About to board a flight out of LaGuardia Airport Saturday for a brief vacation, I noticed a half-dozen passengers in wheelchairs at the front of the line. When we landed, only two required wheelchairs to leave. Was my plane diverted to Lourdes?
Nope, just the latest scam from fliers without shame. Don’t want to wait on line with the rest of us? Fake a disability.
Infuriating, isn’t it? People with disabilities deserve compassion, but those who fake being disabled deserve only contempt. Federal law requires accommodations for disabled passengers, and airlines provide them, usually without requiring proof of injury or disability. And of course, the usual suspects think they’re brilliant to game the system.
Two dogs were on my flight as well. Were they service animals? Who knows? On most airlines, service and emotional support animals travel at no charge. The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t allow businesses to quiz people about their disabilities.
And so the number of emotional support dogs, monkeys, parrots, ferrets and other species is proliferating, as is the number of certificates issued for them online, no questions asked. In November, a woman brought her “emotional-support pig” on a US Airways flight and was tossed off after the porker became disruptive and relieved itself in the aisle, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Most people who use service animals truly need them. But sorry, just because you’ll miss your little Fifi doesn’t make her an emotional-support dog.
Those who use bogus disabled placards or tote fake service animals anger those with real disabilities, and can you blame them? These scammers bring doubt upon those with real disabilities, especially those that are not obvious, like serious heart conditions.
Someone once offered me a disabled-parking permit, like the ill-gotten one he used. I said no, that I had no desire to deprive some truly disabled person of a spot. He glared at me like I was calling him a heartless sociopath. Which I was.
When the plane landed and the miraculously cured sprinted off the plane, I fantasized about tackling them and making them earn their disabled status.
I resisted the urge. This time.
Playwright Mike Vogel blogs at newyorkgritty.net.