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Budget Carrier Apologizes for Forcing Disabled Passenger to Crawl up Stairs

Vanilla Air issued the official mea culpa after a traveler who uses a wheelchair had to take matters into his own hands after being refused assistance boarding his flight.

A wheelchair passenger says that Japanese ultra-low-fare airline Vanilla Air not only failed to have the proper equipment on hand to allow him to board his flight at Amami Airport (ASJ), but, citing “safety concerns,” airline employees refused to assist him. According to Hideto Kijima, he was left with no choice but to climb the 17 stairs leading to the aircraft door by using only his arms to pull himself to the top.

“I’ve never thought I would be refused to fly for not being able to walk,” Kijima told the Daily Mail. “It’s a human rights violation.”

The 44-year-old, who heads the non-profit Japan Accessible Tourism Center says that the airline’s unwillingness to offer assistance was compounded when supervisors also refused to allow his travel companions to assist him (again because of safety concerns). Kijima, who was partially paralyzed in a rugby accident at age eleven, says that Vanilla employees even tried to physically block him from reaching the plane.

“I just had to ignore them and keep moving up, or I could not go back to Osaka,” Kijima wrote in his travel blog A Flying Wheelchair from Japan.

All Nippon Airways-owned Vanilla Air agreed that the situation last month was handled poorly. Airline officials have since apologized for Kijima’s “unpleasant experience.”

The carrier appears to be making good on a promise to quickly take “measures to improve our service.” According to the Japan Times, equipment to allow passengers requiring special assistance to safely board flights is now on hand at ASJ. A spokesperson for the Narita International Airport (NRT)-based Vanilla Air told reporters that the airport was previously and at the time of the unpleasant experience, the only facility in the airline’s route system without the proper equipment to assist those passengers with mobility issues.

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localguy808 July 5, 2017

Anytime an airline/government rep uses the term "safety concerns" what they are really admitting is they are utterly incompetent and haven't got a clue how to do their job, how to be professional. If you want to nail them on the spot, tell them to quote the government safety regulation they are using for "safety concerns." Your response will be a deer in the headlights response meaning "I just got caught lying, now I am in big trouble." Works every time.