Institutional chairs for short-term transport actually have vastly different needs than those meant to help a person live her daily life as independently as possible. Airport wheelchairs should be designed to facilitate ease of access and use by their operators, who, for safety reasons, are almost never the people riding in them. They also need to take up a minimum of space and be resistant to theft.
Standard wheelchairs are designed to be folded up and put in the back of a car or a trunk so that the user may easily transport it from place to place. An airport wheelchair should not have these features. Even a very cheap wheelchair costs upwards of $100. If only one a day vanishes into thin air at any given locale, the costs add up.
Because of the high theft rate, airport wheelchairs are generally the cheapest available. Unfortunately, this means that those that aren’t stolen wear out quite rapidly due to transporting passengers miles and miles every day. The solution to this is a chair that costs more at the outset, which has features that pay for themselves more quickly than anyone might guess. Imagine a nestable chair. Just like the luggage carriers, not taking up much more space and is easily secured and easily located.
Imagine too that this chair is sturdy and has a number of features that allow for easy transport of the passenger. However, while the nesting allows for conservation of space, it is so constructed that it cannot be folded up and put in a trunk or transported by its occupant. What you are imagining is a chair that can last ten years without being replaced, rather than one, or less.