Social media “influencer” Jamie Zhu recently faked an injury to score a business class upgrade on a long-haul flight with Cathay Pacific. He documented his scheme in this YouTube video:

Although many viewers have suggested that this was staged, and that the passenger may have already held a business class ticket, his display is still infuriating.

There are many people with disabilities who risk their health and wellness every day, flying in increasingly cramped economy class seats just to experience the joys of travel. We all dream of an upgrade, but they are exceedingly rare. Mr. Zhu’s reprehensible display may make those compassionate upgrades even more fleeting. My friend Gilbert of God Save The Points put it this way:

What grinds my gears with this story is not the typical wannabe shenanigans, those are everywhere, but the doubt this person will create for those with legitimate medical issues in the future. Read as: I don’t care about this person at all, but I care about the impact their selfish shenanigans will cause on others.

As a full-time wheelchair user and triple amputee who occasionally travels in economy class, I only score about one such upgrade per year. A couple airlines have treated me to the privilege in recent years — EgyptAir, on a flight from Abu Dhabi to Cairo, and American Airlines from London to Miami.

Free upgrades for disabled passengers are rare, not because airline staff lack compassion, but because the limited number of premium seats are often fully booked. When there are seats available, elite members in the airline’s loyalty program are often entitled to the upgrade.

I won’t criticize those who ask for an upgrade, but this “influencer” has encouraged his followers to do so under false pretenses. His charade scored some YouTube views, but at the expense of disabled people who already face a great deal of discrimination in air travel (civil rights violations, the ‘Jetway Jesus’ myth, a lack of accessible lavatories, etc.). It’s shameful, and he’s a loser.

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