I wondered about this.
When I was recovering from a hip replacement, and even before, when it was getting painful to walk, I requested wheel chairs from the airlines when I had to fly. It was wonderful. A nice attendant whisked me in front of the lines and through security, and I was also the first person on the plane. Nobody ever asked me what was the nature of my disability; they just trusted that I wouldn’t engage in such a dastardly act as to fake being hobbled—you know, just like nobody would pretend to be someone else to steal a vote. Never happens—why do anything to check? The system—I mean the wheelchair system, now, not the voting honor system—seemed ripe for abuse to me, but before today, I had never heard of anyone exploiting it.
According to a recent report, a lot of people do. The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to accommodate disabled travelers free of charge, and they do not need not show any proof of disability. This was just one of a long line of badly-thought out, wasteful, well-intentioned and incompetent laws and regulations forced on us by lobbies for the handicapped/disabled/differently-abled or whatever we are now being told the only respectful term is—but I digress.
The report quoted airline employees from several companies. The consensus is that the incidence of flyer faking disabilities to get wheelchair service and line priority has risen as airport security procedures have become more rigorous. Meanwhile, wheelchair attendants don’t blow the whistle on their fake chair-riders so they can get big tips. Flight attendants have a name for trips that end with a passenger who arrived in a wheelchair sprinting out the jetway on his own power: miracle flights.
How amusing. Once again, as with the foolish checked baggage charges and free gate-checked luggage procedures, the airlines are breeding cheaters with no apparent attempt at prevention, detection or penalties. “I’m a big believer in karma,” Peter Greenberg, author and travel editor for CBS News, replied when asked for his solution. “You don’t put on a dress when the Titanic is going down so you can get in the first lifeboat.” Thanks for your input, Peter: you’re fired. I don’t believe in karma; I believe in sensible rules that don’t provide incentives to cheat.
Since we’re not going to stop Congress from passing bad laws that come from the soft, sweet, nougat center of their dear little hearts, the airlines should offer solid bounties to wheelchair attendants who finger the fakes. Flight attendants should get the name of everyone who arrives in a wheelchair, and turn that name over to the police when and if he runs off the flight shouting, “Glory be! I’m cured!“
Yes, I believe that ethics alone should be enough to stop the wheelchair scammers, but I also know that there are a lot of shameless, dishonest people among us. For the airlines to shrug and leave the rest of us to their mercy is indefensible.
Source: CBS News
Graphic: But You Don’t Look Sick
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