Is It OK to Fake a Disability to Skip Airport Lines?

Rules are a part of living life in a civilized society. These rules keep our society in order, giving us a construct by which we can live life without a paralyzing amount of fear or distrust. For example, we trust that other drivers are obeying the traffic signals, making it possible for us to enter intersections with confidence when we have a green light.

At some point, however, each of us has encountered a rule or two that we find less crucial to obey.

One of those rules has been increasingly sidestepped in recent years. It’s the notion that airport wheelchair services are available for people who are actually in need of physical assistance. Using the service gives travelers a fast-pass ride through security and to the gate where they have priority boarding.

This questionable wheelchair use appears to be on the rise, as reported in a recent article posted at The New York Times: “Some travelers appear to exploit perhaps the only remaining loophole to a breezy airport experience — the line-cutting privileges given to people who request airport wheelchairs, for which no proof of a disability is required.”

Airport wheelchair attendants have shared their perceptions of this phenomenon. Some patrons begin by standing in line, but then get frustrated with the wait and ask for a ride. Some patrons see the security backup and begin limping over to request help. Of course, the majority of patrons who use the service are truly in need of help.

There are always a few folks who decide that breaking a particular social norm isn’t a major offense. Perhaps it becomes a matter of weighing out the ends versus the means—if a security backup ends in a missed flight, and the use of a shortcut doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone else, why not use it?

I could wax nostalgic about the good old days when people had integrity and would never stoop so low. History tells us that the good old days were never as great as our romanticizing makes them out to be. In every era, people merely find creative, new ways to make life work to their advantage and liking.

Shortcuts, once discovered, are short lived. A new rule is instituted to enforce the moral code. But that rule has its loopholes—in time, people will find those too. Breaking the rules is easily justified unless the heart finds a reason for obeying, even when doing so results in a missed flight or some other perceived disadvantage.

Heart change is exactly what God promises us: “And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezek. 11:19–20). Only God can change a human heart, planting within a steady reason for obeying—regardless of the lines or delays or inconveniences that will result.

About Erin Straza

Erin Straza (Associate Editor) is a freelance writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant, helping organizations tell their stories in authentic and compelling ways. After a stint in corporate marketing while earning her MBA, Erin taught marketing communications at Illinois Wesleyan and Illinois State. She is crafting her first book, writing from the Illinois flatlands where she lives with her husband, Mike. Find more from Erin at her blog Filling My Patch of Sky and on Twitter @ErinStraza.
E-mail: erin [at] FillingMyPatchOfSky [dot] com
Blog: Filling My Patch of Sky
Twitter: @ErinStraza

  • http://letseatgrandpa.com Cori Ashley (@letseatgrandpa)

    I see this at Disneyland, too. I know so many people who have faked an injury, rented a wheel chair, and gotten to go to the front of most of the lines (they wheelchair-accessible access is usually a different path than the standard queue). :-/

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