Airline Drops Wheelchair Passenger at the Wrong Gate, Makes Her Buy New Ticket After Missing Flight

Norwegian is cheap flying, but when things go wrong it isn’t known for great customer service. Mistakes happen, but the test of an airline is how they respond when they do.

When they delivered an 82 year old woman in a wheelchair to the wrong gate she missed her flight. And they told her she’d have to buy a new ticket as a no show passenger.

The woman was flying out of Orlando to London on July 14. She’s “nearly blind” and arrived at the airport three hours ahead of departure with her son in law.

He received a call hours later,

“She’s tough and she was in tears crying. She was taken to the wrong gate, saying the flight left without her,” Moorhead said. He reports that his mom was left at gate 96, rather than gate 94. “When I looked at the boarding pass, the person who wrote the number on the boarding pass [said] it looks…it could look like a four. A genuine mistake,” Moorhead said.

Upon phoning to re-book his mother for another flight, he was forced to pay an additional $440 for a second ticket.

Copyright william87 / 123RF Stock Photo

Norwegian told them to go pound sand, “You left the gate on your own and didn’t present yourself at the due time for boarding. Having in mind this information, we understand that we have complied with the above-mentioned regulations.”

The woman had checked her luggage. She was confined to a wheelchair. But Norwegian’s position was she had gone off to do other more interesting things in the airport, like sitting around people watching at another gate I suppose.

It’s only when a local television news station took on the case that the airline agreed to refund the second ticket. According to the airline,

Norwegian sincerely apologizes for this situation, which should never have happened. While Norwegian Air is the operating airline, we contract certain services at Orlando International Airport. One ground handler is responsible for check-in and boarding agents, while another company handles services such as wheelchair assistance.

In this case, based on the information we have received, there seems to have been miscommunication as to what happened to Ms. Moorhead, who should not have been left by herself. She should, of course, have been given proper attention and care until she boarded, which is when Norwegian Air cabin crew would be responsible for her well-being until she arrived in London.

Due to this miscommunication of events, Mr. Moorhead was unfortunately charged for a new ticket the following night, which should also not have happened, and Norwegian apologies for this. A refund has been issued.

It’s always cute for an airline to outsource customer service responsibility, and then blame the outsourced company instead of ensuring that service is being properly provided.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Yes, I love the implication that if Norwegian employees had only been in charge of things from start to finish, “miscommunication” wouldn’t have happened. But, alas, they have contracted out as much as they can.

  2. I am curious for the reaccommodation if they had worked with MCO airport agents if the add collect or change fee would have been waived. It sounds like the family member phoned up the reservations call center; which who knows, maybe is also outsourced.

    Airport agents on balance tend to be more empathetic while on balance call center agents tend to follow rules and policies more rigidly; that is my experience after decades of travel across all sorts of airlines and travel companies.

    There is even a blog here:
    Don’t Call the Airline

    Its also my experience that non US carriers are stricter and more rigid. One of my first trips to PRG I wanted to make a simple date change and have the fees waived in PRG which was a huge to do, where as in BOS I could just smile and they largely would waive anything! 🙂

  3. If you travel a lot you see these contract employees at work while many take their jobs seriously others are more interested in their cell phones or chatting. This incident does not surprise me at all, I saw something similar at SMF one time with SWA and they handled it poorly as well, so bad passengers waiting to board a flight next door boo’d and heckled the SWA agent !! Not that I am downplaying the carrier one bit but let’s not rush to indict them. Service in and around the airlines industry as a whole sucks flying is becoming less and less fun.

  4. As I understand it, at virtually all airports wheelchair service is handled by companies other than the airlines themselves, so I doubt it was the airline which deposited her at the wrong gate, as the headline says. And when she was at the wrong gate someone there should have helped her. How was Norwegian supposed to know exactly where she had gone after checking in? I have had great wheelchair pushers who have gone the extra mile for me, and a few who seemed to resent their jobs and could care less about those depending on them. I don’t know how much they are paid, but I do know they rely on tips which some passengers never come up with, either out of ignorance or parsimony. Nevertheless Norwegian should have paged her when she didn’t show and the wheelchair pusher should have known her flight number/destination, stayed with her until boarding and noticed they were at the wrong gate when the flights were posted. That’s who I blame.

  5. Actually really nice when the airline outsources those kinds of employees. From my experience they tend to not enforce the cabin baggage rules at all. Airlines like lion and air Asia.

  6. I find it troubling that the airlines generally refuse to act unless the news gets involved.

  7. This could have all been avoided if the son had been issued a gate pass in order to escort his mother to the gate and make sure she got on her flight.

    I’m not sure who decided that he couldn’t wheel his mother through security (as noted in the original article) but that’s a fairly common accommodation made for a passenger in a wheelchair.

  8. From what I have seen and done most pushers bring you to the gate and and you off to the gate agent. I have taken elderly down to the gate and waited until the plane pushed back, because there have been problems

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