I have noted that all the airports I have visited have had "attendant-propelled" manual wheelchairs that may only be moved by an attendant:
source: Wikimedia Commons.
Rather than the more traditional manual wheelchair, that can be propelled by the user or an attendant:
source Wikimedia Commons.
I've not had personal experience with needing a wheelchair (in an airport or otherwise) but it seems to me this would be incredibly frustrating. To be completely dependent on another (be they an airport employee, or a friend/family member) to move, seems utterly awful.
While not needing to self propel between gates makes sense (and is obviously often required) not being able to direct your own movement without asking someone else (for those who normally can), during a six hour gap between connecting flights seems really problematic. Not being able to go into the bar or slowly browse the duty free on your own to kill time.
So why not have the manual chairs that can be attendant or self propelled? Is it a matter of cost?
Which seems off given that airports are such a high expense area/luxury anyway.
It is a matter of design?
Perhaps difficulties in make a user propelled chair narrow enough to get through aisles?
Or maybe difficulties in making the transfer to/from the wheelchair to the plane's seating when using a normal "big wheel" chair?