An ailing, 425-pound woman who was turned away by three airlines as she tried to return to the U.S. from Europe has died overseas, prompting legal action from her family.
Vilma Soltesz and her husband traveled to Hungary in September to spend a month in their former homeland – a trek the Bronx residents made every year to visit family.
They flew from New York to Budapest on KLM without any problems, with Soltesz purchasing two seats for herself because of her size, said Holly Ostrov Ronai, the family’s attorney.
But when the couple tried to return to New York in October, the problems began.
“They were sent from airline to airline, they were sent driving around, they were just treated completely inhumanely,” Ronai told NBC News. “(The airlines) had a duty to get her home to her doctors.”
Soltesz, 56, and her husband came on board their scheduled KLM flight to New York on Oct. 15 with the help of a Skylift elevator, but the captain told them to disembark because of an issue with the seatback and because the airline didn’t have a seatbelt extender, Ronai said.
KLM countered that it was not physically possible for Soltesz to board the aircraft, despite every effort made by the airline.
“A seat or belt extender did not offer a solution either,” said KLM spokeswoman Ellen van Ginkel, in a statement to NBC News.
“Subsequently, KLM and its partners Delta and Air France did its utmost to find an alternative in the two days that followed. The passenger also took the initiative herself to approach her ticket agent to look for alternatives with other airlines.”
The couple spent five hours at the airport and then drove through the night to Prague, where they were told a bigger Delta Air Lines plane could take them home the next day. But that attempt was also unsuccessful because Delta only had a plastic wheelchair that was not able to hold Soltesz's weight, Ronai said.
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