Originally published October 12 2012
Cheating air travelers fake need for wheelchairs to bypass long security lines
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) It's no wonder the cynicism factor in America is rising as fast as our debt, when there are people who are willing to shed every ounce of humility they have and lie about having a disability - just so they can get to the front of the line at the airport.
Anyone who travels by air knows that sometimes the security lines can get to be lengthy, especially at certain times of the day - like first thing in the morning, when airlines schedule their first flights of the day.
Nobody likes to wait in line at the airport. But waiting in line is part of life - unless you're a rock star, the pope or the leader of the free world.
Or someone in a wheelchair - an angle that an increasing number of able-bodied traveler/scammers are using to their advantage, The New York Times reported recently.
Airport staffers see a lot of this
The rule these cheating travelers are exploiting has its roots in the 1986 Air Carrier Access Act, a law which mandated that airlines are required to accommodate the disabled traveler, free of charge. The traveler need not show any proof that he or she is, in fact, disabled.
Reporting on the "usual drudgery" of waiting in a security line at the Kennedy International Airport one recent afternoon, the Times noted:
Shoes were fumbled off feet, laptops unearthed from satchels and belts tugged from their loops. But mostly people waited, shuffled and waited as they wound their way to the front of the line. But one couple had a different experience. Pushed along in the wheelchairs each airline provides by request, they whizzed past the line to a specially designated and briskly efficient Transportation Security Administration screener. Once cleared, the woman suddenly sprang up from her wheelchair, hoisted two huge carry-on bags from the magnetometer's conveyor belt and plopped back in the wheelchair. She gave a nod to the person pushing her, and they rolled off to the gate.
Such antics - which ought to be roundly condemned by everyone - are, unfortunately, nothing new to airport staffers. They see it all the time.
"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 paper, adding that she's seen a number of so-called wheelchair fakers simply stand up once they clear security and walk away.
No questions asked. No penalty for cheating.
What's more, it could be that the wheelchair attendants hired to push folks around - and who make anywhere from $9-$14 an hour with tips - have a financial incentive to push more people. They maintain a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, the Times said, regarding cheating travelers, as a way to boost their bottom line.
It's a miracle!
The tactic has even spawned a new term among flight attendants: "miracle flights."
"We'd say there was a miracle because they all needed a wheelchair getting on, but not getting off," Kelly Skyles, a flight attendant and the national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines attendants, told the paper.
"Not only do we serve them beverages and ensure their safety - now we're healing the sick," she added dryly.
She speculated that was because while wheelchair passengers are the first to board, they are also usually the last to disembark the aircraft; what is a short-cut at the beginning of the flight is a time-waster at the destination.
Granted, anyone in a wheelchair is still exposed to the Hades that is the Transportation Security Administration screening process - just at a faster rate.
Not everyone sees a big problem, however.
"We respect our passengers, and we trust their integrity when they seek wheelchair assistance," Jean Medina, the spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an industry trade organization, said in an email to the Times. "And we hope that the service would not be abused for convenience."
Well, so much for "hope."
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