Let’s hear it for the travel fakers

Let's hear it for the travel fakers.

Let’s talk about travelers who feign injury, illness and even death to get preferential treatment: the travel 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.

Who are the travel fakers?

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 that it would waive a change fee. He had passed away — 12 years before.

“Forgive me,” she says.

“Handicapped” travel fakers

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 travel 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:

Changes that may have led to the increase in travel fakers

• 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.

Michael Brein, a Seattle-based psychologist who specializes in travel industry issues, says travel is a breeding ground for travel fakers because faking it is easy. You’re away from home in a new environment, and people are inclined to believe you.

“It is sometimes exhilarating to get away with things,” he says.

Who pays for fakery?

But someone pays for the fakery. When you request a hotel room or cruise ship cabin for people with disabilities because it has more space, or you take up a wheelchair just so you can board early, you aren’t just gaming the system — you’re also taking a service from someone who might really need it.

“The idea that someone would fake an illness or disability, presumably to gain an advantage, would be laughable if it were not so objectionable,” says Brett Heising, a writer who publishes a review website for travelers with disabilities.

It would be easy to channel all of our collective rage at the fakers, which is exactly what the travel industry wants us to do. But think about it. Who created these super-restrictive policies, the uncomfortable seats, the bag fees that led everyone to compete for the overhead bins?

If you believe passengers are to blame — indeed, that they asked for it by booking a low price — then by all means, condemn these fibbers. If you believe the travel companies created these policies to squeeze more profit out of us, you may find the blame is not so clear-cut.

Faking is wrong, do this instead

• Don’t book with a bad company. Read the cancellation policies before you make a reservation. If they’re too restrictive, then don’t book a ticket or room. Avoid prepaid car rental or hotel rates, if you think you’ll need to be flexible.

• Be loyal. If someone recognizes you as a frequent customer — either because of your card, or even better, because they know your face — then you’re far more likely to get a restrictive policy waived without feigning the sniffles.

• Be honest. A polite request to waive a rule is often as effective as inventing an ailment or an extenuating personal circumstance. Remember, it’s the hospitality industry — generally, employees want to please you.

Underwritten by

Underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Underwritten by Enterprise

A family-owned, world-class portfolio of brands. A global network that spans across more than 85 countries. Some 97,000 dedicated team members sharing common values. And more than 1.9 million vehicles taking our customers wherever they need to go.

Underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Underwritten by InsureMyTrip

It’s simple. InsureMyTrip finds you the right travel insurance plan, every time. InsureMyTrip is the authority on travel insurance. Rated A+ for travel insurance by the Better Business Bureau. All travelers that purchase a policy through  InsureMyTrip have access to Anytime Advocates® for claims assistance.

Underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Underwritten by SCOTTeVEST

An innovative apparel brand for people who want easy access to everything they need. For those who live for every second, SCOTTeVEST lets you maximize your life. Ditch the carry-on bag and pick up a  SCOTTeVEST.

Underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Underwritten by Sungard Availability Services

Leveraging more than 35 years of experience, Sungard AS designs, builds and runs critical IT services that help businesses manage complex IT, adapt quickly and build resiliency and availability. A leading provider of critical production and recovery services, Sungard AS partners with customers across the globe, delivering resilient IT systems, infrastructure and recovery services tailored to achieving desired business outcomes.

Underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

%d bloggers like this:
This free newsletter will save you from scams.