Using a Free Airport Wheelchair Service to Get Through Security Quicker

Would you feign mobility issues just to get through airport security quicker?  It seems a little shocking and inconceivable but apparently the number of airport patrons doing this is on the rise.  

Since airport regulations require wheelchairs to be provided to those who request it, airlines have always obliged by offering free wheelchair services.  The story of shame for those thoughtless flyers goes something like this:  they take normal strides to the check-in desk and ask the airline staff for a wheelchair.  A helpful member of staff brings a wheelchair out then pushes the patron to the front of the security queue.  This person is screened per normal by airport security; then upon collecting their hand luggage, he or she simply gets up from the wheelchair and strides normally again towards the departure gate.   

Why would anyone go to this length to save time?  The main culprits tend to be those who have arrived at the airport late for their flight and therefore want to avoid the long security queues.  There are also those with heavy bags who want a bit of extra help; and unashamedly, some even use this service to get early boarding privileges as well as extra leg room on the flight for free. 

It is indeed a sad state of affairs when airline passengers take to this extreme to cut short the time it takes to complete necessary airport procedures.  Spare a thought for those who genuinely need this service – those with disabilities, senior citizens who can no longer walk confidently unaided and even heavily pregnant women.  Fake wheelchair requests lead to long delays for those with a legitimate case for using this service and compromise their travel safety.

One argument from those who shamelessly bypass proper airport procedures is that the security process is in desperate need of review, with long delays a regular occurrence for all passengers.  Whilst no one will argue with the frustration that many experience going through airport security, it simply doesn’t justify the act of pretending to be disabled just to get in front of the queue.

As a consequence of the actions from these self-centred passengers, there is a lot of strain being put on airport and airline staff.  The cost of operating the free airport wheelchair service is also on the rise, leading to questions around whether airport fees will eventually increase to cope with the higher demand for these extra airport services.

So what can airlines do to control the problem?  Through experience and observation, airline staff is adept at identifying passengers who falsely request the wheelchair service.  For example, they know from experience that passengers with legitimate needs for wheelchair assistance will usually book in advance.  They can also easily spot if a passenger requesting mobility assistance is not wearing comfortable shoes and do not carry equipment such as walking canes or frames.  However, it appears quite little is done even when fake requests are identified as it can lead to incredibly sensitive questions to inquire about a passenger’s mobility.