The boss of Heathrow has claimed that a viral ‘travel hack’ TikTok trend is contributing to some of the airport chaos that has been plaguing holidaymakers this summer.
In a bid to skip long queues, some confident and able-bodied travellers have started to request wheelchair assistance to glide through check-in, security and immigration checks.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport told LBC radio that there are now “significantly” more passengers requesting special assistance than before the pandemic, even though the airport is handling fewer passengers than it did in 2019.
“Why is that happening? Some of this is because people are using the wheelchair support to try and get FastTrack through the airport, and we need to protect that for the people who most need help,” Holland-Kaye told the radio station.
“If you go on TikTok that is one of the travel hacks people are recommending – please don’t do that, we need to protect the service for the people who need it most.”
Last month, ‘selfish’ TikTok influencer Wolf Jenkin sparked a heated debate after he filmed himself faking an ankle injury to get fast-tracked through Bodrum Airport in Turkey because he feared he would miss his flight if he was forced to join the long lines of other passengers.
Since that incident, other travel influencers have suggested that requesting special assistance is an effective way to skip long lines and get priority boarding. In Jenkin’s case, he even snagged an entire row of seats to himself so that he could stretch out his ‘injured’ leg.
Heathrow was recently put on notice by aviation regulators for alleged deficits in its special assistance service with an increasing number of genuinely disabled people being forced to wait hours for airport staff to become available to help down.
In a recent incident, a quadriplegic airline passenger was left abandoned on a British Airways aircraft at Gatwick Airport for an hour and a half after special assistance services failed to show up.
The airport was forced to deny allegations that an 82-year-old man died when he fell down an escalator because special assistance helps had failed to arrive on time.
Heathrow insists that passengers are now experiencing “a smooth and reliable journey” through the airport but warned on Tuesday that it could extend a capacity cap into 2023 if airlines fail to hire more ground handling staff.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.