Wheelchair Fakers Skip Airport Security Lines

  • Share
  • Read Later
Holly Harris / Getty Images

A woman sits in a wheelchair.

When long airport security lines become too much to handle, request a wheelchair.

That’s the tactic some fully abled passengers are using to cut through the winding queues at airport security checkpoints, the New York Times reported. According to the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, airlines are required to accomodate disabled travelers — who need not show any proof of disability — free of charge.

Airport staffers recognize the deception occurs; they’ve learned to expect a large volume of wheelchair requests during periods when security lags.

(PHOTOS: 5 Celebrities Who’ve Been Kicked Off Flights)

“When [travelers] see that the line is so long, they just ask for a wheelchair,” Evelyn Danquah, an attendant for Delta Air Lines, told the Times. She said she has seen some wheelchair fakers stand and walk away as soon as they clear security.

Wheelchair attendants — whose salaries range between $9 and $14 an hour, with tips, help to maintain a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding the line-hopping strategy in hopes of bolstering their paychecks, the Times reported.

The practice has even spawned a new term among flight attendants: “miracle flights,” in which passengers use wheelchairs to board but abandon them when their planes land. Kelly Skyles, the national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, told the Times she believes travelers shed their wheelchairs because passengers in wheelchairs are the last to leave the plane.

“Not only do we serve them beverages and ensure their safety — now we’re healing the sick,” said Skyles, who is also a flight attendant.

Peter Greenberg, author and travel editor for CBS News, said he has noticed miracle flights on the rise as security has increased in rigor. He told the Times the scammers will eventually face unpleasant consequences.

“I’m a big believer in karma,” he said. “You don’t put on a dress when the Titanic is going down so you can get in the first lifeboat.”

Karma wasn’t kind to one wheelchair faker in the past. The Telegraph reported in late August that Barry Brooks, who had pretended to be disabled in order to secure nearly $2.9 million in grants — which he then used to buy luxury cars, motorcycles and a penthouse in Spain — was sentenced to eight years in prison.

It’s unclear whether deceitful passengers will suffer any penalties in the future. Jean Medina, spokesperson for industry trade organization Airlines for America, wrote in an email to the Times that her organization hopes travelers would refrain from abusing the law.

“We respect our passengers, and we trust their integrity when they seek wheelchair assistance,” Medina said in the email.

WATCH: What I Learned At Flight Attendant School

2 comments
mebekili
mebekili

Has it occurred to any of these judgmental people that some people with physical issues simply cannot STAND for long periods of time, and so a long security line then actually IS an issue?   I have a herniated disc, if there's no line, I will brave it and try to go through without assistance -- if I try to do that when there is a long line, I know I am asking for a bucketload of unnecessary pain, potentially with my legs going out from under me and doing a face plant in the process.   I can walk at a decent clip -- walking slowly is almost as bad as standing in one place for the affect on my back.   I'm sure anyone seeing that combination of behaviors ASSumes "fake" -- but no, it's simply a physical issue that doesn't fit into their under-informed preconceived notions.

Padyn
Padyn

Start charging for wheelchairs ..that will stop this...