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29th Jun 2017

Airline apologises after disabled passenger forced to crawl up stairs to board plane

Shocking stuff

Conor Heneghan

Vanilla Air have apologised to a disabled passenger who was forced to crawl up a flight of stairs to board a plane earlier this month.

According to The Guardian, 44-year old Hideto Kijima, who uses a wheelchair, had to crawl up a flight of stairs on a Vanilla Air plane in a small airport on the Japanese island of Amami, after airline staff prevented his friends from helping him on board.

In a blog post, Kijima said that he had been told by airline staff prior to the flight to Osaka that the plane was not equipped with lifts to carry disabled passengers on board.

Airline staff refused to allow his friends to help him on board due to safety precautions and initially made an attempt to stop Kijima from pulling himself up the 17 steps on the flight of stairs.

A friend of Kijima’s pushed him from behind to help him up to the top of the stairs, where airline staff were waiting with a wheelchair to bring him to his seat.

Kijima, head of the non-profit Japan Accessible Tourism Centre, took his complaint to the transport ministry and was subsequently issued with an apology by Vanilla Air.

“We apologised to him for the unpleasant experience,” a spokesman for Vanilla Air, Akihiro Ishikawa, said.

“We also explained that we are taking measures to improve our service.”

In his blog, Kijima said that it is the first time he has been refused help boarding a flight, having used 200 airports in 158 countries.

“I’ve never thought I would be refused to fly for not being able to walk,” Kijima said.

“It’s a human rights violation.”