A Japanese airline on Wednesday apologised for forcing a wheelchair bound person to crawl up 17 stairs in order board his flight. Hideto Kijima, who is paralysed from the waist-down was returning last month to Osaka from a vacation in Amami when a Vanilla Air employee refused to allow him any assistance to board the plane citing company’s safety rules.
In a blog, Kijima, who heads Japan Accessible Tourist Center, said that he had used 200 airports in 158 countries but this was the first time that he was refused any help at the airport. According to a report in Asahi newspaper, he was forced to pull himself up 17 steps to reach the plane door. With no lift facilities at the airport, Kijima made his way up by using only his arms. “I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I would not have been able to return to Osaka,” Kijima wrote in the blog.
The aircraft had previously barred passengers who could not walk unaided from boarding flights at Amami because it could have caused accidents.
Vanilla Air on Wednesday said it has apologised to Kijima and that the carrier has since made it mandatory to have lifts for the disabled at the Amami Airport. “We’re sorry that we caused him that hardship,” a company spokesman was quoted as saying by the AFP. “We also explained that we are taking measures to improve our service,” he added.
In an interaction with Japan’s Nippn TV, Hideto Kijima said that he was “surprised” when the staff told him that he would not be allowed to take the flight if he could not walk up the stairs. “I wondered if the airport employees didn’t think that was wrong,” he said.
The incident comes weeks after a massive backlash erupted after a doctor was dragged off an overbooked United Airlines flight. The aircraft was forced to change its policies and compensate the doctor for his injuries.