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Heathrow boss blames TikTok fake injury craze for delays hindering disabled passengers
26 July 2022, 08:59 | Updated: 26 July 2022, 13:09
Heathrow's boss has blamed a TikTok fake injury craze for delays helping wheelchair users off planes.
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John Holland-Kaye, the airport's chief executive, said people are abusing wheelchair support on planes "to get fast-tracked through the airport".
He added this was "absolutely the wrong thing to be doing" amid reports of genuine wheelchair users being stuck on planes waiting to be helped off.
Earlier this month a TikTok creator went viral after faking an injury to use a wheelchair while travelling from Bodrum in Turkey to Bristol Airport.
The clip has been viewed over 2.5 million times and sparked a number of imitations. The travel hack was condemned by disability rights charities.
Asked by LBC's Nick Ferrari about the "absolute disgrace" of 20 wheelchair passengers stuck in an allocated area of Heathrow Terminal 3 last week with no air conditioning, Mr Holland-Kaye insisted: "We do have as many people now working in our passengers requiring support team as we had before the pandemic."
But he added: "We've seen demand has gone up significantly. For passengers requiring wheelchair support we have more demand than we had before the pandemic."
He said: "Some of this is because people are using the wheelchair support to try to get fast-tracked through the airport, that is absolutely the wrong thing to be doing, we need to protect that for the people who most need help.
"If you go on TikTok you will see that is one of the travel hacks that people are recommending, please don’t do that we need to protect the service for the people who need it most."
Mr Holland-Kaye said another issue was that "half of all the people who ask for the service only ask once they are on the plane".
He said: "If you really need the service then you will be letting us know well in advance so that we can make sure there are enough people there to meet your needs.
"But if a wheelchair is waiting for someone who has booked in advance and someone else goes and sits on it who hasn't booked in advance we cannot turn them away.
"All we can do is to employ even more people to make sure everyone regardless of need is able to travel in the wheelchair service but we need to make sure that people who don't need it don't use that service."