Wheelchair SCANDAL – Airlines Sound ALARM

When you make a special advantage for one class of people, a lot of new people will suddenly want to join that class. This universal phenomenon has been rearing its ugly head in the Airline industry, according to Barry Biffle, the CEO of Frontier Airlines.

While speaking at a luncheon event at the Wings Club in New York last week, Biffle laid out his growing misgivings about the wheelchair services that airlines provide to customers. These services are being misused, and it’s growing into a huge problem across the industry. Many passengers, he said, request wheelchair access and assistance at their departing airport, but, shockingly, their mobility issues seam to correct themselves during the flight to such an extent that far fewer passengers request assistance in de-barking and exiting the airport. He suggested a typical ratio of 20 “disabled” passengers upon a flight’s departure, to three upon arrival. He joked that either there is a massive abuse of the special services available to disabled customers, or the airline industry has found the secret to miraculous healing.

The abuse of these services incur costs on passengers who actually need assistance, who are forced to wait longer times for assistance and may not be able to access the services at all. The problem also costs the airlines between $30 and $35 pr instance.

Biffle’s comments are consistent with growing concerns about the way services for disabled travelers are administered and structured across the industry. There has been an ongoing discussion among airline officials in recent years over how to better manage and regulate disability accommodations. In Biffle’s estimation, anyone who needs such services should be able to access them, but there should be stark penalties for abusing them. He likened the situation to handicapped parking. Handicapped spaces are available to those who needs them, but someone caught abusing them will have their car towed and have to pay a fine.

The Transportation Department has noticed the problem, and is discussing regulatory changes.