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Vanilla Air Disabled Passenger Had to Crawl Up Ramp to Flight

Image: Vanilla Air Disabled Passenger Had to Crawl Up Ramp to Flight

Hideto Kijima (Kyodo via AP Images)

By    |   Friday, 30 Jun 2017 09:39 AM

Vanilla Air made wheelchair-bound passenger Hideto Kijima crawl up a 17-step staircase to his flight, using just his hands, because it’s against the Japanese airline’s policy to carry someone up the boarding ramp.

It took Kijima about three or four minutes to fully climb up the ramp, according to The Washington Post.

“I have heard some bad stories, but I did not expect to hear that ‘I cannot fly because I cannot walk,’” said Kijima, the head of nonprofit Japan Accessible Tourism Center in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

The incident occurred on June 5 when Kijima was traveling back to Osaka after having been on a trip at Amami Oshima Island.

Kijima said he had five people traveling with him, who helped carry him off the plane when they traveled to the island. He said he didn’t understand why the same thing couldn’t be done on his way back from the trip.

“I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I would not have been able to return to Osaka,” Kijima said, per The Guardian.

“I’ve never thought I would be refused to fly for not being able to walk,” he said. “It’s a human rights violation.”

“In Japan, the Law on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities finally took effect in April last year,” Kijima said, per the Post. “The Law has encouraged authorities and airlines to address similar problems without incident.”

Kijima told officials in Kogashima and Osaka prefectures about the incident and now there are plans for a boarding bridge at Amami Airport. The bridge is expected to be completed by November.

“The stairs will be gone, and the problem will be gone,” he said.

Vanilla Air spokesman Akihito Matsubara said something like this should never happen.

“Boarding in this fashion should never have taken place, and that was not what we had intended,” Matsubara said Wednesday.  

“We apologized to him for the unpleasant experience,” Matsubara said, per the Guardian. “We also explained that we are taking measures to improve our service.”

The airline said it has “taken immediate action to rectify the inadequate wheelchair access at Amami airport and at all smaller regional airports across our Japan domestic network, and have introduced manual chair lifts where facilities were found insufficient to accommodate the needs of all our passengers.”

Kijima has been in a wheelchair since he suffered from a rugby accident at 17 years of age.

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Vanilla Air made wheelchair-bound passenger Hideto Kijima crawl up a 17-step staircase to his flight, using just his hands, because it’s against the Japanese airline’s policy to carry someone up the boarding ramp.
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