Japan's Vanilla Air has come under fire after a disabled passenger was forced to get down on all fours and board a plane using his arms, because he wasn't allowed aboard on a wheelchair.
Hideto Kijima, 44, who is a paraplegic and the head of the Japan Accessible Tourist Center, a non-profit organization that catalogues accessibility issues for tourists to Japan, has traveled 158 countries and been to more than 200 airports. This is the first time he was forced to abandon his wheelchair.
The incident occurred at Amami Airport in the Kagoshima Prefecture city of Amami, Japan. Interestingly, when Kijima landed in Amami, his friends carried him down the aircraft’s steps in his wheelchair, but when he was boarding his return flight on June 5, airport staff told him that carrying a person in a wheelchair down the steps was against the airline’s regulations. Kijima then had to get down on his knees and climb the plane’s stairs with his friend’s assistance.
"I wondered if the airport employees didn't think that was wrong," Kijima told Japan's Nippon TV, saying he was "surprised" by airline’s absurd rule.
"If people who cannot walk are not allowed to board the plane, then are babies and the elderly also not allowed to board? I was surprised that the staff member didn't think that the company rules were absurd," he added.
Now, the airline has apologized for its behavior toward the passenger. "We're sorry that we caused him that hardship," a company spokesman told AFP news agency.
It also announced new rules and regulations for wheelchair-bound travelers. One of the rules states that Vanilla Air will not facilitate wheelchair users with a boarding bridge, but however, will provide a special stretcher to assist them in boarding. The airline has also set up various assistance counters in airports across the country.
It is important to note that recently airlines have become quite rash and careless toward passengers, forcing them to get off the plane in some instances, and displaying racism towards them in others. Flying is getting more miserable and humiliating by the day.