American Airlines Turns Elderly Chinese Couple’s Life into a Tragic and Devastating Nightmare

An elderly Chinese couple was left in critical condition after getting hit by a pick-up truck when American Airlines diverted their flight to Baltimore, Maryland last week.

The ordeal began on Friday, March 2, when a passenger, who said she wishes to remain anonymous, scheduled a flight from Minnesota to New York LaGuardia with American Airlines. Due to the horrible weather that the northeast experienced last week, the plane decided to divert its flight last minute and land in Baltimore instead.

Upon arrival, American Airlines then instructed all the passengers to get onto a bus to New York, the passenger told NextShark. The company reportedly failed to inform all the passengers about details like where the buses were located, travel time, where they were going, etc.

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The bus ride, which according to Google Maps at the time should only have been 4.5 hours, took about 10 hours, and they only moved 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) during that trip.

The anonymous passenger recounted her ordeal:

“About an hour into the trip, a woman ran to the front and asked the bus driver, ‘what do we do if we need to go to the bathroom?’ He yelled, and she ran back to her seat. An hour later, we were stuck on the Interstate, he opened the bus door and several people unloaded out onto the emergency rail side of the road to pee. This was our choice of bathroom for the next ten hours.

“Ten hours into the bus ride, we had only traveled 30 miles. Two trucks had flipped over the bridge because of winds, so all the bridges were closed. We were stuck in traffic and not moving a single inch. At this point, a passenger went up to the bus driver to ask what was going on, and we were informed, by a PASSENGER that we were turning around and going back to the BWI airport at Baltimore, MD.”

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During the trip, passenger noticed an elderly Chinese couple sitting two rows in front of her. The elderly woman approached her and asked if she was Chinese, to which she smiled and nodded yes.

The woman, relief washing over her face, told the passenger, “I’m so glad there is another Chinese person here. We were so afraid we were alone.” She were the only person the elderly couple could speak to during the horrible ordeal, as they didn’t speak English and no one tried to help them or inform the couple of anything.

The bus eventually made a stop at a McDonald’s parking lot. The driver told everyone to “get out and get food and go to the bathroom.” Unfortunately, they were not all informed how long they would have to get food or go to the bathroom before the bus left. Some of the passengers took the opportunity to try calling American Airlines, but to no avail — the company refused to pick up their calls.

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McDonald’s, at this point, was packed with  people as everyone rushed in line for the toilet. The passenger telling the story asked the elderly Chinese couple to go with her to an Applebee’s across the street since the fast food chain was packed. The passenger recounted the scene:

“The McDonald’s was packed. Everyone was running to the toilet. The wind was so strong we had a hard time seeing. There was an Applebee’s and a Shop Rite across the way. Several of us wanted to run across the way to get food.

“We were not told when to get back on the bus, when the bus would leave. Nothing. The Chinese couple got off the bus with me. Unable to speak any English, they followed me to the McDonald’s where the husband went to the bathroom. After I realized how packed it was, I told them we should go to the Applebee’s to get food.

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“At the Applebee’s, the wife and I went to the bathroom, and saw how crowded it was. I told them we should go to Shop Rite to get some food, but it was so windy. The weather was so bad, they told me they were going to head back to the bus and wait for me there.”

“Shop Rite was closed. I was scared the bus would leave. I ran so fast I couldn’t breathe with the wind blowing in my face. As I ran across the road, I saw a truck stopped in front of a body on the ground. And then another car and then another body on the ground. There was blood. Both bodies were face down. They were an entire length of a car apart.”

The passenger made it back to the bus, but after 20 minutes, concerned for the elderly couple, she ran to the bus driver and said, “there are two passengers missing. I think… I think they might be the two people who were run over there. By the car. Can I go look?”

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Given the go-ahead, she arrived at the scene and asked the police, “Was the couple an elderly Chinese couple who did not speak English?”

The police confirmed the information and nodded, and proceeded to ask the passenger if she knew the couple that got hit. It was revealed that the couple was in the country to visit their son who lives in New York, and that he was the last person they called on their phone.

“When I ran back to the bus, I was in hysterics. I was crying and blurted out the news. The bus was confused, the bus driver was shocked. But then we left. No one contacted American Airlines. The bus just picked up and drove away, back to the BWI airport. I called the hospitals in Baltimore. I finally got in contact with Bayview hospital where I tracked the couple down.”

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What’s even worse, not a single person tried to take care of the couple’s belongings when the bus arrived back at Baltimore airport.

“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 fifteen minutes to tell someone, ‘two of your passengers were run over by a truck.'”

It took the passenger 15 minutes to tell American Airlines that two of their passengers were involved in a severe accident.

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“When I finally got a counter and told them what had happened, I was ushered secretly to a back room that was locked by a pin.”

The passenger offered to take all of their belongings to the couple at Bayview hospital.

“I was told I would be given a ride to the hospital but would have no way back. I was told they had an interpreter at the hospital present. I was told to take a train instead of a flight out.”

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Undaunted, she decided to take the trip to the hospital anyway, accepting their paltry offer of a cab ride to the hospital.

“Midway through the ride, I was told by the cab driver, Raphael, that he was not given money for toll, so he would not be able to go to the hospital or pick me up. He stopped on the side of the highway and spent 20 minutes calling the airport and his boss for toll money. I had just lost my wallet and had nothing to give. But how could an airline leave a passenger stranded when they were just trying to help when no one in AA was helping at all?”

The passenger finally located the couple in the hospital. The husband and wife were put in separate rooms in the ER unit, and much to the passenger’s surprise, there was no interpreter present in the room, and no one was helping the couple either.

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The husband, who kept asking where his wife was, had not been informed about his condition or even his wife’s. The hospital did not even identify them. Despite being informed that the passenger only had 30 minutes to stay at the hospital, she spent 40 minutes helping the doctors with translations for the husband, telling them where the pain is located as well as the details of their injuries.

“The husband had suffered severe fractures to his spine and neck and the wife had been hit straight in the head and was unconscious. She was going to need eye surgery among other procedures.

“I left them their belongings, left my phone number as the primary contact, and told them to call me if they needed any help with translation or anything. American Airlines had not contacted them or sent anyone.”

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The passenger left the hospital at around 4:00 a.m. on Saturday to go back to Baltimore, but gave her information to the couple’s son after they spoke on the phone.

On the way back, the police officer she spoke to earlier that day called with an update, saying they tried to open the couple’s phone, but to no avail. The authorities also tried to call American Airlines about what happened, but like the others that called the company before them, they were ignored.

The officer spent 45 minutes trying to call every Chinese consulate; eventually, his efforts were rewarded when he managed to get a hold of someone working at the San Francisco Chinese consulate, who afterwards contacted the embassy that managed to locate the couple’s son.

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“American Airlines had told them nothing and had not even attempted to locate them. Why would they have? They had no idea where their passengers were.”

The passenger, a resident of New York, finally got back home on Saturday afternoon. She has been in direct contact with Bayview hospital and the couple’s son for the 24 hours after the accident. At the time, American Airlines still failed to show any signs of concern by contacting either her or the couple.

The passenger only received a call from American Airlines only after she filed a complaint. American Airlines offered  a voucher as “a symbol of gratitude.”

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When asked by NextShark if she received any other updates or information from AA about what happened, she said, “Absolutely not.”

They reached out to me over Twitter with this: ‘We are sorry you are unhappy with the resolution our agents offered you. We must agree with the resolution our Customer Relations Department issued you and respectfully decline additional compensation. They do have full authority in this matter. If you have any additional questions or concerns please continue to work with them directly,’” she continued.

“They have compensated me with a $700 voucher instead of $500 to fly AA again, which is awful.”

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The last I heard, the husband has emerged from surgery yesterday, and is stable, and I have yet to hear about the wife,” the passenger told NextShark about the elderly Chinese couple’s status. “The son is there and is the one I have been in contact with but he hasn’t been very responsive because of medical issues.”

A representative at American Airlines provided NextShark with the following statement:

“To recap our conversation, two of American’s customers were involved in an accident while being transported by bus from Baltimore to New York last Friday.

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“We deployed specially trained members of our CARE Team to assist the couple and their son, whom they were headed to visit. Our number one priority is making sure that the family has the support and care they need at a difficult time. We wish the couple a full and speedy recovery.

“The couple’s flight was diverted from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Baltimore due to weather conditions in New York. We opted to transport our affected passengers via bus to New York to get them to their final destination.

“Again, our number one priority is making sure that the family has the support and care they need at a difficult time.”

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We will update the article as the story develops.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons / Ian Gratton (CC BY 2.0)

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