- Passengers are pretending to need wheelchairs to avoid airport lines, according to Heathrow’s CEO.
- John Holland-Kaye told LBC that it’s due to people using a travel hack that they’ve seen on TikTok.
- Demand for the airport’s wheelchair support team had increased “significantly,” Holland-Kaye said.
The CEO of one of the world’s busiest airports said that some passengers are exploiting a TikTok travel hack, where able-bodied people pretend to need wheelchair support, as a means of bypassing travel chaos.
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, told the Leading Britain’s Conversation (LBC) radio station that the airport has as many people working in its passenger support team as it had before the pandemic. However, demand for the team had increased “significantly,” he said.
“We have more demand than we had before the pandemic,” Holland-Kaye said. “Some of this is because people are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport. That is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing.”
He added: “If you go on TikTok, you’ll see that it is one of the travel hacks that people are recommending.”
A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport told Insider that the trend has been reported as happening at other airports. “It’s obviously something we don’t condone, which is why John brought it up today,” they said.
Amid a summer of travel disruption, delays, and flight cancellations — caused by widespread labor shortages that have left aviation firms stretched at peak times — stories have emerged of some disabled passengers being caught up in the disruption at various airports.
Holland-Kaye was responding to a claim by the host that disabled passengers were having to wait for mobility support at Heathrow’s third terminal.
The CEO was speaking on the day that the airport published its half-year results. In the six months to June 30, 2022, 26.1 million passengers passed through the hub, compared with 3.9 million for the same period in 2021.
In July, the hub capped passenger numbers at 100,000 a day until September 11 and asked airlines to proactively cancel flights to minimize disruption and pressure on ground crews.
In the report on its half-year results, the company said it had hired 1,300 people in the last six months and would have a similar level of security resources by the end of July as in pre-pandemic times.
The airline cited a lack of baggage handlers as its main constraint. “We estimate that airline ground handlers have no more than 70% of their pre-pandemic resource, and there has been no increase in numbers since January,” he said in the results.