Airline CEO Calls Out Fliers' 'Massive' Abuse of Wheelchairs

Passengers are requesting them just to get priority boarding, says Frontier's Barry Biffle
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 24, 2024 7:46 AM CDT
Airline CEO Calls Out Fliers' 'Massive' Abuse of Wheelchairs
A passenger, on wheelchair, arrives from Bangkok at a Singapore airport Wednesday, May 22, 2024.   (AP Photo)

Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle joked Thursday that his company is "healing so many people" who require wheelchairs at boarding, yet walk off the plane just fine. "There is massive, rampant abuse of special services. There are people using wheelchair assistance who don't need it at all," Biffle told an audience of aviation professionals at a speaking engagement in New York, where he urged a crackdown on the abuse, per CNBC. "You park in a handicapped space, they will tow your car and fine you," he tells the outlet. "There should be the same penalty for abusing these services."

A 1986 law requires airlines to provide wheelchairs to passengers with disabilities. The law also gives these passengers the right to priority boarding. Travelers have taken advantage of this. The idea of requesting a wheelchair to get priority boarding when no disability is present was promoted as a TikTok travel hack in 2022, per Business Insider, prompting a rebuke from the then-CEO of London's Heathrow Airport. "People are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport," John Holland-Kaye told LBC. "That is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing."

Biffle noted that on some Frontier flights, 20 passengers might request wheelchairs to board the plane but only three use them at their destination. The New York Post described that exact scenario on a Southwest Airlines flight last summer. At the time, Southwest said that "since many disabilities aren't visible, we're unable to question the validity of preboarding requests." Biffle said each unnecessary request for a wheelchair costs Frontier $30 to $35 and delays service for people who truly need assistance. "Everyone should be entitled to it who needs it," he said. (More Frontier Airlines stories.)

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