Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant #8 – Wheelchair Gaming the System

“Surprise, some passengers order a wheelchair to try to game the system and board first. Those people are jerks”  Now, I’m not saying that everyone who orders a wheelchair is faking, but I can’t begin to count the times people have boarded the plane in a wheelchair, but by the time we arrive they’ve been miraculously cured of their ailment. It’s a joke between wheelchair attendants and crew members. As we’re getting off the airplane, they’re all lined up with their empty chairs in the jetway as we tell them all the passengers are gone … they were “healed again.” This, folks, is known as the “Jetway Jesus.” Praise be unto him.”

Betty continues spilling her secrets. Thanks to Mark from Yahoo! for sharing a new weekly series called “Confessions of A Fed-Up Flight Attendant” written by “Betty”.  Below is the eighth entry from the series, you can check out the full post here and a new one each Monday.

Throughout my career I’ve seen more miracle cures than the pope. It never fails to astonish me how often sick people are instantaneously healed in the process of flying. (Maybe it’s all that ginger ale or maybe it’s the vitamins in the Bloody Mary mix.)

Take this incident I witnessed the other day: I was at the security screening area when a passenger in a wheelchair and her wheelchair attendant moved to the front of the line. I was in my uniform, and I never mind letting a person in a wheelchair go in front of me.

Most people who order a wheelchair actually need assistance or simply can’t walk long distances. Bully for them, they also happen to get on the plane first, typically snagging the best spots to stow their luggage as well. (You can imagine where I’m going with this.)

So this lady hops out of her chair and whisks through the detector and quickly starts walking away. The wheelchair attendant yelled to her, “I have your boarding pass!” He then rolled his eyes at me and said: “Look how fast she’s walking. She’s practically running.”

After I had my heels back on and started down the concourse, I saw the wheelchair attendant pushing manically after the woman down the long concourse, attempting to catch up with her — so she can get back into her chair to board the airplane first.

It’s actually a diabolical plan, because you can’t tell by looking at people if they are indeed disabled. Illnesses and disabilities affect all types of people, of many different ages. And no one in their right mind would accuse someone of faking a disability. … I mean, who on Earth would do such a thing!

But how much do you want to bet that this woman will indeed board the airplane first as a person who needs assistance — but will most definitely not be waiting for her wheelchair at the end of her flight. And why? People in wheelchairs may be boarded first, but when the airplane arrives at its destination, they’re typically kept on board until last so they don’t hold up everyone else who is disembarking.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who orders a wheelchair is faking, but I can’t begin to count the times people have boarded the plane in a wheelchair, but by the time we arrive they’ve been miraculously cured of their ailment.

It’s a joke between wheelchair attendants and crew members. As we’re getting off the airplane, they’re all lined up with their empty chairs in the jetway as we tell them all the passengers are gone … they were “healed again.” This, folks, is known as the “Jetway Jesus.” Praise be unto him.

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  1. It’s an easy solution: require that all those who board with wheelchair assistance also be the LAST to deplane. Anyone who does not follow this rule will be barred from the airline for 6 months to a year…with a second violation being cause for a lifetime ban. If all airlines sign onto this policy, watch the fake wheelchair boardings and “Jetway Jesus” disappear quite quickly.

    • Doing that would definitely fix the problem, but at the same time it could be unfair to the disabled to be forced to board AND deplane last.

      It’s quite sad how unethical people have become.

  2. Well, how about people that have the disabled card on their car and park on disabled parking spots at supermarkets, shopping malls, etc… I would say that 80% of the people I see parking their cars on those spots leave the car walking better than many healthy people. Sure, I am not saying they are not disabled somehow but I am always amazed some of the people I see using those parking spots.

    • Part of this problem is how states handle handicapped tags. My mother has both hips replaced in the past few years and now walks like she did 20 years ago. Her doctor said regardless of how well she walks now, she will get handicapped tags due to her double hip replacement. Under more normal circumstances she does not use handicapped parking spaces but still has the tags nonetheless. Blame state regulators.

  3. A couple of observations. First we don’t want to lower ourselves to this level but yet I see many bloggers that go over to this dark side in attempts to “game” the points system. Bad Karma I say.

    Second I’ve seen this as well over the years. I was on a Southwest flight one day and the FA’s made an older couple move. They pre-boarded with canes and sat in the emergency exit row. She said it was against the rules as they had demonstrated that they aren’t fit enough to help open the doors in the event of an emergency.

  4. I was wheelchair transferred in Milano MXP between a domestic and International flight. The super efficient system actually had me miss my second flight depite having almost 3 hours on the ground. I never said I could not walk but needed the help. The Swissair (yes, a long time ago) flight agreed to hold two minutes for me till the station manager heard I was in a wheelchair, he then immediately changed his mind. Charming jerk, hope he lost his pension.

    I was healed enough to half run to the last possible flight of the evening. Lots of pain but ran!

  5. About those with handicapped permits!
    There is definately abuse but you can never be sure. I wish some smart alecks would ask rather than sneer. I help elderly parents and sometimes drop them at the curb, with someone else helping while I park nearby. This is still a valid permit use.

  6. well, if i was unethical and used the wheel chair scam I wouldn’t have any problem boarding last as long as i was guaranteed a seat for the disabled (in the front of the plane with the most seating area).

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