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Airlines are reporting a rise in the number of passengers with reduced mobility requesting wheelchairs either on booking or at check-in. But increasingly these same passengers do not need assistance after landing leading airline staff to dub the journeys "miracle flights”.
Wheelchair bound passengers are normally among the first to board the plane and often have a dedicated security clearing avoiding the normal queues. At the other end of the flight, wheelchair users are usually last to disembark. For those faking symptoms. this reduces the advantage hence the sudden improvement of health and an unused wheelchair at the destination.
Airlines do not currently require proof of disability in order to request assistance. Unscrupulous travellers are exploiting this in order to avoid queues and be first on the aircraft.
It's not that easy to identify the abuse. Some older passengers perfectly capable of walking short distances would simply not be able to stand for the long periods necessary for modern security queues. For them, it would be perfectly reasonable to request assistance but there is little doubt that the abuse exists and is on the increase.
Travelling is hard enough for those with genuine mobility issues so lets hope the airlines find ways of discouraging these selfish and inconsiderate practices.
As the population ages an ever higher proportion of people have some form of medical condition. A recent study by the Medical Research Council found that only one in six now reaching retirement age could be considered condition free.
If you are travelling with pre-existing medical conditions it is important to disclose the full state of your health. Failure to do so could invalidate your insurance. This could leave you having to cover medical and repatriation costs back to the UK.
Travellers with medical conditions may well have to pay more for their insurance so it's important to compare travel insurance with medical conditions.