Frontier Airlines CEO wants crackdown on imposters using wheelchairs on flights

Frontier Airlines CEO wants crackdown on imposters using wheelchairs on flights

The CEO of Frontier Airlines has called for a crackdown on “rampant abuse” of special services on flights, including passengers requesting wheelchairs who do not need them.

Barry Biffle said that penalties needed to be put in place for those exploiting such services, in the same way that those who park in handicap spaces are fined and towed.

The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 prohibits air carriers from discriminating against handicapped persons. In February, US Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg proposed a new rule that would ensure airline passengers who use wheelchairs can travel “safely and with dignity”.

At a Wings Club luncheon last Thursday in New York, Biffle said that such accommodations were being taken advantage of.

“There is massive, rampant abuse of special services. There are people using wheelchair assistance who don’t need it at all,” Biffle said, according to CNBC.

Frontier Airline CEO Barry Biffle said that those abusing airport services designed to help disabled people should face similar penalties to those parking in handicap spots (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

He later described some Frontier flights where around 20 people were brought in wheelchairs to the departure gate, then only three people using them upon arrival. “We are healing so many people,” Biffle joked.

Biffle said that abuse of the service – which costs the airline between $30 to $35 per wheelchair – leads to delays for travelers with a genuine need.

According to CNBC, the CEO clarified he was not talking about personal wheelchairs but rather the service that airlines provide when travelers arrive at the airport.

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

Such concerns have been voiced by other airport executives. In July 2022, John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, said people had abused wheelchair support on planes “to get fast-tracked through the airport”.

Holland-Kaye told LBC that such behavior was “absolutely the wrong thing to be doing” amid reports of genuine wheelchair users being stuck on planes waiting to be helped off.

An estimated 5.5 million Americans use a wheelchair, and many encounter barriers when it comes to air travel, according to a Department of Transport release in February.

Secretary Buttigieg’s rule requires that airlines meet rigorous standards for accommodating passengers with disabilities safely and with dignity.

“The proposal will set new standards for prompt, safe, and dignified assistance, mandate enhanced training for airline employees and contractors who physically assist passengers with disabilities and handle passengers’ wheelchairs and specify actions that airlines must take to protect passengers when a wheelchair is damaged during transport,” the release said.

The Independent has contacted the Department of Transportation for comment about Biffle’s remarks.