Watch CBS News

Family Angry After It Says Airline Lost Aging Mother

DENVER (CBS4) - A Denver family is angry at an airline they say lost their diabetic and slightly forgetful mother.

The airline, Southwest, admits it could have handled the situation better.

The recent trip to the East Coast for Alice Vaticano, 85, to visit her daughter turned into a bit of a marathon.

She says her daughter took her to the Newark Airport, where a skycap promised to wheel her directly to her gate. Her daughter didn't obtain clearance to go to the concourse with her.

But somehow Vaticano got parked and forgotten.

"She pushed me there and left me," Vaticano said. "I was just sitting all day in a wheelchair."

She missed her flight, and her other daughter in Denver went into panic mode when she didn't see her mom getting off the plane at Denver International Airport.

"What did you think was going to happen to you?" CBS4's Suzanne McCarroll asked Vaticano.

"That I would sit in Newark forever," Vaticano replied.

Vaticano said angrily that she "didn't even know where she was." She also wasn't provided any food.

Alice Vaticano
Alice Vaticano (credit: CBS)

"Where was she?" her daughter Donna Vaticano told CBS4 in Denver. "What happened to her? These are people's jobs. Who is supposed to be paying attention?"

Southwest Airlines officials eventually realized the mistake and put Vaticano on a connecting flight through Chicago to Denver.

The airline says a processing error at check-in did not alert employees at the gate to her special need, which is her wheelchair.

Southwest gave her two $100 vouchers for future travel.

The family says it hopes all airlines will take their responsibility to elderly and handicapped passengers more seriously.

"I want answers. What the heck happened?" Donna said.

A Southwest spokesperson said the skycaps in Newark are not actual airline employees. They are just workers who are assigned to help individual airlines.

Southwest released the following statement regarding the incident:

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.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.