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Elderly woman in wheelchair stranded in airport for 11 hours

Elderly Woman In Wheelchair Stranded In Airport For 11 Hours

​Southwest Airlines is sort of apologizing after it left an 85-year-old woman in a wheelchair in the Newark Liberty International Airport for 11 hours.

Alice Vaticano told KCNC: "I was just sitting all day in a wheelchair. ... He pushed me there and left me ... I didn't even know where I was."

KCNC says Alice Vaticano was visiting her daughter on the East Coast. When it was time to go visit family in Denver, her daughter arranged with the airline to have a skycap wheel her mother directly to her gate, since the daughter wasn't allowed past security.

Vaticano says a skycap just wheeled her somewhere in the airport and went on his way. She didn't have anything to eat during that time and ended up missing her flight.

In fact, it seems Southwest didn't even realize Vaticano wasn't on board until, according to New York Daily News, her daughter in Denver called, worried because her mother didn't arrive.

The airline then got Vaticano on another flight to Denver with a stop in Chicago. USA Today obtained a statement from the airline which said, in part:

"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 Daily Mail says a spokesperson told the outlet the skycap was "counseled" about the process for customers who have special needs.

As a writer for Forbes pointed out, that's "not-quite-an-apology." He also wonders why nobody in the airport bothered to help Vaticano, saying, "I see it as the fault of just about every human being being employed by all of the intersecting (and not quite interlocking) entities that work in an airport."

Vaticano eventually arrived in Denver, but there's also a dangerous side to this story: Vaticano is diabetic, yet as KCNC reports, she didn't eat for 11 hours.

Diabetic Living says when a person with diabetes misses meals, this can cause the person's blood sugar to increase.

The Mayo Clinic reminds us that a person with any type of diabetes already has high blood sugar.

Thankfully, there were no reports of Vaticano needing medical assistance when she was finally located in the New Jersey airport. Southwest ended up giving her two vouchers for future travel as an apology.

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onionson August 29 2014 at 6:45 AM

Bad situation BUT she talks well in the video. Did the "cat get her tongue" while sitting in the airport for 11 hours? Sitting there for 11 hours seems more stupid than the airline oversight.

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21 replies
Thomas August 29 2014 at 7:27 AM

Earlier this summer, at Manchester, NH airport, an elderly woman was sitting alone outside the airport, looking a little lost and upset. A SW Airline baggage handler, who was on his break, went over to help and discovered that nobody was there to pick her up and take her home. Apparently someone forgot about her. The baggage handler asked for her address, flagged down a taxi, got her settled in and paid for it out of his own pocket. While the media seems to focus on negative news/events, I wanted readers to know that for every negative thing that they report, there are hundreds of kind and caring acts that take place that never get reported. Almost 2 million people fly every day in the USA. There are bound to be a few hiccups, but there are thousands more acts of kindness.

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4 replies
TOMCAT August 29 2014 at 8:25 AM

Sounds like something more to this than meet's the eye,if she had the ability to speak why woud she not ask for help,not have to use the bathroom in 11 hours?have someone call her daughter?
someone's after$$$$$$$$$$$!

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5 replies
mysplitear August 29 2014 at 9:37 AM

I saw this woman on TV and she was able to scream about being left at the bording area LOUD and CLEAR. My simple question is why didn't she speak up when the plane was loading?

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3 replies
oakleyseyrie August 29 2014 at 7:58 AM

I don't blame SW..I only traveling with them..I also am 85.. need a wheelchair and have always been given all the attention I needed...I wonder about the employee? it was his fault to start with..did he ask to see her ticket to check?....and she should have asked for assistance...there is more to this story than what is presented...

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4 replies
gdanjoh August 29 2014 at 7:54 AM

We hardly if never hear what the airlines do right. Grant you someone messed up, but grandma there can speak just fine. Why didn't she ask someone for help and I'm sure she had her pass on her and she could read. Ok the airline messed up BUT so did grandma and she and her daughter need to take some responsiblity for what happened. If i was her daughter I would of thought twice before airing this story....

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4 replies
stock market August 29 2014 at 9:14 AM

I watched her interview on TV and she is very outspoken....so why didn't she yell out to someone passing by? She said she did, but after an hour you would get more vocal and really demand some help. Maybe she really didn't want to see her daughter!

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1 reply
MICHELLE stock market August 29 2014 at 3:35 PM

How much experience does she have with flying? How well does she see?

My first plane trip it took me at least 10 minutes to fully comprehend the boarding pass as far as gate number and flight number. I didn't figure out the seat number until I was on the plane looking at the numbers on the seat and the flight attendant explained which one was aisle and which one was window, AND I am far younger than this woman - and was even younger on that flight.

Age does not make one an experienced flyer. Flying makes one an experienced flyer.

Anyone in a wheelchair in the boarding area for a flight should be expected to need help boarding the plane because someone has got to store the wheelchair after they get into their seat and chances are good she would need help with the safety belt, too.

IF she was in the boarding area the airline personnel boarding the flight should have been more attentive to her needs.


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1 reply
sewamused MICHELLE August 29 2014 at 3:42 PM

Coulda, shoulda, woulda... both sides of the argument... Seems like no one wants to take responsibility for themselves or anything anymore...

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a1948ant August 29 2014 at 8:45 AM

I do not belief her story. she could ask to go to the bathroom and say nothing about sitting thier for hours.

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3 replies
Denny August 29 2014 at 8:20 AM

Speak out and you will be heard

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1 reply
MICHELLE Denny August 29 2014 at 3:37 PM

You don't spend much time out in public, do you?

Between cell phones and earphones I believe most people wouldn't hear you yell fire in a crowded theater.

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1 reply
gramargo MICHELLE August 30 2014 at 3:03 AM

How true! Half the people I see on the street appear to have a cell phone permanently attached to their ears, and the others are talking loudly to whoever they're with.
In a crowded airport, it's even worse because the noise echoes like mad, and everyone's rushing to check schedules or to get to a gate in time. Most wouldnt even notice a woman in a wheelchair or hear her if she called out to them. She may have been left in a place where there weren't very many passing by.

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oceansblue888 August 29 2014 at 7:34 AM

Her mouth wasn't working? Looking for money maybe?

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