Metro

Grandmother left at wrong gate at Logan

A Florida woman visiting her grandchildren missed her flight home on JetBlue after being left at the wrong gate at a Massachusetts airport.

JB Reed/Bloomberg

A Florida woman visiting her grandchildren missed her flight home on JetBlue after being left at the wrong gate at a Massachusetts airport.

Denise Chase was expecting her mother to land at the Fort Myers airport Tuesday around 2:30 p.m.

Instead, her 74-year-old mother, who suffers from early onset dementia, was left behind at Logan International Airport after a gate change for her flight, Chase said, even though wheelchair assistance had been requested from the airline, JetBlue.

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“Why didn’t they check on her? Why didn’t they find out where the heck she was? You’ve got somebody that’s assigned to a wheelchair, why wouldn’t you be checking?” Chase said in a phone interview with the Globe. “It’s apathy, it’s plain, blatant apathy.”

JetBlue officials said in a statement that they regret Carmen Courchesne’s experience and are conducting a review of the events.

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Chase’s sister, Judy Davis, had driven their mother to Logan Tuesday after she had been visiting with her son on Cape Cod. Chase said Davis dropped their mother off at 6:30 a.m., giving her plenty of time to make her 11 a.m. flight.

However, when Chase was notified that her mother’s flight had a gate change, she was immediately concerned, she said.

She called JetBlue, explaining her mother did not have access to a cellphone and that the gate change might confuse her. Chase said she was assured that because her mother had wheelchair assistance, she would be guided through the gate-change process and not to worry.

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“Then like an hour later, I got like six calls from a 617 area code,” Chase said. When she saw the missed call notifications, she remembered thinking, “‘Oh my goodness, my mother should be in the air right now.’ ”

But she wasn’t. The flight had left without Courchesne, who was sitting at the originally scheduled departure gate.

“They just left her there at the gate,” Chase said.

Chase said she tried calling the number back, and eventually got connected to speak with JetBlue’s customer service.

“I was out of my mind,” Chase said. “If you lose my mother, I’m not going to be nice.”

The airline gave Courchesne a hotel room at the Wyndham Boston Chelsea, along with a meal voucher and provided a shuttle to get her back to Logan the next morning. But even these services came with complications, Chase said.

“She doesn’t know how to use the key cards to get in the door,” she said. “She didn’t know how to go about getting something to eat, she didn’t even know what a meal voucher was.”

Davis, who lives in New Hampshire, said she had to miss work to try and sort out the situation, but was eventually able to meet her mother at the hotel.

“I had just gotten home around 11 a.m., and at 3 in the afternoon, I’m on my way to Chelsea,” Davis said, adding it was about a two-hour drive with traffic.

On Wednesday morning, Courchesne was shuttled to Logan and became the first passenger to board that day’s 11 a.m. flight, sitting in a first-class seat, Davis said — though she didn’t land in Fort Myers until around 6 p.m. because of weather delays.

The underlying issue of her mother’s experience, Chase said, is the need for airlines to understand that some elderly passengers might be experiencing challenges and should not be left alone for long periods of time.

“You can have an intelligent conversation, but their processing level is probably that of an elementary school child,” Chase said.

“I can understand somebody who is proud and doesn’t realize they need help,” she said. “But all you’ve got to do is check on them every 30 or 45 minutes, and if there is a gate change make sure they get on their plane.”

For future travel, Chase said she’s doing things differently by getting a pass that will allow a family member to guide her mother all the way to her gate.

“I’m not going to rely on an airline employee,” she said. “You can have all the policies you want in place, but if you’re not policing your own policies to make sure they’re being followed, you’re going to have issues.”

Kiana Cole can be reached at kiana.cole@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kianamcole.
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