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]