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Man in wheelchair forced to crawl up plane ramp

July 3, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A cut-price carrier has apologised for making a passenger in a wheelchair board a flight by crawling up a staircase using only his hands.

The incident took place last month and it involved Japanese budget airline Vanilla Air, the Washington Post reported.

Hideto Kijima, who lost the use of his legs in a rugby accident when he was 17, was preparing to return to Osaka from a trip to Amami Oshima island, where he had stayed in a fully accessible villa and even gone swimming with sea turtles.

Amami Airport had only steps leading up to the plane from the tarmac and airline staff said it was against company policy for Kijima to be carried up the boarding ramp in his wheelchair.

“I have heard some bad stories, but I did not expect to hear that ‘I cannot fly because I cannot walk’,” Kijima wrote on Facebook.

Kijima finished up having to get out of his wheelchair, lie down at the bottom of the metal stair-ramp and slowly pull himself up with his hands, step by step, up to the plane.

It took him three to four minutes to climb the 17 steps, the Asahi Shimbun reported. Ironically, Kijima heads the nonprofit Japan Accessible Tourism Centre in Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture.

Vanilla Air, a low-cost carrier founded in 2011 and owned by All Nippon Airways, later deeply apologised for the incident.

Similarly shocking stories have emerged in recent years, involving various airlines.

  • In March last year, a man who had both legs amputated claimed Ryanair staff at Malaga airport in Spain told him to crawl to the plane on his way home from an overseas holiday. Matthew Parkes, 38, told the Manchester Evening News that Ryanair gate staff told him to drag himself down two ramps, a set of stairs, across the tarmac and up the steps of the Manchester-bound plane. Parkes, who had suffered a devastating rare bacterial disease on holiday and had to have both legs and part of a hand amputated, said he was stretchered aboard after refusing to crawl but was made to feel “like a second-class citizen”.
  • In 2014, a woman who flew Jetstar to Perth said she was forced to carry her disabled adult sister off the Jetstar plane, then drag her through the airport after the airline failed to produce their wheelchair.
  • In 2013, a partially paralysed airline passenger claimed Delta Air Lines made him crawl twice in his best suit down the aisle of an aircraft and across the tarmac to reach his wheelchair. On the second occasion, the man claimed the airline offered him cardboard to crawl on, so as not to soil his suit.

Written by Peter Needham

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