if she had any), was undoubetedly checked through to her proper destination. What happened to those strict controls where only luggage of people confirmed to be on the aircraft could be loaded? Or maybe she didn’t have any. I suppose that’s possible. But, as said before, they’re probably taking it seriously, and US Air will undoubetedly re-train whomever screwed up this one. Yeah right.

  2. jdhuck says:

    I would try small claims court. j/k

    My guess (Sorry, I can’t read the article) is that she did not get off of the flight in FL and was sent to PR.

    It was nice that they sent her home in style!

  3. heltoupee says:

    Yes, they made an enormous stupid, but, it’s good to see that things turned out better than they usually do (Mom got a hotel room, and a first-class flight home.) I remember reading about a whole group of people that spent the night in phone booths or whatever after some jackass airline cancelled their flight and left them stranded on some island in monsoon season and the airport kicked them out, or some such rubbish.

    • Michael says:


      You are thinking Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. The airline couldn’t fly out due to a hurricane and the Dominican guard wouldn’t allow them to stay in the airport. They were put on buses for the most part, since most of the resorts either were full or closed.

      This happened about 2 weeks after I back from there for my honeymoon.

  4. EyeHeartPie says:


    Nope, my mom is still here. And she’s not 83.

  5. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    If you are commenting you shopuld be able to read the excerpt here…

    “. . . a US Airways employee wheeled her on to the wrong connecting flight.”

    So no fault of the old woman at all :)

  6. noi56u says:

    Hmm – don’t you typically have to present some kind of boarding pass to BOARD a plane? Even if you’re being wheeled on?

    Seems like if the ticket agent had done his/her job, they would have gotten an error message preventing the whole fiasco.

    • LankanDude says:

      @dinger_82: seems like that’s not the case. Some time back I read a blog entry or a news article where a guy has gone to something like terminal 9 instead of 9A and ended up at the wrong airport.

      Maybe someone can provide the link to that article.

      • nataku8_e30 says:

        @LankanDude: Yeah, it really doesn’t seem like the air-lines have a system in place to raise a flag if your boarding pass doesn’t match the flight you’re boarding. Maybe this is just paranoia on my part, but I always check about 20 times when I get to my gate just to be sure. Of course, I generally follow recommended airport arrival times, so I usually have a couple of hours to wait and make sure I’ve got everything right…

        • mythago says:

          @nataku83: I’ve actually seen that happen at Southwest – where somebody tried to board the wrong plane, and the attendant checking boarding passes stopped him. Of course, this IS US Air we’re talking about.

    • LankanDude says:

      @dinger_82: it was on consumerist

    • LeroyBurhans says:

      @dinger_82: Well it happens. One time I was on a flight and the lady next to me was on the wrong plane.

      • MsAnthropy says:


        I’ve seen it, too. Packed jet, already late for takeoff, pilot asking repeatedly over the intercom if everyone on the plane is headed for Nice. On perhaps the fifth request for “anyone not flying to Nice to please report to the cabin crew”, a very red-faced couple stood up halfway down the plane, and everyone else cheered.

  7. kwsventures says:

    The airlines lose “old bags” quite often. Just kidding. Ha, ha.

  8. picardia says:

    I really wonder what the idjit who initially told her to sleep at the airport could possibly have been thinking.

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @picardia: Probably thinking about GM, Ford, and their private jets. But seriously, this element of the story disturbed me A LOT more than the fact that she was sent to the wrong location. I can understand human error. I CANNOT understand mistreating customers, especially the elderly and disabled. It is NOT okay to tell her she was going to have to stay overnight in the airport for a 3:30 flight the next afternoon. Or even for one that was leaving at 7 a.m. the next morning, for that matter.

    • tmed says:

      @picardia: the thoughts, “I am nearly off, soon I will be drunk and I still have to post that laptop I stole from luggage onto E-Bay”

  9. nerdychaz says:

    This is quite the foul up, however, my analysis is as follows: The initial reaction to have an elderly woman stay overnight in the airport is quite disturbing. When the question of proper service and treatment of consumers came up, they did the right thing and even put her on first class. But, flights are so expensive that nobody rides first class anymore so they probably only had room in first class.

  10. Michael Bauser says:

    It could have been worse. In 2001, an airline lost an Alzheimer’s patient in Dallas. It took six years to find her remains:


    • frodo_35 says:

      That is sad. 1 ? though do people pay extra for elderly sitting or is that just above and beyond by the airlines. If you have to pay then by all means you can sue but how did the airlines know that that women would be kidnaped and killed or that she had alzheimers for that matter.

  11. Triborough says:

    When will people learn the first rule of flying is never fly USAir.

    • TheStonepedo says:

      @Triborough: Agreed. The company for which I work has blacklisted US Airways after several rotten experiences.

      • Cat_In_A_Hat says:

        @TheStonepedo: I’ve earned a ton of frequent flyer miles on us airways and can finally use them for a free trip overseas. i hesitate racking us anymore miles on the airline but since i have so many it seems worth it to keep going because of the status I have attained as a repeat customer. I’ve only had one major flight issue with us airways (plane delayed 90 minutes reason 1) mechanical issue with engine (ok good reason) 2) after switching planes, new place was not stocked with water and ice which is an faa rule to have on board. Flight staff wouldn’t allow my friend who has epilepsy and needed water to take a pill offboard to find a bottle of water after sitting for more than 45 minutes or couldn’t seem to locate a bottle soon enough until we complained. Result: Free flight voucher

    • pirate_eggie says:

      @Triborough: The first and last time I flew US Air, my flight was three hours late and they smashed my luggage and refused to reimburse me for the damaged goods.


      I don’t know why I was surprised.

  12. tande04 says:

    @LeroyBurhans: I’ve seen it too.

    You feel bad but you can’t help but chuckle. The pilot reads off the destination, they turn to someone else on the plane and say “wait this isn’t going to _____ ” and then a look of dread on their face when they realize by that point its too late to do anything about it.

  13. ZzFDKzZ says:


  14. tande04 says:

    @Git Em SteveDave loves this guy–>: Wait-a-minute. There was no “Airport ’66″…

    • Git Em SteveDave loves this guy--> says:

      @tande04: I admit I forget which “Airport” it was, but I didn’t want to confuse people with the show on A&E or the movie “Airplane”.

  15. InThrees says:

    I love how their first attempt to resolve the screw up was “Just sit your 83 year old ass down in that wheelchair and wait overnight til 3:30 tomorrow afternoon.”


  16. Ubik2501 says:

    Damn, USAir, I know you guys have an impressive record of completely screwing the pooch, but it’s not a damn contest.

    USAir once left me and some other folks stranded at the Philadelphia airport overnight because our originating flight left an hour and a half late, and the last connecting flights for the night had already left. This included a mother and her toddler. I had to chase down a company rep and shame them into comping us hotel rooms for the night.

    • mythago says:

      @Ubik2501: The first (and last) time I flew US Air, they did a similar thing – apparently booking flights with zero time between connections is SOP for them – and stranded a planeful of people at 11:00 at night. I overheard one of the customer service reps telling a co-worker “I know we’re not supposed to give them room and food vouchers, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

  17. MyPetFly says:

    It wouldn’t have been so bad except that the TSA weenies insisted on going through her underwear.

  18. KhaiJB says:

    Can they loose me and the wife for 2 weeks in May?

  19. johnnya2 says:

    The old bag probably got to board early. If she is too old to get on a plane on her own, maybe she shouldn’t be flying alone.

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @johnnya2: You’re right about that, but if children can fly unaccompanied, so can elderly adults who need assistance. Bet she never does it again, eh?

  20. WEGGLES90 says:

    You can tell the airlines are hurting really bad
    “US Airways ended up buying Elfride dinner, a hotel room, and a flight back to Florida. First class. “

    6 months ago it the end result would’ve been
    “US Airwats ended up charging her for the ticket to Puerto Rico, the ticket back, and extra baggage fee, and a missed connection fee.”

    • carlogesualdo says:

      @WEGGLES90: The glare of media spotlight, I think. I’m sure almost every airline would have loved to go with scenario #2. And what do you mean “extra” baggage fee? Don’t we start with the first bag now?

  21. dumblonde says:

    Thankfully she ended up in Puerto Rico. People in PR are nice and it’s warm so hopefully the old lady didn’t have too much of a horrible time.
    Did it say anything about the lady’s mental state? Was she senile or just in a wheelchair?

  22. seraphilistic says:

    I have to give US Airways credit for taking care of her in the end. I agree that it was absolutely unacceptable to tell her to stay in the airport overnight, but from what I have personally seen US Airways is usually accommodating of older passengers.

    My English-born grandparents spend every summer in the UK and have flown US Airways almost exclusively for at least 15 years. Between them they have two pacemakers, three replaced knees, one replaced hip, and four hearing aids, so it’s hard for them to get through the airport and on a plane easily. -Every- time they fly, US Airways either seats them in the bulkhead row at the front of the plane or upgrades them to first class, and they have never been charged for it. They are also met at check-in with wheelchairs, escorted through security, and then taken to their gate by one of those awesome buggies.

    (I do not work for US Airways, but I have been trying to talk the buggy-drivers into letting me catch a ride on one since I was like, 5.)

  23. Psychosocial says:

    Well at least they did the right thing after the fact. They should hire people who can both read and comprehend.

  24. Jevia says:

    i guess the plane to PR must not have been full, or wouldn’t it been discovered when someone else boarded the plane with the same seat number?

  25. Urgleglurk says:

    I spent over 20 years in the airline business. Things like this occasionally happen. People make mistakes. However…

    I don’t know who told that poor old lady that she would have to spend the night in the airport (especially SJU), but I would have fired them on the spot.

    I’ve worked for three different airlines, and every one of them would have profusely apologized, gotten her a room, provided meal vouchers and sent her home without charge on the next flight to her destination.