Praise Be to the Jetway Jesus: Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant

(Illustration: Ryan McCullah)

Last week we revealed some MacGyver-worthy incidents in the air and gave you 15 tips to keep sane while flying. This week we delve deep into the phenomenon of the Jetway Jesus. Attention, passengers, this is Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant, a Yahoo Travel series where “Betty” describes the harrowing, real-life situations she and her comrades in the sky face every day, 35,000 feet away from a foot massage and premium whiskey.

You think you’ve got it bad when your in-flight entertainment conks out, the Pixie Stix-addicted kid behind you mistakes the back of your chair for a vertical trampoline, and the plane runs out of “Good Morning Sunshine” cheese boxes? That’s child’s play.


Jetway Jesus, is that you? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Throughout my career I’ve seen more miracle cures than the pope. It never fails to astonish me how often sick people are instantaneously healed in the process of flying. (Maybe it’s all that ginger ale or maybe it’s the vitamins in the Bloody Mary mix.)

Take this incident I witnessed the other day: I was at the security screening area when a passenger in a wheelchair and her wheelchair attendant moved to the front of the line. I was in my uniform, and I never mind letting a person in a wheelchair go in front of me.

Most people who order a wheelchair actually need assistance or simply can’t walk long distances. Bully for them, they also happen to get on the plane first, typically snagging the best spots to stow their luggage as well. (You can imagine where I’m going with this.)

So this lady hops out of her chair and whisks through the detector and quickly starts walking away. The wheelchair attendant yelled to her, “I have your boarding pass!” He then rolled his eyes at me and said: “Look how fast she’s walking. She’s practically running.”

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airport wheelchair
airport wheelchair

Some people order a wheelchair to try to game the system. Those people are jerks. (Photo: iStockphoto)

After I had my heels back on (my concourse shoes) and started down the concourse, I saw the wheelchair attendant pushing manically after the woman down the long concourse, attempting to catch up with her — so she can get back into her chair to board the airplane first.

It’s actually a diabolical plan, because you can’t tell by looking at people if they are indeed disabled. Illnesses and disabilities affect all types of people, of many different ages. And no one in their right mind would accuse someone of faking a disability. … I mean, who on Earth would do such a thing!

But how much do you want to bet that this woman will indeed board the airplane first as a person who needs assistance — but will most definitely not be waiting for her wheelchair at the end of her flight. And why? People in wheelchairs may be boarded first, but when the airplane arrives at its destination, they’re typically kept on board until last so they don’t hold up everyone else who is disembarking.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who orders a wheelchair is faking, but I can’t begin to count the times people have boarded the plane in a wheelchair, but by the time we arrive they’ve been miraculously cured of their ailment.

It’s a joke between wheelchair attendants and crew members. As we’re getting off the airplane, they’re all lined up with their empty chairs in the jetway as we tell them all the passengers are gone … they were “healed again.” This, folks, is known as the “Jetway Jesus.” Praise be unto him.

Stay tuned Mondays for another installment of “Confessions of a Fed-Up Flight Attendant.”

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