TikTok ‘travel hack’ blamed by major airport chief for delaying disabled passengers

July 26, 2022, 3:43 PM UTC
John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive Officer, Heathrow Airport
John Holland-Kaye expressed his concern for a growing TikTok trend at airports.
Yui Mok — PA Images via Getty Images

A travel hack popularized on social media is causing some disabled passengers to wait even longer to board a plane at London’s Heathrow airport.

Whether it’s hour-long lines to check in or flights canceled at short notice, the first major summer travel season after COVID struck has found a gutted aviation industry on its knees unable to meet needs due to mass headcount reductions over the past two years. 

Making matters worse however is a surge in demand for passengers requiring support, not because they are physically challenged, but because some are breaking rules designed to reduce the strain of traveling on the less able-bodied.

“People are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast tracked through the airport,” Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye told London’s LBC. “If you go on TikTok, you’ll see 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.” 

The UK is ground zero of Europe’s summer travel chaos as staffing issues have become particularly acute.

Following the country’s decision to end freedom of movement, companies can no longer easily recruit temporary workers from EU countries next door, as well as those non-EU countries that are part of the Single Market such as Norway. 

Brexit may also be behind miles and miles of summer travellers queuing in their cars at England’s Dover or Folkestone for hours on end to enter France, an problem that has received national attention.

The two Tory hopefuls looking to succeed Boris Johnson as prime minister have tried to shift blame to the French for controlling the EU’s border. 

Budget carrier Ryanair has claimed airports like Heathrow have failed to properly staff their operations, for example, to handle baggage and other services. 

“Airports don’t provide ground handling, that’s provided by the airlines themselves,” shot back Holland-Kaye, calling the accusation bizarre. “This is like accusing us of not having enough pilots.” 

Travel chaos may be acute in England, but it’s not limited to just the southern part of Great Britain.

Germany’s Lufthansa has been forced to cancel over 1,000 flights scheduled to take place on Wednesday, due to a looming strike by its German ground crew.  

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