Japan’s Vanilla Air issued an apology after a disabled man was forced to crawl up a set of stairs to the plane. The man, identified as Hideto Kijima was told by the airline employees that for safety reasons, he would not be allowed to board if he could not climb the stairs without assistance. In response, Kijima left his wheelchair and pulled himself up the stairs with his arms.
According to a BBC report, Hideto Kijima had boarded with the help of friends on his outbound flight. But on the return leg from the island of Amami, this happened with him. Kijima is an experienced traveller, and head of the Japan Accessible Tourist Center, a non-profit organisation which catalogues accessibility issues for tourists to Japan.
“I have been to more than 200 airports in 158 countries. I was paralysed from the waist down in a school rugby accident in 1990,” he said, according to the BCC report.
“Wherever facilities were not available for mobility disabled passengers, I relied on the help of friends or staff members in whatever way possible. Although travel had occasionally been difficult, I was never told that I cannot board a plane,: added Kijima.
According to Japan’s Nippon TV he was “surprised” by the strict rule. “I wondered if the airport employees didn’t think that was wrong,” he said.
Vanilla Air, a budget airline subsidiary of All Nippon Airways, apologised for the incident and announced new measures to aid wheelchair users at the airport. The company’s website now says that while it cannot provide a boarding bridge at Amami airport, it will now provide a special chair for the purpose.
There have been several other incidents this year involving the treatment of passengers by airlines. In April, a Vietnamese-American doctor was dragged from a United Airlines flight in Chicago by law enforcement officials after he refused to give up his seat voluntarily.