American Airlines lost Stephanie Mueller’s mom. They found her eventually, but Mueller wants more than an apology. She’s determined to make sure this never happens to someone else’s mother.
By now, you can see the title of this feature is Case Dismissed! — and while the airline may have dismissed her case, I haven’t.
“My mother has had dementia related to what we believe to be Alzheimer’s for several years and is at the point where she isn’t able to travel alone,” Mueller explains. “I recently planned to have her visit me for a weekend so she could spend time with me and her granddaughter while she still recognizes us.”
Mueller’s mom can still remember the basics, like where to meet her daughter when she arrives at the airport.
“I called American Airlines after I booked her flight and asked if I could arrange to go through security in Washington to pick her up at the gate, and also asked if my dad could get through security as well when he took her to the airport in Greensboro, N.C.,” she says.
I was told by “special services” with American that they could arrange a wheelchair for her.
I explained that physically she is still fine and that she would be likely to get upset if they tried to put her in a wheelchair. She is aware that she is losing her memory and gets easily agitated if she has a sense that people are treating her as an invalid.
I was then assured that my dad and I would be able to get a pass for security so that we could make sure she was accompanied while in the airport.
I was also told that if for some reason they weren’t able to locate us when she arrived at the airport, someone from the airline would escort her to baggage claim or the curb and be with her until one of us picked her up.
Problem solved, right? Not really.
I’ll let her explain what happened next:
On the night she flew into Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), I arrived over an hour early and got the pass to go through security. I then waited where they said she would arrive, and let the staff there know that I was waiting for my mom who had dementia.
I saw on my phone that her flight had arrived, but was told that it would take a while for someone to get her, since she was on a small plane that required a bus to get back to the terminal.
After watching passenger after passenger get off, I asked again and was finally told a half hour after the plane landed that they didn’t know where she was. Apparently someone had finally gone to retrieve her from the plane but at that point, the plane was empty.
I could not believe that they had lost her.
I also couldn’t believe that they didn’t seem too phased by it. One of the people from the gate walked with me to the police to let them know that she was missing, then they told me to go to the baggage claim area to see if she was there.