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Elderly woman's outraged family says airline left her in wheelchair overnight after cancelled flight. Except it didn’t happen.


You know what doesn't lie? CCTV footage.

The family of an elderly woman accused American Airlines of leaving her stranded in the airport overnight in her wheelchair. But there's more to the story. (Image source: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The family of an elderly woman accused American Airlines of leaving her stranded in the airport overnight in her wheelchair.

Except American Airlines is speaking out and the airline company says that the incident didn't happen the way the woman's family indicated it did — and the airline has what appears to be proof.

What's the family's side of the story?

The family of Olimpia Warsaw, 67, told WBBM-TV that the incident occurred Friday after her flight from Chicago's O'Hare airport to Detroit was cancelled.

Claude Coltea, Warsaw's son, told the station that after the airline announced the cancellation, she was abandoned in the airport.

Coltea said that a porter had originally been assigned to care for Warsaw — who reportedly has Parkinson's disease and diabetes, and, as a result, has trouble walking — and make overnight hotel arrangements. However, Coltea alleged that the porter didn't do as he was instructed, and left for the night.

"I walked with her all the way to her gate," Coltea said of dropping his mother, who was in the area for her ex-husband's funeral, off at the airport.

"I confirmed with the gate agent that the flight was on time," Coltea added. "Everything was OK. [The gate attendant] said, 'Yup, all's fine. We'll take good care of your mom.'"

According to another son of Warsaw's, the porter assigned to care for Warsaw reportedly would not take her to her hotel, and because of communication issues, Warsaw reportedly could not make arrangements to get to the hotel of her own accord.

Coltea added that Warsaw had to flag down a random passenger just to be helped to the bathroom during her overnight stay at the airport.

"All we wanted was someone to pause and say 'You know what, can we just make sure this human being is safe and then we can all go home,' " Coltea said. "Not one person did that."

The family's story — as well as a photo of the woman sitting in the airport — went viral on social media channels.

What's American Airlines' side of the story?

A spokesperson for American Airlines said that they met with the family after the alleged incident, and began an investigation into Coltea's claims.

The airline, which had refunded Warsaw for her trip after hearing of her troubles, said that "approximately 45 minutes" had passed prior to someone coming to the airport to pick up Warsaw.

American Airlines noted that Warsaw's flight was cancelled at 11:20 p.m. local time, and the airline issued passengers vouchers for hotels and meals at 11:36 p.m. The airline added that a porter retrieved Warsaw from the gate area, and phoned relatives. The attendant then dropped Warsaw off at one of the upper levels of the airport at 12:30 a.m.

The airline said their timeline is based on CCTV footage as well as call logs.

The CCTV footage also reportedly caught Warsaw leaving her wheelchair twice, assisted with her walker, to go outside the airport to smoke a cigarette.

A man and woman in an SUV reportedly arrived to pick her up at 1:13 a.m.

"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," American Airlines said in their statement.

The Washington Post reported that Coltea did not return multiple requests for comment.

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