PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) -- No one would question whether Bruce Fell needs a wheelchair at Portland International Airport. The Sydney, Australia resident has only one leg.
It never occurred to him to use a wheelchair. "No, I don't consider myself disabled," he said.
But he can't believe what a fellow traveler told him.
"A bloke who wasn't disabled said to me, 'You're crazy if you don't. This is what we do and we get ahead,'" Fell told KOIN 6 News.
Wheelchair passengers are whisked through the employee express line, bypassing the long wait for others. Several wheelchair aides who push passengers around the airport told KOIN 6 News they've seen people abandon their wheelchair as soon as they pass through the screening area and rush to their gate.
Some wheelchair cheaters are just trying to get onboard the plane first so they get a seat with extra legroom. There are some areas of the plane reserved for passengers with disabilities.
There are also miracle fliers, those wheelchair users who get on a plane then walk off at their destination. Airline workers said they sometimes head to a gate with several wheelchairs to meet passengers, then end up with all but one person walking off, not needing help.
Most travelers reserve a wheelchair through their airline, and by federal law, agents can't ask why you need a wheelchair. Travelers can also climb into a wheelchair by the entrance. There's no charge, no questions asked.
Airlines around the country are reporting record numbers of wheelchair requests. PDX is no exception, with wheelchair use up 14% over past year in the first four months of 2013.
Ann Young said she has seen cheaters and they're actually hurting others.
"There is a wait to get a wheelchair," she said, "and it's probably because too many people who don't need them are using them."
Australian Bruce Fell said there is a better way.
"[People who use wheelchairs in airports] should have a legitimate card, like the one in your vehicle, that you carry through the airport."
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