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Southwest Flyers’ Wheelchair ‘Pre-Boarding Scam’ Leaves Fellow Passengers Fuming

A social media user waiting to board a Southwest flight recently cried foul over an apparent “pre-boarding scam” involving wheelchairs — while the airliner stresses that its policy complies with the law.

Passengers are known to get antsy boarding and exiting planes, but Paul, whose Twitter handle is @trendready, complained about how some fellow flyers are possibly attempting to game the system by requesting wheelchair assistance in order to be the first ones on a flight before takeoff.

“Pre-boarding scam at @SouthwestAir,” he claimed in a Saturday tweet with a photo of a line of people in wheelchairs. “20 passengers boarding using a wheelchair and probably only 3 need one to deplane.”

The airline replied to the complaint but admitted it had little power to stop any possible trickery.

“We’re sorry for any disappointment, Paul,” Southwest tweeted. “We work hard to maintain the integrity of the boarding process while providing appropriate accommodations for all who fly. Since many disabilities aren’t visible, we’re unable to question the validity of preboarding requests.”

Other social media users chimed in and mentioned similar “scams” they witnessed.

“I sat next to a wheelchair pusher recently,” one user tweeted. “Asked her how many people do you think legitimately need a wheelchair. Answer: less than half most don’t even pretend that they have a disability they just want the ‘perks.’”

“Yep! Looks like the airport at Las Vegas. My husband always calls it the wheelchair parade,” another social media user wrote.

“I stopped flying @SouthwestAir after a man who was running from his car to the terminal in front of me, used this to get a great seat on a packed flight,” another user claimed.

A day later, Paul again tweeted his frustrations over people using wheelchairs who might not have needed them, including taking photos of people standing and walking around before plopping back in the wheelchair.

He claimed 14 people used wheelchairs to board, but only six needed them to deplane.

“Hey, Paul! Our preboarding policy is in compliance with ACAA requirements and allows us to provide appropriate accommodations for all who fly with us,” Southwest tweeted in response.

“Nevertheless, we regret if you were disappointed with your experience, and we appreciate you sharing your perspective.”

Customers who need a wheelchair must identify “themselves as needing wheelchair assistance upon arrival to the airport, at any connection points, and upon arrival to their destination,” according to the airline’s policy.

A wheelchair can also be added while booking, Southwest says.

  • Guido says:

    Look at the increased handy capped parking spots in front of stores and you see the fraud. My friend (65) went into a SS office and it was full, but he and one other person had gray hair. One last one. They had to require a verification for animals being to ride because of fraud.

  • Frequent Flyer says:

    I do like Southwest much more than other airlines and do not think they need assigned seats. But after I pay $15, $25 or $50 for Early Bird Seating, I end up 10-15 rows back and wait quite a long time for the elderly that came on in wheelchairs to gather their things and finally WALK OFF the plane.
    All SW has to do is take all disabled folks first and wheel them to the rear of the plane (close to the bathrooms too) and let them know they will be the last to deplane after landing. Those truly disabled will not mind because they are used to moving slower. When SW makes that change, the line will go down to 2 or 3 people.

  • Louis Galmarini says:

    There should be a ‘Certificate of Disablity’ shown upon request for a wheelchair. The document will not only have to be signed by a CREDIBLE/LEGITIMATE medical doctor, but also by the AMA which will vouch for him/her. It should also be accompanied by a separate ADA I.D. which also vets scammers.

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