A 94-year-old Chilliwack woman who was left abandoned at an airport in a wheelchair is sharing what she’s calling a “horror” story.
Rachele Jamieson recently came home from what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation in Cuba. She flew from Vancouver to Cuba alone on Feb. 8 and returned on March 1 with Sunwing.
The entire experience with the airline was unpleasant, she said on March 4, three days after arriving home. But it was what happened on her return journey that really upset her.
It was around 3 a.m. on Tuesday, March 1 when her Sunwing plane landed about two and a half hours late at YVR.
Jamieson, who normally uses a walker, used a wheelchair at the airport to get around more easily. An employee with YVR wheeled her off the plane and into the terminal and told her that a Sunwing employee would be with her shortly.
She waited and watched as all the other passengers left the plane. Then the Sunwing staff walked past her. Soon all was quiet.
“And then the lights went dim,” she recalled.
There she sat alone in a wheelchair.
“Then I started yelling and screaming for help. I yelled and screamed and hollered.”
But she wondered how anyone could possibly hear her. She could see people off in the distance through windows of the terminal, but not a soul was within earshot. She looked for a fire extinguisher, thinking maybe if she broke some glass the police would come.
“And then I started to cry.”
Jamieson figured it was about a half an hour that she sat there in the darkened airport when she realized no one from Sunwing was coming to get her.
“And then all of a sudden here comes this airport man.”
It was the same YVR employee who wheeled her off the plane. He said he called Sunwing to confirm that they had taken Jamieson to get her luggage. Sunwing stated, yes, they already picked up the passenger in the wheelchair – an elderly man who was with his wife.
When the YVR employee realized Sunwing was talking about a different passenger, he returned to the gate to find Jamieson all alone right where he left her.
He took her to get her luggage and brought her through customs and then over to where her family friend, Mitchell, was waiting for her.
“(Mitchell) had been standing there three and a half hours,” Jamieson said.
During the time he was waiting, Mitchell tried to figure out where Jamieson was, but he never did find out.
Jamieson says she’s “of sound mind” and is in “perfect” health aside from using a walker. She lives on her own, cooks for herself, and has travelled alone for 15 years. This trip marked the 10th time she’s flown to Cuba on her own, and it was definitely the worst.
She paid for an ‘elite seat’ with extra leg room but didn’t get one, which led to a very uncomfortable flight to Cuba leaving her with a sore back that lasted throughout her entire vacation, and even after.
As a result, her time in Cuba involved doctor visits, medication, complications from the medication, and exhaustion. Her journey home included a flight that was behind schedule, and a COVID rapid test document misplaced by Sunwing.
By the time she landed back at YVR on March 1, she thought the worst was behind her.
“When I got off the plane, I thought ‘thank god that’s over with. It was bad, but I guess it wasn’t that bad.’ But then when I got left in the airport, I thought I was going to go crazy.”
In the days that followed after arriving home, Jamieson had nightmares of being locked in a cell, being chased and being Tasered.
“I must have woke up because I got out of bed and tried to run. I fell flat on my face,” she said.
She was so confused as a result of her nightmares, she questioned whether what she experienced with Sunwing was real or not, so she called Mitchell.
“I said ‘Did I get left at the airport or not?’ He said ‘You certainly did.’”
Jamieson contacted her travel agent when she got home and Sunwing will be reimbursing her the $225 ‘elite seat’ fee.
“But, I’m not satisfied with that,” she said.
On the advice of her nephew, she’s decided not to sue the airline since Sunwing will soon be bought by Westjet, a deal that is expected to close by the end of 2022.
She got a call from Sunwing on the morning of Friday, March 11 and they said they were “going to look into it” and would get back to her next week, Jamieson said.
She’s hoping to get more than just the $225 back from Sunwing.
“My entire holiday was ruined,” she said. “I paid $4,500 for the trip and I should have that money back, because I didn’t have a holiday.”
The Chilliwack Progress contacted Sunwing for comment, but received no reply as of 5 p.m. Friday, March 11.
Note: Sunwing replied to a second request for comment on Tuesday, March 15 in regards to a followup on this story.
Read the followup story here: Sunwing to fully reimburse Chilliwack woman, 94, who was abandoned at airport