HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An increasing trend is turning porters into personal escorts at Honolulu International Airport. They admit some passengers confess not needing a wheelchair, but get one anyway to leapfrog other travelers.
"They say, 'Oh, can I get a wheelchair? I'll hook you up. Just get me out of that line,'" said Jake Pagtulingan, a porter with Paradise Airport Services.
Bob Burr manages the company. He's got 160 wheelchairs and a lot of orders to fill. Wheelchair requests are up to 150 to 200 a day.
"They say, 'If I get a wheelchair I tend to get through U.S. Customs, the processing, a lot faster,'" he said.
That includes zipping through checkpoints during the peak hours
Besides Honolulu International, airports around the country report demand for wheelchair rides from questionable riders is increasing.
"It's just without conscience," traveler T.J. Wickser said.
It isn't mandatory that wheelchair passengers go to the head of the line, but common practice is they do. Burr said what raises eyebrows is when they hop out at their destination, grab their luggage, and take off like nothing is wrong.
"You cannot challenge the passenger and what their needs may be. Go ahead. Have a seat," he said.
"It definitely takes away from the people who actually need it," Chesiny Wickser said.
Paradise has the most wheelchairs at the airport. It's contracted by big carriers including United and Delta. By law airlines must offer wheelchair assistance to anyone who wants it.
"We can't discriminate. We've just got to help them. If they request it we've got to help them out and take them to the gate," Pagtulingan said.
He said wheelchair abuse is for real and more people are flying through the terminal by the seat of their pants even though it's obvious some of them can stand on their own two feet.