Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra in a tweet wondered if many Indian travellers fake the need of wheelchairs at airports, sparking a heated debate among his followers.
“Only flights to and from India at most airports have so many wheelchairs pre-ordered. Trying to figure out why.
“1) Do elderly Indians travel more than others? 2) Do we have more infirm/unfit people? 3) Are we just jugaadus who order wheelchairs to get faster access through queues!?” Mahindra tweeted.
In response, some users termed the use by wheelchairs by many Indians a “scam”, others pointed out that the wheelchair assistance is a boon to the parents of children who are settled outside the country.
“Most of these are parents of folks settled in the west and many times are not well versed with navigating airports, their children hence ask for wheelchair assistance so that they don’t miss connecting flights. It’s opportunity for airlines to make money from what is complementary,” said one user.
Suggestions on how the misuse of wheelchair assistance can be cut were the point of focus for some tweets.
“Most of the wheel chairs are just scam. They don’t really need it but take it as it is free. US airports charge even for a trolley may be charging wheel chairs in India will bring their usage down,” said one user.
“International terminals are notorious for their long walk to the gates. 15-20 minutes sometimes or more and difficult for elderly to walk that long. Yes, they are not completely disabled and they can walk on their own to buy at duty free shops,” said another.
But not everyone appeared happy with the suggestion that many people fake the need of wheelchairs.
“This is a boon to my 83 year old father who uses it when he criss-crosses our country thrice a year to visit me and my siblings in Hyderabad, Delhi and Bengaluru. He has chronic arthritis and also suffered hip fracture a few months ago,” tweeted a user.
At many international airports around the world, especially Pearson International Airport, JFK and Heathrow Airport, London, India-bound flights are often crowded in one section with elderly Indian travellers in wheelchairs and airport attendants. It is almost as if every gray haired person is invalid. If airlines wanted to make some more money or discourage misuse of this complimentary wheelchair facility, they should charge $100 for anyone who is not genuinely invalid, mentally ill or injured.