Widower Janos Soltesz is suing three airlines for $6 million after his wife Vilma died last year after being prevented from boarding several flights home from Europe.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday accuses three airlines of wrongful death and gross negligence after they said Vilma Soltesz, who had an amputated leg and suffered from diabetes and kidney disease, was “too fat to fly.”
Vilma Soltesz was found dead in her vacation home in Hungary last October after the airlines denied her accommodations on Delta, KLM and Lufthansa Airlines because of her size. Soltesz was planning to return home to New York to be treated for her diabetes and kidney disease.
The saga began on Sept. 17 when Janos and Vilma Soltesz flew to Budapest to stay at their vacation home for three weeks. Vilma flew to their destination via Delta and KLM, from which she had purchased two seats for herself with “no issues at all.” Soltesz reportedly asked the airlines before her return flight if she could be accommodated, and they allegedly agreed to make proper arrangements.
But on Oct. 2, Soltesz was feeling ill and went to a Hungarian hospital, where upon being released, she was instructed she would be able to fly home. According to the suit, she arranged plans to fly back via KLM in order to see her regular doctor.
However, on Oct. 15, when Soltesz tried to return home, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Budapest denied her a seat. According to the lawsuit, a captain told the couple to disembark after Vilma couldn’t make it from her wheelchair to her assigned seats.
KLM spokeswoman Ellen van Ginkel told Radar Online back in November that "it appeared on the passenger's return that it was not physically possible for her to board the aircraft, despite every effort made by KLM to this end. A seat or belt extender did not offer a solution, either."
After waiting for a long time, the couple lost hope with KLM and decided to pursue another airline, Delta, which promised to accommodate her, Reuters reported. However, the airline did not have an adequate wheelchair to help Vilma to her seat.
"The Delta flight coordinator told Janos and Vilma that Delta 'did not have access to a skylift' to get Vilma onto the aircraft from the rear, and that there was nothing more Delta could do for them," the lawsuit stated.
Delta spokesman Russel Cason told ABC News in November: "Despite a determined good-faith effort by Delta in Prague, we were also physically unable to board her on our aircraft on Oct. 16. For this reason there was never an issue with the use of seat belt extenders," he said, adding "sincere condolences."
On Oct. 22, several medics helped Vilma board a Lufthansa flight in Frankfurt, but the captain, according to the lawsuit, ordered her to disembark because "other passengers need to catch a connecting flight and cannot be delayed further,"
An earlier report said Lufthansa also denied her a seat, saying "she was not allowed on the flight when she didn't fit in a three seat gap."
"After several time-consuming attempts it was decided that for the safety of this passenger and the over 140 fellow passengers, Lufthansa had to deny transportation of the passenger," Lufthansa said in a statement in November. "In order to avoid further delays which would have resulted in missed connections and severe inconvenience for other customers on board, this decision was unavoidable.”
According to the lawsuit, Soltesz was "exhausted and feeling ill” and returned back to their vacation home in Hungary, where she was found dead on Oct. 24.
Delta said it was not served with the lawsuit, according to Reuters.