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Unethical Life Hack: Lying to Board More Quickly

Unethical Life Hack: Lying to Board More Quickly
Meg Butler

Well this isn’t one of our prouder moments…

According to a CBS report we spotted on View From the Wing, passengers have been faking injuries and disabilities to get access to a wheelchair, and to a wheelchair escort who will speed them through on an express track to their gate and maybe even get them priority boarding.


While no one has admitted guilt, a flight attendant on the news report said, “We often find as flight crew that we have performed miracles on flights. And people are able to walk off the flight who were not able to walk on.”

Is it possible that some passengers find themselves too injured to walk to the plane, but feel better on their way off? Gary Leff says that happened to him when he fractured a bone in his foot while traveling.

He could technically walk, but didn’t want to exacerbate the injury by truing to make an Atlanta connection from the end of the T concourse to the opposite end of B. So he took a wheelchair there and dismissed (but still tipped) the wheelchair attendant who met him when he landed and felt like he could continue his journey without aid.

But the way the news story’s flight attendant used the word “often,” I suspect that she’s seen more than a reasonable amount of people use thus unethical life hack for an easier way to the plane only to abandon it when they land and there’s nothing more to gain.



H/T: View From the Wing, Photo: Wikimedia Commons

View Comments (44)


  1. horseymike

    August 7, 2018 at 4:26 am

    this is one of the most disgusting thing happening on flights everywhere these days.
    Let me start by saying that people who are truly in need of special assistance deserve it and like most folks , I am all for it.
    Now , to the heart of the matter, many , many times, we have all seen these folks lined up in wheelchairs waiting to board a plane,
    after boarding first, when the flight lands , they jump up and run off the plane like a track star.
    next are those who get the “special ” boarding cards for some mysterious condition that dictates they should board first.
    malarky.. I wish somehow, the airlines could police this situation better to avoid this abuse.

  2. nkob

    August 7, 2018 at 7:35 am

    rheumatism and other unpredictable diseases
    make a short walk possible but a long walk give problems or slowing me so much that connexions are a problem
    cold environment makes a big difference.
    make appointment for a wheelchair you have to make on a early moment
    so dont make conclusionson base a observation without further information

  3. corbetti

    August 7, 2018 at 11:21 am

    i could make a conclusion on your complete lack of spelling ability…. LOL

  4. spamkiller

    August 7, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I have seen it on flights between Boston and FTL or WBI. It is not an unethical life hack, it is a miracle flight. It does surprise me that the airlines do not add a curing fee and that insurance companies do not have their ensured take those flights instead of sending the insured to the hospital.

  5. VonS

    August 7, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    I have often referred to the MIA-ORD flight as “The Miracle Flight”. Lots of wheelchairs departing MIA, not so many upon arrival at ORD.

  6. jennj99738

    August 7, 2018 at 9:15 pm

    If you think ORD creates miracles, you should see flights from any airport in FL to LAS. Must be something about the slots curing all kinds of illnesses. These fraudsters make it so much more difficult for those truly in need of help.

  7. jahason

    August 8, 2018 at 12:14 am

    I injured my foot inflight and while in transit at Tokyo the airline insisted I should have wheelchair assistance to see the doctor and to be taken to my next flight. When I arrived in Taiwan I was again met with a wheelchair abut very nicely explained that I could walk.

  8. kayun

    August 8, 2018 at 3:19 am

    You should see international arrivals at LAX, they get pushed out by chair and by magic, halfway up the hill out of immigration, they leap out of the chair and run to their waiting family and friends. It’s a miracle! Not only can you now walk, you can now leap, jump, and run!

  9. stillontheroad

    August 8, 2018 at 5:28 am

    I usually see the “miracle flights” when traveling to MCO. I guess something about the mouse cures people on their flight.

  10. fish3d

    August 8, 2018 at 6:22 am

    I have COPD and may use a wheelchair on only one leg depending on gate etc.

  11. moeve

    August 8, 2018 at 6:28 am

    Thankfully it seems many of you have not yet run into any health problems that might encroach on the way you can lead your daily

    How many people we live with have not had that luck. My Mum is a little over 70 and does not like to admit that her body is no longer a spring chicken! Some days her body has had enough and walking becomes an issue especially when you are on a tight schedule. Most of you should be aware of how challenging getting to gates can be even when you are healthy and not suffering from any ailments. Even if you take the maximum precaution of being at airport way ahead of your flight etc. Some need that little of help getting to gates in time while there is a time challenge and flights can’t wait for them. At the destination however it doesn’t matter if it takes them an hour to get to the luggage carousel – there simply isn’t a plane that won’t wait if they take longer and have breaks along the way.

    The same applies to changing planes what may be a doable transfer time may be acceptable to a healthy person but simply isnt for someone with arthritis in the knees for example.

    However most of those people using the wheelchair service are really happy about having to accept the limitations of their bodies and will often try to get around using the service if they can get away with it.

    Step Odontologie their shoes before you throw them into a pot of posers

  12. bamboola

    August 8, 2018 at 12:26 pm

    Please don’t jump to conclusions. My husband usually does not require a wheelchair to board a flight. However, If we are flying to an unknown airport, I’ll ask the flight attendant on board how long the walk to the terminal will be. If longer than half a mile, I’ll request a wheelchair to meet my husband because his COPD makes walking long distances very difficult.

  13. j2simpso

    August 8, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Gotta be those changes in humidity and cabin pressure that perform miracles on the injured. Had I known this when I sprained my ankle several months ago I would have boarded a flight!

  14. Karen762

    August 9, 2018 at 1:29 am

    Please do not forget that many people have “hidden” diseases which means they cannot stand for long or walk long distances. However they can move about the plane and walk up a gangway.
    I have a liver problem which seriously affects my energy levels and a knee problem which limits how far I can walk and stand yet I look fine and can walk around the cabin and up the walkway if the wheelchairs are waiting at the top. I cannot stand in the queue at passport control or walk half a mile to the terminal and am always very grateful for the assistance.
    Whilst I am sure there are some who take advantage don’t assume everyone who looks “normal” doesn’t need assistance.

  15. bazzap

    August 9, 2018 at 4:27 am

    There is one very simple solution to this problem.
    Those seeking assistance should both board last and disembark last.
    I very much suspect that with no priority boarding benefit, the number of people seeking assistance would fall significantly.

  16. bkcarolina

    August 9, 2018 at 4:41 am

    looks like corbetti might suffer from the disability of judgment-itis. does that allow you to board early also?

  17. MuckleEck

    August 9, 2018 at 4:55 am

    The worse flight I have seen for the abuse of wheelchair usage (I have used a wheelchair in the past as I had just had a leg operation) is the LGW to KIN flight. On one of my many uses of the flight I asked the boarding supervisor when they were board Group 1 (BA Gold) and was informed that 50 wheelchairs were boarding first.

    Imagine my surprise then when 50 wheelchairs meet the flight at Kingston, they all get wheeled through Immigration, with the rest of us sweltering in the queue.

    Then when they get out of customs there are only a handful of wheelchairs left with the majority of them walking briskly to their cars or friends awaiting them with their luggage.

    I have the utmost respect for those that need a wheelchair but it seems there are too many abusers of the facility these days.

  18. rjlon

    August 9, 2018 at 5:09 am

    As someone who needs help but feels guilty of asking for wheelchair. I feel strongly about this. There are many people, in my experience often older female passengers who board transatlantic flights with a wheelchair and miraculously rush off the plane at the other end.

    This abuse is like emotional support animals. To receive special assistance, one should need recent medical documentation from physician.

  19. leiserom

    August 9, 2018 at 5:22 am

    On a flight from Taipei to Houston there were 23 people in wheelchairs. It was unbelievable. On a similar sized plane in the US I saw maybe one or two.

  20. vicstone

    August 9, 2018 at 5:40 am

    I am in my mid-60s and often travel from JFK via HKG to Bangkok. I can walk short distance, but I have difficulties walking long distance especially after long flights. I can board CX at JFK without too much trouble. However, the transfer at HKG and arrival at Bangkok airport requires a lot of walking that I cannot do because on the pain in my legs. When I fly back from HKG to JFK, the Wings lounge is very close to the USA gates. I can walk there, and I always do. Some may find that it is unethical for me to request a wheelchair, but I think that it is necessary. I am not looking to be the first on board since I fly first class on that route. Once, I had a bad experience arriving at JFK with Delta from Havana. I did not request a wheelchair, and ended up walking from the the very last gate to the passport control. It took me over 1 hour, I was exhausted and my legs were hurting. I had to stop every few hundred feet. There was nobody in that long corridor who I could ask for help. Upon coming to the passport control, I was questioned by the authorities for such delay and my carry-on was opened even-though I had a global entry membership. I was one of the first ones to exit the plane and had all passengers pass me by on the way to the immigration long before I was 1/4 through. What would be the most appropriate way for me to manage my travel? Should I book wheelchair or not? I don’t want to be a nuisance, and don’t want other passengers looking at me as if I am a criminal. Articles like this make me very uneasy to ask for a wheelchair.

  21. MitchR

    August 9, 2018 at 5:50 am

    I see at least ten miracles a year. On an ORD – CLE flight last year a middle aged woman was wheeled onto the EMB 60 seater with limited bin space and used three bins for her bags. When we landed, she miraculously sprung to her feet, grabbed her bags, and rushed off of the plane. I didn’t jump to a conclusion until about 10 minutes later when I heard footsteps running up behind me and she passed me, ran 30 feet down the curb and jumped into a waiting vehicle, all three bags in tow. A high school track competitor would have been jealous of her new found athletic ability.

  22. Gemma2

    August 9, 2018 at 6:15 am

    As someone who requires WCH assistance at airports let me enlighten you on one or two misconceptions.
    Additional to needing such assistance I need a Business or F seat, which I buy, entitling me to certain benefits Y passengers do not get.
    Secondly, the WCH assistant’s job is to get you from A to B in the shortest possible time for their employers convenience, not mine. There are many inconveniences and indignaties in being transported like that, not least the skimpy wheelchairs, if you can call them that, which can be torture.
    So save your latent jealousy and indignation that someone is getting one up on you; I would swap with you anyday.

  23. nkob

    August 9, 2018 at 6:18 am

    its easy to trow stones .
    There a lot of reasons that a first reaction is not correct
    Meaby a bit more empathie !!!

  24. canver5

    August 9, 2018 at 6:29 am

    My husband has PAD which means his arteries are 80 to 90% blocked in both legs. When he first starts walking on a flat surface he looks perfectly healthy. But after several minutes or if he has to walk fast or up any kind of a slope, his legs cramp up in pain. I’m sure people wonder why such a healthy looking man is in a wheelchair but it is a must especially in large airports set such as Heathrow. My husband has PAD which means his arteries are 80 to 90% blocked in both legs. When he first starts walking on a flat surface he looks perfectly healthy. But after several minutes or if he has to walk fast or up any kind of a slope, his legs cramp up in pain. I’m sure people wonder why such a healthy looking man is in a wheelchair but it is a must especially in large airports such as Heathrow.

  25. RoaminRoman

    August 9, 2018 at 7:04 am

    A flight attendant who frequently worked flights between New York and Florida mentioned this phenomenon to me. The airline’s solution was to line up the wheelchairs in the jetway and to board those passengers one at a time, while allowing the other passengers to board as well. Once they saw other passengers boarding before them, many of those in wheelchairs jumped up and boarded without assistance.

  26. odojoe

    August 9, 2018 at 7:07 am

    The worst abuse I have ever seen was a flight coming out of Cancun. There were 13 people in wheelchairs. About have of them walked around while waiting to board.

  27. D2travel

    August 9, 2018 at 7:25 am

    Perhaps board this group lastly, maybe that would solve the problem–they still get their “assistance” but not as early as they planned. They should be ashamed of themselves, but in this day and age, it’s all about who can out-lie the other. As far as calling it a “life hack,” total BS!

  28. alphaod

    August 9, 2018 at 7:42 am

    In my last time needing to using the wheelchair for a couple flights, after I gave them a tip, all the helpers said most of these people who use the wheelchair service don’t know you’re suppose to tip the person helping you, especially these abusers.

  29. cscasi

    August 9, 2018 at 8:24 am

    “Step Odontologie their shoes before you throw them into a pot of posers”
    Odontology – The study of the structure, development and abnormalities of the teeth”.
    Not sure what “moeve” meant in his/her comment above or how that fits with the subject of these posts?

  30. wanderer35

    August 9, 2018 at 8:33 am

    1. Couple, both in wheelchairs, waiting in the gate area. Husband says something to wife. She jumps up and hurries to the nearest food counter. Walks faster than I ever can. Comes back with a cup of coffee for the husband, sits down in the wheelchair again. Both get boarded on wheelchairs..
    2. Why is is that the whole village is allowed priority boarding with the individual in the wheelchair?
    3. When many people scam the system respect for those who truly needs help declines, unfortunately.

  31. KRSW

    August 9, 2018 at 9:18 am

    I have a friend who works as a gate agent in Florida. The stories he has are amazing. I truly believe the bar has never been set lower for human behavior. On miracle flights, he says the NYC area to FLL/MIA are the worst, and that there’s a specific subgroup of people who abuse this the most. Other parts of FL have this phenomenon, but that NYC-FLL/MIA are by-far, the worst. He once told me of a flight, ~130 pax, 26 wheelchairs! At the arriving airport, only 12 wheelchairs were used. Even TV evangelists don’t have that success rate.

    It’s just like the service animal issues. As with everything, it’s sad when people abuse this stuff and it really hurts those who truly need it.

    My health isn’t good despite being relatively young. I have multiple health issues which would easily qualify me to get to the front of the line, but I don’t, preferring to leave that for people who much worse off than myself. I’m thankful for how much of my body still works and I plan on using my body to its fullest while I still can. Even when escorted by wheelchair, I still board with the regular passengers.

  32. leiserom

    August 9, 2018 at 9:52 am

    On a flight from Taipei to Houston 23 people came on in wheelchairs.

  33. note2001

    August 9, 2018 at 11:19 am

    To need to use wheelchair assistance can be quite the humiliating experience. To see anyone abuse it, one would hope, that they feel that humiliation compounded by guilt 100x over.

    My own mother had a sciatic nerve issue and found it near impossible to walk last spring as she and my dad headed home on a flight. They had a wheelchair and attendant help them (in more ways than one as my dad has dementia) and were able to board their flight. However, my mom was beside herself in tears, humiliated at TSA as they made her stand and she fell while stepping through the scanner.

    On debarking the other passengers seemed to be unaware of her issue and insisted she go ahead of them. Which was very nice, I agree, but my mom attempted to walk out of the plane on her own not wanting to admit she had an issue and of course, you guessed it, fell as she stepped off the plane and onto the ramp.

  34. tinkerinc

    August 9, 2018 at 11:49 am

    I know there are haters on both sides of this issue and I know there is a real need for these services for those of you out there that want to crucify anybody who talks out about this being an issue but there is a problem here and those of you that truly need this services should be the most upset about these hucksters that are abusing the system. I travel a lot for work and that includes international flights and they are the worst because they get preferential treatment to get through customs on the other end. When someone can beat a seasoned international travel veteran with elite status and done the due diligence and paid for the subscriptions to the customs fast-track programs, through customs then jump up and run out of the building once they clear customs there is a massive issue.

    Before ya’ll tell me of unseen issues I know the toll that travel takes and I traveled a lot with my elderly father when in his 80s & 90s and know that it is needed but people that “need” the service do jump up and run out once the convenience factor starts to fall off. I know it is needed but there were times that my father needed a wheelchair and he couldn’t get it because of all the fraudsters and that was the trip that made him not want to travel international ever again.

    Honestly, why isn’t there a fee for those that don’t have a doctors note anyone with a legitimate issue shouldn’t have any issues obtaining one from a doctor?

  35. ashlex

    August 9, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Forum member “corbetti” might want to check his grammar and punctuation before he comments about others.

  36. Morgacj2004

    August 9, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Simple solution. Require a doctors note to get wheelchair access to the cabin.

  37. DrFredZonker

    August 9, 2018 at 2:17 pm


    I have had several surgeries and am getting close to 70 years of age. I am fortunate enough to fly 1st class for the two or three trips I take each year. First class gives me priority boarding. Why would I need a wheel chair to better my boarding position when I already have a good boarding position?
    When I get to the airport, I have already gotten up early for a retiree, rushed to get a cab to the airport and sometimes have to load my luggage into the cab, then unload the bags at the airport…depending on the cabbie… lugged my bags to the check in and then wait in the short line to the First Class check in. Please believe me when I say I am ready to get off my feet.
    Walking long distances to the gate and waiting in long security would make things worse. It seems that if I start moving and then keep moving, I can tolerate the pain; but, standing stationary on a hard surface exacerbates the pain. One does not get to keep moving in a security line.
    Please do not judge people that have had a chance to sit a while on a plane and then need no assistance up the gangway to the luggage pick up area. The change from sitting to moving can actually help.
    Sometimes when disembarking I would rather walk than sit in a chair because not only does the change make a difference, I have to use the rest room immediately and cannot wait for a wheel chair ride. Pain or not, I have to “run”. My running would make a thirty year old laugh. Also, I wonder if people realize how embarrassing it is to tell the wheel chair pusher to go straight to a bathroom.
    ….and, I did not use the wheel chair to gain easier faster boarding.

  38. sukki007

    August 9, 2018 at 4:10 pm

    I am on both sides of this issue. I’m in constant severe pain from a progressive scoliosis and degenerative disk disease. I can walk, but only a very short distance, and my twisted back is not obvious, since I wear loose clothing. I always need a wheelchair to get to the gate or to the baggage claim. Once at the gate, I can walk down the jetway to the plane without problem. When I go through security, I have to deal with the dirty looks from other pax because I’m walking through the scanner. While waiting to board, I shudder if I have to leave the wheelchair to use a restroom that’s close by, knowing it will provoke the ire of the passengers who think I’m a scammer.

    On the other hand, just a few years ago there were only a couple of people in wheelchairs waiting to board any particular flight, and sometimes just me. Now they’re lined up like planes on the tarmac. There definitely are scammers out there. I have an expedited service card that looks like my driver’s license, issued by my state DMV. When I lived in another state, the card was different, but similar. I do believe that anyone in any state who has a handicap hang tag or license plate has a card that shows disability. It should be a requirement for having a wheelchair at the airport. Even someone who has a temporary disability, such as a fractured leg, probably has some card or at least a temporary hang tag for their car. The misuse of wheelchairs has reached epic proportions.

  39. 365RoadWarrior

    August 10, 2018 at 7:18 am

    Sometimes, I am too weak to walk onto the plane, but after spending the hour or two flight time with my emotional-support peacock…

  40. mvoight

    August 10, 2018 at 8:55 am

    This is a bit ridiculous as you do NOT need to be in a wheelchair to preboard

  41. drphun

    August 12, 2018 at 6:23 am

    So just get rid of the incentive to cheat. Perhaps if they go on in a wheelchair, they should go off on a wheelchair – the airlines could require this just for liability reasons. Or if you prebaord them first because they need extra time, then they should exit last because they need extra time then too, and they shouldn’t want to hold everyone else up. Even the legitimate people wouldn’t feel like they were being judged then.

  42. cstercl

    August 12, 2018 at 6:56 am

    It has not always been this way so something has changed? Whether it is scammers or something else, it does seem to be completely out of control and it is only hurting the ones really needing this service. I arrived back at DFW on July 5 and the line of wheel chairs at immigration was staggering. Add in the family members with them and my observation was the standard line might have been quicker. What I don’t like is that personally I am rapidly becoming desensitized to the disabled because of the abuses at airports, parking lots, stores, or wherever. I guess at some point the truly disabled will speak up loudly and try to find a solution.

  43. SkyIsKing

    August 18, 2018 at 6:16 am

    Yes, the new norm is for people to do anything ethical or unethical to get what they want. As treatment of individuals who are flying gets worse (rude agents, pushing and shoving, delays and lack of common courtesy) people feel entitled to do anything that gives them better service. In today’s world, honesty is for “chumps” and dishonesty will get one ahead. Dishonesty is rampant in all aspects of our life thus why should flying/travel be any different? The problem is that issues from individuals having to have “service turtles” to those who fake an injury to get whisked by the rest of us, these things will continue. Airlines/airports try to be as helpful as possible but my moral compass goes on the side of being thankful that I can run the entire length of every terminal at ORD and most every airport because I am healthy (distance runner) and strong. To those that truly need assistance, I hope you are able to receive it. To those who fake it, karma is a bitch!

  44. Hillside

    August 18, 2018 at 6:25 am

    I fully agree with the term miracle flights. We have seen miracles many time traveling from FLL post cruise. We saw one woman arrive in a wheelchair to the gate, get up and RUN to the bathroom. She didn’t even have to board before she was cured! Needless to say, there was a long line of wheelchairs waiting to board. My husband needs a wheelchair to get to the gate because of MS. He walks down the jet port to enter the plane with his walker, gate checked. He is trying to maintain his independence, but needs a bit of help for distance. I am disgusted at this brazen behavior.

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