Southwest Didn’t Realize That An Elderly Passenger Was Sitting In Newark Airport For Hours

August 27, 2014  |  

It was only a month ago that Southwest was dealing with the news that they would be on the hook for $12 million for safety violations. This will not bolster the airline’s reputation.

Now we have word that an 85-year-old passenger, Alice Vaticano, was pushed in a wheelchair to a spot in Newark Airport and left there for hours, missing her flight to Denver and a few others besides that. She finally did make it to Denver, after 11 hours.

A statement from Southwest says: “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.”

The airline was alerted to the error when the passenger’s daughter, who’d taken her to the airport and checked her in, called for information. The passenger, who also suffers from diabetes, told a local Denver news station, “She pushed me there and left me. I was just sitting all day in a wheelchair.”

Further comment from the airline says the skycap who left Vaticano has been “counseled” on the issue. It should be noted that the skycap doesn’t actually work for Southwest, but rather, is assigned to the airline by the airport.

Of course, you have to wonder why the passenger didn’t speak up after a few hours passed. But she’s an elderly woman who had no food with a diabetic condition, and at one point in her interview she says she didn’t know where she was. So there’s the likelihood that she was confused and unable to advocate for herself.

Ultimately, there was a breakdown somewhere between check-in and take off such that the airline didn’t realize they were missing a passenger. Southwest has given Vaticano two vouchers for $100 apiece for future travel. No surprise, Vaticano says she won’t be using them.

h/t USA Today

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