‘Widespread abuse’: Frontier Airlines passengers using wheelchair service to cut pre-boarding lines

News & Politics

The New York Post reported that passengers at Frontier Airlines have been exploiting the company’s wheelchair service to skip lengthy lines while boarding their flights.

CEO Barry Biffle said that “[t]here is massive, rampant abuse of special services. There are people using wheelchair assistance who don’t need it at all.”

Frontier Airlines, like some other airlines, have a first-come-first-serve policy when it comes to seating. Therefore, people are using the wheelchair service to get on the plane before the bulk of passengers, allowing them to choose their seat before everyone else.

‘Everyone should be entitled to it who needs it, but you park in a handicapped space they will tow your car and fine you.’

The report mentioned Biffle said he has watched 20 people board a flight in a wheelchair, but then only three of those 20 people need the wheelchair service while getting off the plane.

“We are healing so many people,” he said lightheartedly.

CNBC reported that the wheelchair service costs the company between $30 and $35 for each passenger. The abuse of the service is also thought to lead to delays for travelers who really do need the assistance.

“Everyone should be entitled to it who needs it, but you park in a handicapped space they will tow your car and fine you,” Biffle said. “There should be the same penalty for abusing these services.”

However, Biffle is not the only executive who has noticed the trend. Reports mentioned that in 2022, John Holland-Kaye, then-CEO of London’s Heathrow Airport, said some travelers were “using wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport” amid staffing shortages.

“If you go on TikTok, that is one of the travel hacks people are recommending,” he continued. “Please don’t do that. We need to protect the service for people who need it most.”

The carrier told Fox Business that “[t]here is widespread abuse among passengers using wheelchair services to move to the front of security lines and obtain priority boarding on flights.”

They went on to mention that “the TSA and airlines are in a difficult position when it comes to managing the issue.”

Some passengers have faked injuries to take advantage of the wheelchair services, per reports.

John Morris, a triple amputee and founder of WheelchairTravel.org, said “[d]isability impacts people in a lot of different ways.”

“I think there’s a good case to be made that abusers should face some consequence but I’m not sure how we do that in a society when our disabilities aren’t [always] visible,” Morris concluded.

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