Pax on weather-diverted American Airlines flight are sent from Baltimore to NYC on a charter bus with no food or restrooms on board, then an elderly couple is critically injured crossing the street in search of facilities.
Severe winter weather that brought air traffic to a halt across the northeast US on Friday, also left two elderly American Airlines passengers seriously injured after their flight to LaGuardia Airport (LGA) was diverted to Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI). The airline helpfully arranged for a charter bus to take stranded passengers to LGA; unfortunately, deteriorating conditions caused misery for those passengers and eventually resulted in a tragedy.
By the time the bus returned to BWI after having abandoned plans to reach New York, nearly nine hours had passed and two passengers who started the failed journey were no longer on the bus. Other passengers say there were no refreshments or restroom facilities available on the chartered bus. Passengers say some travelers were reduced to relieving themselves alongside the road.
By the time the bus was finally able to make a much needed pit stop, passengers say they were desperate to use the toilet and find something to eat at a nearby commercial area which was already overcrowded by other weary travelers. An anxious search to find facilities and food before the bus departed again may have contributed to the serious accident that followed.
Police say an unidentified elderly couple from the bus was struck by a truck while crossing the road during the stop. Officials add that “near blackout” weather conditions contributed to the accident.
Both the airline and the bus company appear to be blameless in this tragic turn of events, but at least one passenger on the stymied trip says that no one in charge seemed especially willing to take responsibility for following up on the injured travelers’ conditions. Airline officials at BWI were apparently unaware that two of their passengers were taken to the hospital during the trip.
“I picked up the backpack and carry on they had on the bus,” fellow passenger Stefani Kuo told The Washington Post. “When we got off, their checked baggage was just left on the sidewalk. No one took care of it, so I did. I took all of their belongings along with mine and went into the airport where I tried for 15 minutes to tell someone, ‘Two of your passengers were run over by a truck.’”
The airline says that specially trained “Care Team” members were dispatched to the hospital to offer assistance as soon as they became aware of the accident.
“What we were focused on was, of course, getting our folks to their final destination as quickly as possible,” an American Airlines spokesperson told the newspaper. “Travel ended up being a lot more difficult than anyone had anticipated, unfortunately.”
For one stranger who took it upon herself to visit the injured couple in the hospital and waited hours for family members to arrive, the airline’s explanation rings hollow.
“Most of us have had to file complaints before American Airlines reached out to us, which is pretty atrocious,” Kuo countered. “I think they’re trying to avoid it as much as they can. Because they ‘got most of us to our destination’ — but at what cost?”
According to Kuo, at last report the injured husband was in stable condition following surgery. The wife who was struck in the head by the truck will require extensive surgery on her eye following the accident.