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Frontier Airlines CEO urges crackdown of ‘rampant abuse’ of airport wheelchair service

The 1986 Air Carrier Access Act requires airlines to provide a wheelchair for passengers with disabilities at the airport. The problem, though, is that many travelers are faking it, Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said. He said he has seen some Frontier flights where 20 people were brought in wheelchairs at departure, with only three using them upon arrival... some travelers were “using wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport.” ( More...

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Wally Morph 28
I remember some time ago we were on the NOPAC route heading to Vancouver and I asked the cabin manager for any requirements on landing. 25 wheelchairs…..through immigration we saw the stream of wheelchairs then a team of people collecting their bags. Once outside the terminal most of those ‘wheelchair’ people got up, collected their bags and briskly walked to the taxi rank. Similar thing happened in Singapore. Some people will always try to take advantage of others. Maybe the world education system should introduce a course on common decency.
Andrew Turnbull 26
Maybe board them first but then force them to de-plane LAST. That may winnow out the frauds.
boughbw 7
No good. They usually run the wheelchairs to the jet bridge and wait. By the time they realize people who used them to get to the plane don't use them leaving the plane, they've already left the plane.
Benoit Hilty 1
That is the procedure on most airlines. For that reason the term 'miracle flight' is used when 7 wheelchairs for boarding turns into zero wheelchairs deplaning!
Mike Petro 21
Why not have persons requesting wheelchair service bring along their handicap parking permit and the identification that goes with it certify that it is indeed for them, not someone else? As a handicapped person who requires wheelchair service, I wouldn't mind the extra step.
Mike Petro 9
When I travel by air I always bring my handicap placard so I can use it in whatever car I'm using wherever I am. In addition, you don't have to be a driver to get a handicap placard for a vehicle.
Craig Northacker 1
Usually they are in the car so we can park. lol. Mine is a license plate.. Unless it has our picture on it the placard could be from anywhere.
Wendy Sue Meehan 1
This would work most of the time, and I am truly sick of the abuses. But my brother had a skiing accident - tore his ACL, and he needed handicapped assist from CDG thru ATL. He would not have been able to get a permit.
Simon Hawkins 25
Certain cultures see this as a perceived freeby and abuse it accordingly. They couldn't care less about those who actually need the chair. The test however is when they are made to wait for available chairs, quite a while after the last pax has departed. As a flight Attendant I have seen many miracles of healing onboard when these people decide that its not worth the wait so actually use their legs as they were intended. And I say this not to he racist, it's an observable fact, every single day. The culture will remain unidentified.....
Mike Davis 9
I know it well as a volunteer at one of our national parks.
Werner Klotz 2
It’s also based on religion to take advantage of infidels. The religion will remain unidentified….
Nooge -6
Simons race wont remain unidentified..... White
ko25701 27
Air travel has become just like a trip to Walmart.
Peter Hardley-Nice 7
This isn't an easy nut to crack. My wife carries a permanent injury as a result of a leg crush getting from a cruise shit to a tender in malacca. This means it puts her in a fair amount of pain walking long distances in airports and finds steps and stairs difficult. She doesn't seek disabled assistance, nor carries any disabled card etc. Part of the problem she has is not knowing the gate distance or if an airbridge is going to be used in advance of the instant. .... difficult,
krispykreme 5
Peter: quick suggestion...I frequently use airline apps that include an airport mapping feature in conjunction with Google Maps to determine how far I'll be walking and/or to find gates, the best route, restaurants, exits, etc. If your airport's map isn't available on your airline's app (or a competing airline's app), Google Maps alone can sometimes suffice, as the standard map layer will sometimes show a map of the airport interior including gate numbers (or in the aerial view gate numbers may be legible when painted on the ramp at the beginning of the aircraft's lead-in centerline). I use the measure distance function of google maps (adding turn points along the way) to get a good idea of the distance to walk, then multiply mileage (.24, .63, etc.) by 20 to determine how long it will take me to walk it at 3mph (metric calculation will obviously be different). It should also be somewhat apparent if a jetbridge is available at your gate by looking at the aerial view.
Craig Northacker 3
That is a good planning idea - for me when my brain is not working because of brain fog that is not something I can do. The question for me is getting to the aircraft - and I walk as much as I can but there are times I can not - and they are not predictable. Upon debarking there are times I will flag down a ride, but I don't want to tie up resources to get off the plane and if I use the wheelchair getting to the plane I tell them I won't want one when I debark. Plus, I'm a big guy and I don't want those poor people to have to suffer going up those ramps. lol.
A cruise “shit”…that’s about right
Phuong Kern 6
A fee should be introduced. A person on a wheelchair should not be wearing 4” spike heels.
cobo33 10
On the other hand, my paraplegic brother doesn't fly any more because of the incredible hassle and extra time, plus it seems things regularly got messed up causing stress for everyone.
No doubt these jerks abusing the service are making it even worse for those in genuine need.
Mark Strawn 5
Air Marshals call those "Miracles". What worries me is the preboards that can barely walk sitting in the exit row once I get on the plane.
Craig Northacker 2
Absolutely a valid concern. I remove myself from those seats precisely because of safety concerns for others.
Mike Mohle 4
One way that might prevent abuse: All wheelchair users exit the plane last, rather than first to hold up the hundreds of other people behind them trying to make connections. That will be $10,000, thank you!
Phillip Roetz 7
I personally believe it's the duty-free shops. On our last flight back from Mauritius i saw a lady walking around in the duty-free shop and she was fine. Walking and laughing. The next time i saw her she was being pushed in a wheelchair past us to the front of the boarding que. The poor woman could not even stand or walk without assistance. I saw her again 5 hrs later in OR Tambo airport and i am happy to report that she made a full recovery, And you say miracles do not happen anymore, I am never ever going into a duty-free shop again
david fairchild 6
I won't say which airline and I won't say which destination.But we have witnessed many times over people who say they require assistance getting to the boarding gate , getting onto the plane and getting off the plane, and then see them happily walking on the beach with a beer in their hand later. I think that wheelchair assistance should be only given with a note from a Doctor.
Maurizio Cinti 4
I totally agree with this request. Last week, during a recent flight to San Francisco, I see while waiting at the queue for passport control, almost 30 persons desembarking from a flight, waiting at a separate queue, all of them in wheelchair....Obviously fake ! A really annoying swindling, and an insult for all other people waiting for hours....
skydvrboy 2
Unfortunately, it's never obvious if a person is disabled. My daughter for instance is 18 and looks like any normal 18 year old. She can stand, walk, laugh, and joke around with the best of them.
However, she has a serious heart condition where if she exerts too much effort, her heart starts racing well over 180 bpm and can become a life threatening emergency.

In fact, she seems so normal that it took me a few years before even I accepted the diagnosis as real. It wasn't until one day when she stood up and quickly walked about 50 yards before collapsing to the ground that I actually accepted it. Her heart rate was over 200 bpm and I was terrified that something so minor as walking a short ways could put her life in jeopardy.

My point, if her own father thought she was faking it, what chance do you, or any other traveler or airline employee have of correctly identifying her need for assistance?
Steve Tarr 5
Please keep comments on aviation topics, thank you.
Jeraboam 2
My 87 year old wife has difficulty walking and early this year received her blue parking pass. We requested airport assistance from AC and TAP for our YYZ to LIS and transfer to FAO this winter. It was an amazing experience from a number of wonderful airport employees who met her in the airports and pushed her in wheelchairs through check-ins, security, luggage, customs at every stage of the return trips. This included an elevating transporter because of the tarmac steps in FAO and as the lone travellers with three yellow vested employees escorting us beside the runways and right to the luggage carousels. Without this amazing service, she would have been unable to make the trip. I agree with the suggestion that the doctor approved blue parking sticker could be used to avoid abuse as we did not have to justify the need for the wheelchair at any point in the ticket purchases or travel. If a traveller can afford to fly, it is not unreasonable to add a modest fee for this currently free service.
james mccloud 2
Check the carryons at the gate for the wheelchair person to avoid the strain of dragging the bags on and off of the aircraft.
M20ExecDriver 2
Miracle flights to Florida from the Northeast in the winter are many. They depart via wheelchair and then are the first to stand up on arrival at the gate. Don't get in their way either.
Dan Pendleton 2
Truly how can you enforce this? Just when you suspect someone of faking a medical condition requiring a wheelchair, you later find out that person really did, and now you're facing a potential lawsuit.
Mark Elder 2
Fell off a safari vehicle in Botswana. Hurt my foot. Didn't need a doctor ( there wasn't one for 100 miles or more) but it hurt like hell. The woman who was running the safari camp managed to get me all the way from Botswana to Phoenix with wheelchair assistance. Botswana -Joburg-Nairobi-Doha-San Francisco-Phoenix-My car. In Nairobi there was no jetway. I would have to either climb the long stairway to the plane door or be lifted onto the plane. The forklift that lifts your food into the galley was used to lift me and my wheelchair onto the plane where a flight attendant took me to my seat and returned the wheelchair to the attendant. No way could I have gotten through the Doha airport without assistance. And yes, a few other people needed wheelchairs to get on the San Francisco flight. I chose to wait until the plane deboarded in SFO. Then I had to deal with Customs and Immigration on my own. Luggage, camera equipment, carry on was a vicious struggle even with Global Entry. Without it it would have been torture as the lines were enormous. Got my next wheelchair from American and moved on. Good thing I didn't need a handicapped hang tag like some of you suggested.
Justthefacs 2
Abuse is alive and well at DFW particularly flights to the Middle East. Long lines of wheelchairs lined up at the gate is ridiculous. The fake wheelchair uses are skewing the system They have broken the code. They go through security check points also on a preferential basis. Idea. Load the wheelchair riders last.
Leander Williams 2
This is not a problem that will go away soon. Just like there are doctors online, who, for a fee, will give you a letter declaring your disability to get a handicapped parking placard. Perhaps the airlines can request passengers prove disabilities at the time they book their flights.
Juan Jimenez 2
Require a handicapped tag/id. Problem solved.
mary susan watkins 2
there is another side to this story..many poeple who need assistance to walk long distances in an airport are honest and DO need the skycaps or whomever to get them to the gate more quickly..also,no one mentions the many travellers who,rather than ask for wheelchair assist,ask for an electric cart,which is just a golf cart without a top,to get them even faster to the gate..this service is not usually abused,because its more selective ,and usually there are only one or two carts at most provided by any some point,you have to believe a person is being honest about the use of assistance,because no one is "grilled" at the ticket counter with regard to the service..which by the way,is provided free to passengers (however you need to tip the sky cap)...asking for a ""doctors excuse" or proof of disability would be an insult to lots of folks,and the hassle or argument involved might take more time than necessary..
gacoon 2
" ""doctors excuse" or proof of disability would be an insult to lots of folks,and the hassle or argument involved might take more time than necessary" ok, then how come we have those blue cards hanging from the mirror on cars in handicapped parking spots. How did they get that blue card?
WhiteKnight77 1
Or the license plate with said logo?

My Ma has had several strokes over the last few years, yet hasn't flown since, long motor vehicle rides even tires her out, and can walk short distances without tiring too bad, but a trip through an airport would not happen. She would need a wheelchair to get through the airport, to and from the plane. She does have a placard.
Bruce Horwitz 1
"how come we have those blue cards hanging from the mirror on cars in handicapped parking spots" un, because the car is self-parked and left unattended. You must have a human pushing the wheelchair and it used to be enough to keep people from asking to be pushed.

Also, (my wife having just had a knee replacement) some people don't need an HP placard to park closer to a store but can't walk the long distances involved at most major airports.
Craig Northacker 1
Those placards must be signed off on by a doctor. The temporary ones are red, the permanent ones are blue. Some states require a picture of the holder to be on the placard. There are too many people who abuse the placards and the handicap parking space. I occasionally use a wheelchair but I try not to park in a handicap spot that a van needs to allow the person to exit by ramp. If I am having a bad day I may park there because I do have a license plate, but try to observe common courtesy for those who need that space. Arbitrary statements that do not address the full spectrum of pertinent facts do not provide much help. I just wrote the President of Frontier using a helpful and. respectful approach. Let's see what his response is. Maybe a good test is to drop a $20 bill near
Ckaaron 4
As always,there are many sides to this. I am a professional who is disabled but you don't see my AFO under my clothes nor the cardiac which leave me short of breath. It is already degrading enough to be disabled and making me wait for the chair or made to be the last person off the plane signals that I am a subhuman and I'm not as important as other people. Time is important and I will not wait 30 minutes for a chair at busy airports. I try to arrive early to avoid the anxiety of cutting it close but then the wheelchair wait puts me into the last minute stage. So if I have time, I will walk but it leaves me exhausted by the time I reach the gate. The same with walking on the other side. Many airports wait until there are two people and one person pushes both. Not only is this physically abusive to the aide but makes me feel like a commodity. So sometimes I'll walk if I have plenty of time. But the physical toll is hidden. So don't just assume that the WC user is abusing because they "look ok" to you
William Mihok 1
Right on! With hearty issues I just can't walk the Long distance when changing flights. Terminals 4 in Madrid Spain are the worst for changing planes!
btweston 4
What a world.
Bill Overdue -4
"Join me as we fundamentally change America "... Barack Hussain Obama in a campaign speech
rafuzo 5
I can't imagine the difficulty you must face in your day to day life having a campaign speech from two presidents ago stuck in your head. My condolences to your family, who must struggle mightily as they cope with your affliction.
Nooge 2
Bildo was Overdue to exhibit manifestation of his Colt 45 afflictions
Nala Abrams 3
Nice to see a well thought out reply. Cheers!
Guardian Vet 3
Obviously, your TDS doesn’t allow you to see both sides of the situation. Unfortunately for those like you, opinions are free and you cannot take that away from anyone no matter how much you try.
Nala Abrams 2
So true. Wasn’t taking away his or anybody’s right to their opinion. This is an aviation site isn’t it?
rafuzo -5
I was unfamiliar with “TDS”; I had some free time and googled it and apparently it’s a hashtag for the Tour de suisse! Not really sure what a big bike race has to do with it, but I applaud your fandom of men in Lycra riding bikes. Truly it takes all kinds to move the world and publicly admitting your love for it must have been a challenge for you - kudos!

But to your main point - we could all do more to support those people afflicted by this weird psychological issue - some kind of derangement- that causes them to think and do crazy, un American things - like voting for a convicted felon for president! Can you imagine the sadness, the confusion, the self hatred and denial in the heads of people that would drive them to do stuff like that? It must be so hard, especially on a day like today.
Guardian Vet -1
Your Trump Derangement Syndrome is showing in your comments. Not likely to get much from derogatory comments about half of American citizens.
Nooge 2
You qualify for a disabled tag but one that does not required a wheel chair
rafuzo -1
Oh you’re one too! You’re right, most of America is not interested in your conspiracy theories. Just remember, even though people don’t talk to you, they’re hoping you’ll come around. Help us out there if you just reach out for it! Good luck!
Nooge 0
Things are getting Stormy for The Commander in Cheat and for our self described Guardian of Freedom

TDS describes the Derangement his Commander in Cheat exhibited in his "press conference" without questions after his conviction by a jury of American Citizens
Bill Overdue -1
Yes, clearly you have TDS! Have a great day !
Nooge -1
TRUMP 20 24

Years in Rikers

Opinions are free but should be on an appropriate venue
Bill Overdue -1
I'm surprised you don't remember it ... it was the day America started to crumble from the inside out!
Bill Overdue -3
I can't imagine you thinking America isn't struggling with the affliction of the statement he made? My condolences to your low IQ?
Nooge 1
I can't imagine you saying something that could be described as meaningful contribution to intelligent discourse
Bill Overdue -2
Just think of me as the person that keeps low IQ comments at bay, by stating rational, common sense observations to real life issues.
Nooge 1
Speaking of Low IQ ...You continue with projection

When someone engages in projection, they attribute their own behaviors, emotions, characteristics, or impulses to another person or group without realizing it.
Bill Overdue 0
Nooge (nʊdʒ)
an irritating person who persistently nags and whines
to complain or whine (at) constantly

Enough said!
Bill Overdue 8
This is the world we live in these days. People have no shame, nor can they be shamed! Up is down, wrong is right? Illegals voting in elections, cocks in women's sports, trading an arms dealer for a trans hashish toker, foreign Nationals and aliens rushing the border, beating cops in Times Square then released before the cop is out of the hospital! Where will it end? 🤔
Nala Abrams 5
I am and have been a flight attendant since 1979. You name it, I’ve probably seen it or dealt with it. Some of the comments here are just a space for politics as seen by the amount of rants on this site. I subscribe for information from those who may actually know something about the aviation industry. This really isn’t the forum for political opinions and barbs. Let’s all remember our party manners and keep aviation the topic. That said-This is a serious topic for many. Many, if not most disabilities are not visible but very much a real thing to those with them. Unfortunately we’ll always have a hose people who decide that they are entitled to any and every opportunity or thing and/or that the rules of common decent don’t apply to them. (Remember Emotional Support Animals vs Service Animals? Still have the same issue happening even though there are new rules in place.)
Nobody with a disability seen or unseen wants or needs to be challenged about their disability. It’s an area that will be difficult to try to regulate. Not impossible but difficult.
Bill Overdue -1
My comments aren't "opinions", they're "facts". If you chose to not agree with them, that would be an opinion ... everyone has one! Personally, I don't ofton speculate, only if an educated guess is the best I can do.
Wendy Sue Meehan 1
Tough to prove who REALLY needs a wheelchair and who doesn't. Worse, for those who are legitimate, it would be awful to add an additional layer of suffering to the already difficult voyage. (Once onboard, most jets are not handicap-friendly). And any airline willing to deny a wheelchair to a healthy-looking individual might have to face a lawsuit later on.
A way to cut down on the false reporting: 1) legal handicap card, 2) legal doctor's note 3) And for all others a detailed and somewhat time-consuming form to be completed prior to obtaining a wheelchair, including a sworn statement.
btweston 1
Really? The people who book the cheapest possible flights are scumbags? Never saw that one coming.
Randy Ryan 1
Miracle miles, miraculously healed again!
Tom Hayden 1
Charge a substantial fee for anyone requesting wheelchair support to board a plane. If that passenger requires wheelchair support on landing, immediately refund their entire fee. If that passenger doesn't use wheelchair support on landing, they forfeit their fee. A bit cumbersome perhaps, but with most charges these days being processed electronically the extra steps should have minimal impact on passengers. Perhaps there could even be special charge cards or smartphone apps developed to make this process really painless. Charging a hefty fee, I think, would deter many fakers. Those who continued to abuse wheelchair support would pay for their selfishness. And their forfeited faker fees could even be used to reduce the fees of people on their flights who legitimately requested and used wheelchair support. I'll bet some good hearted software developers or organizations might be persuaded to develop trial versions of the necessary smartphone apps to see if this concept would help the 'rampant abuse' of airport wheelchair service.
Kelly Patterson 1
I lived near FLL, Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International for about 9 years. Five to seven wheelchairs on every flight. But many of those flights were on SWA (IYKYK). Now travel there once a month on either UA or JB and see three to four per flight, but all the flights I'm on are 737's or A320's. And so many of these persons rush to the jetway when deplaning. The jetways at both EWR and FLL are congested with wheelchairs and the personnel pushing them making the whole process more time consuming and difficult for all passengers.
Denis B 1
A flight from India has on average 80 wheelchairs…
Sheena Miller 1
I would consider a chair while in line and waiting due to hips and knees but might consider not necessary at the easier process of disembarking..not all are faking imnsho
George Schwarz 1
I agree it's a problem. Would me showing my surgical scar on my spine work as proof of needing assistance?
R Jolly 1
Why not make it an optional paid service? In a cost sensitive economy like ours in India, it was tried for a brief period, but then the regulator mandated that it must be free.
CathyDrzyzgula 3
That would be illegal discrimination for everyone who needs it.
Graham Manley 2
Maybe provide a paid service (probably using electric multi-seat buggies) that is costed to run at a profit available to anyone willing to pay. Then a free service (perhaps with suggested tip for the assistant) with individual wheelchairs that always waits until last passenger has left the plane before following the crowd to be at the back of the queue for immigration / baggage reclaim.
Mike Davis 12
I think it is good practice to remove wheelchair-bound passengers LAST from the plane. That must rankle the cheaters.
randy everett 6
Why? The 'cheaters' just get up and deplane anyway.
Bohemian 2
Indeed. That's why we call them Jetway Jesus.

But not as easy a problem to address as the previous comfort animal debacle.
R Jolly 1
Not if it is an international flight and they want to bypass the immigration queue.
Craig Northacker 1
That is referred to as a disability tax - where we must pay more to gain the same service as an able-bodied person. Which is illegal.
Mike Davis 0
The problem is one of determination of ability. Who is qualified to evaluate "wheelchair disability?" Many major airports are a quarter mile or more from gate to gate (I live with KDEN as an example.) Should we add yet another regulation requiring physician orders similar to the handicap parking tags for cars? Who determines the penalty and how do they enforce it? How difficult and expensive would it be to take contested violations to court? Seems that enforcement would be more expensive than the violations.
Bill Overdue 8
You're making a mountain out of a molehill... ask to see their government issued disability/Medicare card. If they don't have one, no wheelchair! Same with voting, no ID, no vote! Keep it simple!
Mike Davis 3
There are many injuries that are temporary that would not qualify -- broken legs, ankles, etc. Skiers in my part of the U.S. do this every day. These could also be easy to fake.
Bill Overdue -4
One would think when a person has time to cavity search grandma for plastic explosives, they would be capable of determining the status of a real handicapped person. After all they're supposed to be trained for something, rught?
Craig Northacker 0
It is not simple. Have you ever applied for disability?
Bab Bezat 0
I often use the wheelchair services, primarily when I have to transfer concourses for a flight transfer. I can walk slowly, and with difficulty, so a rapid transfer requires assistance. Yes, I can walk down the jetway. And yes - you might see me walking on the beach - with my cane. But since mine is a relatively "hidden" disability (deformed hips) you might decide I'm one of those fraudsters. If a disability care is required - I'd be fine. I have one and always take it on trips. But what if you don't drive? How do you prove you're "privileged" to use the wheelchair?
Bill Overdue 0
I remember when disabilities were physical and not mental as many are these days! There's no difference between a person who believes he's a woman and and a man who believes he's disabled. Both of which he believes is an advantage for him to garner attention becuase of his low self esteem. While TSA checks grandpa's disper for C3 explosives, they're conveniently unable to check Middle Eastern men 18-35 or someone wearing a hoodie and $400 tennis shoes because that would be racist or profiling?
Craig Northacker 0
We have had this discussion before. There are absolutely people who need help. As Bob said, navigating airports, especially large ones with long lines may mean I will collapse, which causes more problems and will guarantee I miss the flight. So a wheelchair becomes essential for me. I prefer to walk, but I must use a cane, and often my walk is more of a hobble - but when I debark I prefer to walk for a variety of reasons. There is no time pressure as an element - but if I need to go through a lot of concourses to get to a connecting flight I will flag down a wheelchair. Now, for those faking it - they have no shame and should be penalized the same as parking in a handicap spot. I agreed with a number of people who suggested we register with the airline before hand. There are a number of ways without using a doctor's note - I have a letter from the VA stating I am 100% disabled, which is obvious when you look at me. That being said, my neurological issues are not evident all the time. Disabled status is easily verifiable electronically through trusted sources. For others there are cards that can be issued at different governmental levels. The airline gets better notice and helps reduce the fakers - helping prices, loading and unloading, safety issues both on and off the aircraft and a better experience for all.
Rhonda Parrent 0
When given a handicap tag does it not require you to have the wallet card? This could be a requirement to even get the chair for use.
Mike Davis -8
The real question is whether to trust everyone or distrust everyone and get upset at occasional abuses that really aren't that big a deal except to bean counters.
The degree of disability may not be apparent as includes fatigue and weakness, and this problem will increase as a result of adverse effects of vaccines.
Nooge -2
The degree of Overdue disability not be apparent upon boarding but is revealed by the posts
William Mihok -1
WOW! What does he suggest? Don't fly? I needed wheelchair service or can't fly. I Definitely will not fly "Frontier"!
btweston 1


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