A Few Passengers Use Wheelchairs to Avoid Airport Lines
The familiar drudgery was under way along the security line at Kennedy International Airport on a recent afternoon. 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.
In the modern airport experience, where the tedium of long lines, sudden delays and ever-more-invasive security checks is the norm, little can be done to avoid the frustrations increasingly endemic to travel. So it may be an expected, if uncomfortable, fact that some travelers appear to exploit perhaps the only remaining loophole to a breezy airport experience — the line-cutting privileges given to people who request airport wheelchairs, for which no proof of a disability is required.
The practice, tacitly endorsed by a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy from wheelchair pushers, who sometimes receive tips, is so commonplace that airport workers can predict spikes in wheelchair requests when security is particularly backed up, and flight attendants see it so often on certain routes — including to the Philippines, Egypt and the Dominican Republic, for which sometimes a dozen people in wheelchairs will be waiting to board — they’ve dubbed them ‘miracle flights.’
‘We’d say there was a miracle because they all needed a wheelchair getting on, but not getting off,’ said Kelly Skyles, a flight attendant and the national safety and security coordinator for the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents American Airlines attendants. ‘Not only do we serve them beverages and ensure their safety — now we’re healing the sick.’
I think it sucks that people who are not disabled are using wheelchairs to get through airport lines faster.
I am one of those disabled people who can’t walk miles and miles of terminal concourses, and yes I always stay in my seat at destination until all the other passengers have deplaned.
Mostly it really sucks to be dependent on these wheelchair pushers, and I make sure they receive a tip. I wonder how many of these non-disabled remember to tip the chair pusher?