Let’s talk about travelers who feign injury, illness and even death in order to get preferential treatment.
Let’s talk about the fakers.
When travel companies, and particularly airlines, announce restrictive new policies almost daily, it’s no wonder the frequent liars are everywhere. As the busy spring break travel season begins to heat up, maybe it’s time to start asking hard questions about these charlatans.
They’re passengers such as the one Lori Moore, a college professor from Louisville, saw on a recent South American cruise. The woman ambled effortlessly through the buffet line and all over the ship while they were at sea.
“But whenever we had shore excursions or ports that required a tender, she was suddenly in a wheelchair to get priority boarding and sit in the handicapped seats in the front of the tour bus,” she remembers.
Travel is home to at least two types of fakers. First, there are the passengers who misrepresent their personal circumstances to persuade someone to waive a fee or grant an upgrade. Lilliana Torrey, a legal secretary from Chicago, admits she once told an airline her uncle had died, so it would waive a change fee. He had passed away — 12 years before.
“Forgive me,” she says.
Travelers who feign a physical hardship or handicap comprise the second group. They include passengers who dress their dogs up as service animals to carry them on the plane. At this time of year, you see fakers in action on flights to warm-weather destinations such as Miami. They’re priority-boarded in wheelchairs. Then, miraculously, they walk off the plane unassisted. These are called “hallelujah flights.”
Faking it is wrong, no two ways about it. But it’s wildly popular. A recent survey by Jetsetter.com found that 39% of hotel guests told lies to get a room upgrade.
Why do travelers do it? Is it simply because they want something they’re not entitled to — or because they feel it’s justified?
The travel industry would prefer that you not ask such questions. As far as it’s concerned, faking is lying, and lying is always wrong. But consider some of the more onerous change policies that have recently emerged:
• Airlines used to change tickets at no charge. Today, it costs $200 to change a domestic ticket, and that doesn’t include any fare differential. Some tickets can’t be changed at all.
• Not so long ago, hotels would cancel your reservation as a courtesy. Now, many prepaid rates are completely non-refundable. If you’re lucky, you’ll be charged one night’s lodging when you have to cancel at the last minute.
• Cruise lines have taken a hard line on changes, too. If you have to cancel your vacation and you’re not insured, you’re out of luck, unless you can show a death certificate.
Don’t even get me started on comfort and convenience. Many fliers squeezed into middle seats spend the whole flight pondering what they can do to avoid it next time. Some of those hallelujah passengers being wheeled onto the plane are probably scheming for space for their luggage in the overhead bin.