How Not to Fly the Friendly Skies

Every now and again I read a blog entry that really chaffs my hide. Thus was the case this morning. I don’t know if it was the attitude of the blogger or the terminology he used in an entry titled “How to Fly the Friendly Skies;” but, it just really got to me. So I need to vent.

Basically it was a blog about someone traveling to South America. I’m not posting the url, because, frankly he doesn’t deserve any traffic. Technically the blogger could be described as a slow walker, as he had an injury prior to his trip that required the use of a cane; however, he really got my goat, when he bragged about wheelchair assistance at airports being “the ultimate travel secret that only requires one prop — a cane”.

He was wowed by the fact that he was whisked through airport security in his airport wheelchair and that he didn’t even have to get out of it for wanding. In his infinite wisdom he concluded that was because “no one likes to touch sick people.”

Of course nothing could be further from the truth. First off, just because you are in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean you are not sick; in fact I know many wheelers who are healthier than their able-bodied counterparts. Second, TSA guidelines (not the personal preferences of TSA agents) dictate procedures at security checkpoints; and these procedures are in place to protect PWDs from injury. To that end, TSA guidelines state that wheelchair-users are not required to transfer from their own wheelchair for any part of the screening process.

But I digress.

I don’t really have a problem with the blogger asking for assistance, after all he did have a temporary disability. I don’t begrudge anyone who needs assistance an airport wheelchair or even pre-boarding; in fact I encourage all slow walkers to avail themselves of these services.

The problem I have with this ignoramus is that he boldly states he is going to ask for wheelchair assistance every time he travels, even though he is now fully recovered form his injury. And he goes one step further and encourages other able-bodied travelers to do the same; by just going out and buying a cane and claiming they are disabled. Or as he so delicately puts it “metal fold-up canes are cheap.”

Now granted, you don’t even need a cane to request an airport wheelchair, and many slow walkers don’t even use one; however, able- bodied folks should not use this service just to get through security quicker and on the airplane first. There are a finite number of resources, and if able-bodied travelers use them, they just won’t be available to disabled travelers.

Furthermore, most folks are just a step and a stumble away from being temporarily disabled; so keep that in mind the next time you think about misappropriating an airport wheelchair. What gets you fast-tracked through security today, may not may not be available when you or a family member desperately needs it at some time in the future. It’s a karma thing. Trust me, it works.

So, if you need some assistance, by all means use an airport wheelchair; but if you don’t, leave that valuable resource for others who really need it.