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Flight Disruptions’ Impact on Elderly Passengers [unreported stories]

Flight Disruptions’ Impact on Elderly Passengers [unreported stories]

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
Last Updated: June 07, 2024

In 2023, roughly 45 million elderly passengers took to the skies. We based this estimate on the 862.8 million air passengers in the United States, with the approximate number of individuals age 65 and older making up about 5-6% of US air passengers according to the TSA. 

While health and mobility vary among individuals, the elderly population is generally seen as part of the larger, vulnerable population. Because of this, they are more affected by flight disruptions than the average passenger. In this article, we want to bring the stories of these passengers to light, and by doing so, bring greater awareness to the burdens they must shoulder when they’re faced with delays, cancellations, missed connections, and denied boarding situations. 

The following are unreported stories from AirAdvisor clients. We have changed some of the small details to better protect their privacy.

Flight Cancellations 

EasyJet

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Flight canceled 2 hours before flight. 3 elderly persons with mobility issues. Had to rebook another flight with my own money from another airport which is a much larger airport and couldn't then book assistance as not time to do it. EasyJet didn't allow me to move flights back and there were no flights from the entry airport. My return uncancelled flight went to Liverpool, the now wrong airport to where the car was. The new flights I had to pay with EasyJet were more expensive than the original.

Air India

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We were kept on hold and not given any information and even on the website there was no revised itinerary. Eventually they put us on a flight 24 hours later so we arrived one day after our original scheduled arrival. We are filing on behalf of our elderly parents who do not communicate in English. My sister had to miss one day of work to handle the situation. Pickup drivers and everything had to be rearranged and our elderly parents were put through a lot of stress including additional Covid tests.

EasyJet

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We only got to know the cancellation of the flight when we arrived at the airport. And we have 2 elderly and 2 kids, so it was very difficult to find a hotel to stay. We booked a room in booking.com that showed available rooms but went and was informed there were no rooms. We stayed in a very bad hostel in the end. A sleepless night for us. Next day, we rushed to train station to try our luck whether we can book ticket to … (was informed by airline no vacancy for next day easyjet flight). Unfortunately there are no train tickets available on the whole day. My relative booked bus tickets for us which is a 15 hours bus, but due to my health condition we did not take the long distance bus.

Air Canada

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My parents missed the flight from . . .. Air Canada told my parents to wait instead of putting them in the hotel and flying them the next day. To my surprise they flew them to … around 19:30. Once in . . . they had to wait from 10:00 to 16:00. They locked them in one room with no assistance. They weren’t allowed to leave the room, no food, no water for 2 seniors persons over 70 years old. They were left to the last minute. They boarded them separately from other passengers with food carts entrance.

Lufthansa

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My father’s flight was delayed, and he could not get to Valencia in time. He had to spend a night in an airport hotel in Frankfurt and arrived in Valencia a day after he was supposed to (19 hours later). He did not get proper help at the airport and was lost in different buses in Frankfurt to find his hotel near the airport. He does not speak English and did not have phone battery, so for 5 hours I was rather worried about him. In addition, Lufthansa customer service was rather rude when helping me to reach the hotel where he was assigned to. I had to call all the options and ask if an elderly person had arrived there, unsuccessfully. In the end, he took a taxi to reach the hotel. He paid 20€ to the driver, but forgot to ask for the receipt. A rather unpleasant experience. Other customers were also treated rudely by Lufthansa staff at Frankfurt airport, as reported by my father.

Swiss Air

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I booked this flight for my elderly mother and a friend. Arrival at the final destination was over 24 hours later than scheduled. Due to the delay, my mother missed her separately booked flight home.

Lufthansa

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Me, my husband, mother and our three children were scheduled to fly on Lufthansa. The [cancellation] was a pretty traumatizing experience. Particularly the unnecessary amount of time we [spent] ensuring the health and safety of my elderly mother throughout this process.

Wizz Air

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Again there was a delay causing my partner's mum to stand for long periods of time and it was upsetting seeing her in pain. My partner’s mother is 69 years of age and was highly stressed, suffering hip pains and other health issues.

Aer Lingus

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At approximately 9pm, we were advised that the flight was canceled and that we needed to go back to baggage collection and pick up our luggage. Importantly, the Aer Lingus personnel at the gate advised us that we would be directed to hotels and receive meal vouchers. On reaching the carousel, no bags arrived for over an hour. After all this time, an Aer Lingus attendant arrived and told us that there were no hotels OR vouchers available. We were advised to return home and arrive back the next day for a rescheduled flight at 8.15am. This was NOT possible as we live 120 miles from the airport.

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Given these circumstances we had no option but to wait on hard seats at the airport all night with no meal voucher or any support of any kind. We are an elderly couple and felt the standard of care, communication and help received from Aer Lingus was nonexistent.

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After a sleepless night we subsequently boarded and took off at 8.45 the following morning. There was still no communication from Aer Lingus on the ground and not even an offer of a refreshment was forthcoming.   The level of service and assistance from Aer Lingus was abysmal.

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Given the issue of the offer of a hotel, we were told that no hotels would be available as it was too late at 11 pm to receive accommodation.  We arrived from home at noon and went until 11 pm without any offer of help from Aer Lingus OR firm direction as to what we could do until the flight the next day. The whole experience leaves a very bad taste with us and expected more from the National Airline. We lost one day of our holiday and had to pay for the unused night at the hotel.

EasyJet

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After the cancellation, easyJet staff informed me that I could transfer to a flight to . . .departing at 16:15. I would then be able to depart on a flight from . . ., which was scheduled for the following day. As a result, I was left stranded at Paris CDG airport with no immediate solution for accommodation. Considering my age of 61 years, this situation was particularly distressing and physically challenging for me.

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Despite the inconvenience caused by the cancellation, I had agreed to take the alternative flight offered by easyJet. However, what followed was an extremely uncomfortable experience. Due to the lack of appropriate arrangements, I was left with no choice but to sleep on the airport floor. This not only compromised my comfort and well-being but also put me at risk of various health concerns.

• No support from EasyJet,
• All food courts were closed,
• No accommodation available,
• Loss of night in booked holiday accommodation 
• Loss of one day of planned holiday activities
• Plans for an active holiday affected due to lack of sleep, lack of nutrition and exhaustion.

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I was forced to endure an uncomfortable and unhygienic situation, which had a significant impact on my physical and emotional well-being.

RyanAir

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We had two flights canceled. No reason given. The airline told us nothing. All flights with other airlines were departing with no problems. They provided no care whatsoever. No staff were available to ask anything. My elderly mother who is 76 was with me and she was waiting out in the cold and we then had to get the train back home.

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The first flight showed on the board was canceled after waiting around over 4 hours, and then we rebooked for the following day. This flight was also canceled. But all other airlines were actually taking off to the UK with no issues. We were left stranded at the airport. No reason given for the canceled flights. We spent a lot of money on food and drink and no drink was even offered, as no staff were there. No information given on the App or airport department information board.

We were trying to get to the UK and my elderly mother had a very important medical appointment . We eventually got to the UK on the Sunday with an alternative airline.

RyanAir

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We were traveling with my two elderly in-laws (69 and 76) at one point Ryanair could not provide us with a flight until . . .. We therefore had to take a refund with Ryanair and book an alternative flight with another airline. This caused considerable distress to all resulting in additional costs incurred to book a new flight, food because of the delay.

EasyJet

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My husband was returning to chaperone his elderly parents from London Gatwick to France. They have never flown before, so it was important that he returned to the UK and guide them through how an airport works and also they were very anxious to fly for the first time.  They canceled my husband's flight to the UK and also his return flight.  He couldn’t get an alternative flight to assist his very anxious parents.

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We managed to get their flights changed for the following day, but only to fly into Bordeaux. Flying to Limoges means the drive to collect them is 77 KM each way, having to drive to Bordeaux instead, means we had to travel 165 Km each way.  Also there is a lot of traffic on a Friday night, so the round trip took us 6 hours, vs going to Limoges on a Thursday evening, which would take 2 hours round trip.  The distress caused by not being able to be with their Son and then at 2am on the day of their intended travel on 15 June, being told you can’t fly after all. This added to their level of anxiety.

Ryanair

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Ryanair didn’t provide us any care. The incident was very inconvenient for us,because one of us is elderly ( 75 year old) cancer patient plus an insulin dependent diabetic. My wife should have chemotherapy, but because of stress, she got sick, couldn't get through it on that day. Also, I lost one day of work and had to use one day from my vacation. Generally speaking, what happened was very costly for us and affected our health.

EasyJet

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We’ve never seen such a disgraceful company, leaving pregnant ladies, those with babies, elderly in wheelchairs without anything.

Senior passenger at airport

Flight Delays

KLM

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My mom and her friend went from . . .  wheelchair services requested. However, they called me as they missed the flight with no reason and help provided. They were not able to catch the cruise. They need to stay in the airport to wait for the other days flight to … I booked and paid the hotel for them that night.

No staff was helping these 2 senior ladies. They stayed in … for 2 nights to catch the cruise. We are very disappointed with the arrangement. We asked for wheelchair assistance as we know they need help.

No one took care of them when they arrived or helped them to go for the connecting flight. They need to stay in a strange place and not knowing any of their languages. Two senior ladies called by long distance calls, starving, crying and worrying.

Aer Lingus

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So many delays (while other flights were taking off) waiting for passengers, runway wet, tailwind not enough, refuel, crew timed out, food replacement after 7.5 hrs on the plane, finally took off at 7:35pm, then missed connecting flight (had to pay 250.00 for a hotel room, Aer Lingus was not available to assist. Then booked the AM in coach (I paid for a first class ticket - but no seats). That flight was delayed. Got home 24+ hours post take off. My husband and I could not even get our suitcases. We slept in our clothes and we are senior citizens - hence why we try to fly first class. We were only offered water for 7.5 hours on the plane  - really hard to believe this.

KLM

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My elderly mother, 81, missed connecting flights for the flight delay and the fact that she had to go on foot for a long time to reach the gate for the connecting flight. She was not provided with a hotel room but left at the chair in the middle of the airport. She was scared for her safety and her belongings so she found the hotel, food and drink - all paid for by herself.

KLM abandoned her without safe shelter, food, or drink, or offer to telephone me. She was not offered either the earliest flight but had to wait all day without a room, food, or drink. She arrived at 21.10 and could not find anyone.

British Airways

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The flight was delayed by more than 24 hours. The passengers were only taken to the hotel at 3:30am after the plane actually started to taxi, but there was a technical fault so they had to go back to the gate. It was exhausting for a 78 and 74 year old. The new scheduled time being 11:30pm the following day, meant that the connection would be missed so BA rerouted. This was an issue as the passengers were elderly and were actually even traveling assisted passengers.

Air France

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I was very sick with fever, I don't know how I made it as a single traveler. Arrived with a 3 plus hour wait for 8:30 flight. Arrived 27 hours later than scheduled. I am still under doctors care trying to get well from the long lines, endless walking, running, rude people. As a senior citizen I feel abused! Covid was my compensation! Airline gave hotel voucher and 2 meals, food provided was not edible. Had to walk 30 minutes after being dropped at the airport, and standing outside on a narrow sidewalk with luggage with masses of people waiting for the shuttle to the hotel the day before. We were never told at the airport why we were delayed! I was in need of medical care, can’t believe I made it at age 72. I had to make different arrangements for transportation from airport to my home, where I collapsed upon arrival! It was horrific, being sick made it so much worse.

Albastar

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We were traveling with 2 elderly parents, 85 and 89 years old. They, like us, found the waiting exhausting and this was very concerning for us given their health issues. We had been up from 05.00 to make this flight. My parents and my husband also take a lot of medication which was in our main checked in bags. We were concerned, given the delay, that we had no access to this medication.

British Airways

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We had a flight delay and lost luggage for 5 days which we incurred additional expenses such as 2 nights waiting for luggage to arrive cost $1,000, extra expenses for transfers and clothing for our final destination which totaled $500, lost time on our trip, my elderly sisters missed medications that were packed in the lost luggage, we missed seeing sites and I missed a day of employment , it was absolutely miserable for myself and my 2 elderly sisters! It was very disappointing.

JET2

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We were kicked out of the airport by Jet2 and told to go down to the bus park and we would be picked up and taken to a hotel. [This was] a total lie. We were left to sleep on the bus park floor all night (children, the elderly, and disabled people) and lied to all night.

Air Canada

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The Air Offices tell us that there is a problem and the connecting flight to Toronto would be delayed for several hours. I ask the reason, and they tell me that they only know this and that there is a delay and nothing more. They send us to a room hotel to rest, with breakfast and lunch included and I ask, why did they wait so long - they only tell me the same thing... flight delay, but they never tell me what’s really happening.

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My husband suffered from a sugar spike. He is a Type 2 Diabetic, a senior. The stress was overwhelming him for a long time, even when we arrived at our final destination... the airline did not provide any help.

Swift Air

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We were told the first delay was approximately three hours and were then shuffled from Gate C16 to Gate C1.  Keep in mind, I, as well as my partner, are seniors and cannot walk great distances. We were offered a $15 food coupon/each for this inconvenience.  As the day wore on, we were then shuffled to Gate C8 with another travel delay with an estimated departure of 5:17 PM.  No further information was offered from Swift Air to any of the passengers on this flight.

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As this travel nightmare wore on, we were then shuffled back to our original gate, C16 with an estimated departure of 6:20 pm. We finally boarded from Gate C17. When on the plane, we sat for another 45 minutes because they had not fueled the plane. My understanding from one of the stewards/stewardess on the plane, Swift Air changed our original plane and the Flight Plan was not approved.  We finally left at approximately 7:45 PM.  I want a complete refund of our money for this horrible experience and wear and tear on us mentally and physically.

Wizz Air

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Children, elderly people, and all passengers were kept locked at the terminal without having a chance to get a sip of water. All stores and free shops were closed, so we were not having a chance to even buy water or anything else. Air-conditioning system and acclimatization at the terminal (old building) were not good enough, so we were kept with the masks, hardly able to breathe and not having a chance to even drink water! Totally not acceptable and lack of any kind of adequate reaction or information!

British Airways

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Due to bad weather conditions, though the pilot tried to land the plane, we were diverted to Malaga airport. The captain gave us no information on what was going to happen at Malaga airport and we disembarked not having a clue what was happening. We joined a very long queue for passport control without a BA rep in sight. After queuing for about an hour, we got through.

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My mother is elderly and there was no one around to ask for assistance to help her. Once through, we walked through the airport not knowing where our luggage was. We finally found a BA rep by a belt but not giving out any information unless asked. After about a 15 minute wait, we were herded to a different belt where finally our luggage came through. We left the airport not knowing where we were going and no one to help us yet again.

We finally were assisted by a police official who could see that by now my mother could hardly walk. We were pointed in the direction of the bus and finally got on. We were never offered any beverage or water even though we had now been off the plane over 3 hours. We were dumped at La Linea and told to make our own way across. The service was absolutely disgusting throughout the onward trip. BA certainly let us down and showed no consideration for their customers, especially my elderly mother. This journey . . . was traumatic and BA staff were just not there to help. We finally arrived at our hotel 6 hours after the scheduled time, thirsty, hungry and extremely dissatisfied.

Air Canada

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My family, including 7 adults, 2 of whom are elderly with fibromyalgia, diabetes, and spinal osteoarthritis . . . were delayed at the airport for almost 3 hours. This was also disastrous for us because there was no food available in the area we were stuck in to buy a bottle of water. All that was available was chocolate and snacks.

Despite the extra monetary expenses we incurred, nothing compares or can compensate for the emotional toll it took on our elderly parents that day. The emotional scars left on all of us discourage the thought of even stepping into another airport for another vacation.

TUI

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There was an elderly lady on the plane next to us, and not once did she receive any help from TUI. The other passengers were helping her, and I was texting back home for her as she had no phone. The whole experience was ridiculous.

Air India

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Staff told us the flight would be delayed only 30 minutes, and we spent the whole night and then [they] informed us the flight was canceled. I suffered lots of physical and mental stress for more than 12 hours in the airport lounge.

Not only were all passengers kept uninformed but left with no water, food or shelter that we could use. Most passengers were senior citizens requiring special assistance, and instead of that we all were forgotten. I hate Air India for making all this stress and pain to me.

Aegean

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Athens airport was a disaster area, with passengers waiting for hours to get help, no seating for families or elderly people when standing in the queue and not enough staff to help delayed passengers.

EasyJet

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The whole experience was totally unacceptable with no planning or care in place for the people with children and the elderly. One lady was trying to get home as her husband was ill, he subsequently died before she reached home.

Air France

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I am writing on behalf of my mother, an elderly person who has diabetic and a heart condition. I booked a flight with assistance that was supposed to leave at 7:25 pm but was 1 hour late from Manchester. The assistance I requested arrived late which led her to miss her connection because no one turned up to collect her [and take her] to her next flight. When the assistance I booked for her turned up, she already missed the plane. I was sent an email to let me know (2h later), and I realized I did not know how to contact my mother due to the fact that nobody told me or explained to me how they will sort things out.

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She had to ask the person who was pushing her to call me and let me know where she was. She was put in a hotel for 24 h without food, they gave her €15 to buy herself food but she could not as she needed assistance (wheelchair), and she does not know the language spoken.

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The hotel she was put in did not help her at all until I had to find the name, contact number and let them know that she needed assistance, and also to let them know that she is an elderly person with a heart condition. They told me it was not their responsibility and asked me to call Air France which I did and Air France told me to call the hotel because it was not their responsibility.

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I was back and forth and nobody helped until I had to tell them I will sue both if my mum missed her medications (8) because of lack of assistance (no water, no food, no help). My mum was emotionally distressed and could not sleep the whole night because she is not used to hotels with people who did not speak the same language. I was the whole time over the phone to make sure they did not forget her the next day the same way they did when she missed her plane.

Air Canada

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We would appreciate your sympathy for our situation, we are three seniors from age 67 to 84. We were flying to Quebec City to board an NCL cruise ship, which was set to depart from the port at 8:00pm, with boarding gates closing at 7:00 pm. Upon landing in Montreal, the three of us rushed to the boarding gate with a dozen other passengers. The plane had not departed yet, so we explained to the ground staff that we had to make the flight in order to catch the cruise. The staff did make a phone call, but our request to board was denied. The next available flight was at 5:50 pm, making it impossible for us to reach the cruise terminal in time for boarding protocol.

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At that moment, we didn’t know what to do and were worried, upset and anxious. We reached out to a friend for help and fortunately he was able to find someone who could drive us for $400. This was our only option to reach the port in time. During the 3.5 hours drive we were hungry, anxious and panicking, afraid that we would miss the cruise. Luckily we reached the terminal in the nick of time for boarding. Our anxiety and suffering was absolutely due to the flight being delayed in Toronto.

Lufthansa

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The first flight got delayed by almost 30 minutes to 1 hour and hence I landed at 16:01 PM.  The connecting flight they provided at 21:30 PM. The missed connection caused me to lose around 250 Euros. I had to book a new means of transport. I even asked about the flight for the next day and provide some arrangement.

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Lufthansa clearly denied everything and imposed me to take this flight. I was with my father who is a 72 year old diabetic patient. It caused a huge inconvenience to him. They just provided a 15 Euro meal voucher which is not at all sufficient in Munich airport, and I ended up spending more for a food which I generally do not prefer. I need recompensation for the outward travel and rude behavior as well as the mental stress they caused to a senior citizen diabetic patient along with me.

Denied Boarding

Lufthansa

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My elderly MOM (70 yrs) requested Wheelchair Assistance but they were not provided. The one in FRA and did not provide any communication/assistance which led to missing the connecting flight.  My friend's mom who was accompanying me is also a senior citizen.

After several calls, they gave a hotel and meal voucher but the hotel room was a single bed for two people which is not enough room for two people to sleep. I booked another room at my personal expense so they can at least comfortably sleep.  Also, no transportation was provided to the hotel or helped them on how to use the meal voucher. They did not get any meals for 24 hrs and the meal voucher expired for the next day when they tried to use it for breakfast. It was a total MESS!!! They left them alone with no assistance knowing they have a language problem, elderly and requested wheelchair assistance. I had to make several phone calls from the US which cost me as well apart from hotel, meals and phone charges we paid from my pocket.  VERY BAD SERVICE by LUFTHANSA!! NEVER FLYING MY PARENTS AGAIN!!

British Airways

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We had to stay overnight in London being senior citizens with no currency on hand. This whole ordeal was super uncomfortable, tiring and hectic as we both are Senior citizens as well as no currency was provided to us to travel to the airport from the hotel. In addition to this, we did not receive our luggage in Toronto and received it after 3 days and one suitcase was delivered to us after one whole week. We had our medicines and prescriptions in our luggage which caused huge inconvenience to us as we have been instructed by our doctor to not skip it.

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My mother is 72 year old senior citizen. She is a diabetic and heart patient. [After the denied boarding incident] we checked whether we could get the luggage back and we were told that we cannot as they had shortage of drivers to get the stuff back to the terminal.  Owing to this mum couldn’t take her routine medication as the rest of her medication was in her luggage mum couldn’t take medicines that she was supposed to take.

United

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I’m a senior of 76 years. The experience I had with my trip itinerary . . . was a painful, hurtful and humiliating experience. The plane was to leave at 12:30pm then the plane was supposed to depart at 1:00 pm. The time changed again, we finally boarded the plane at 5:30 pm. We had gate changes also . . .and were sitting in the airport for 9 to 10 hours.

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We were waiting for wheelchair assistance but they never came. I placed my hand luggage and my things in the wheelchair. We started walking a painful walk back to the United boarding desk. We had to go through customs again . . .[and] l had to walk a short distance. I was in so much pain I couldn’t walk any further. My cousin walked the long walkway to the United desk. We missed our plane again. My itinerary was a horrible experience and very stressful on me and my body.

Conclusion

These real-life and unreported stories illustrate the impact of delays and cancellations on elderly passengers - a group that tends to be overlooked when travel disruptions are discussed. Underscoring the need for better airline policies that give more priority to older passengers, these accounts reveal how important it is for vulnerable populations to be given the help they deserve. We hope that by advocating for more comprehensive air travel solutions for elderly individuals, all vulnerable populations will be better served.

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