A Japanese airline has apologised to a disabled passenger, after he was forced to crawl up a flight of stairs to board his plane.
Hideto Kijima, a wheelchair user, had to pull himself up the stairs after airline staff refused to allow his friends to carry him aboard.
According to low-cost carrier Vanilla Air, Kijima would not be allowed to board if he could not climb up the stairs himself.
44-year-old Kijima, who is paralysed from the waist down, had no choice but to pull himself using his arms.
Kijima, who has travelled to 200 airports across 158 countries, says this is the first time he has not been allowed assistance to board.
“I had never been denied boarding just because of my inability to walk,” he told news outlet the Asahi Shimbun.
Kijima also happens to be head of the Japan Accessible Tourism Centre, a non-profit organisation which advises tourists to Japan on accessibility issues.
He and five of his friends had flown to the Japanese island of Amami on June 3. Upon his arrival then, several of his friends carried him down to the tarmac in his wheelchair.
But on his return flight on June 5, the airline said it was against their policy for people to carry passengers in wheelchairs up the flight of stairs.
One of his friends pushed Kijima from behind until he reached the top of the staircase, where airline staff took him to his seat in a wheelchair.
Vanilla Air later apologised to Kijima after he complained to the transport ministry.
“We apologised to him for the unpleasant experience,” said Vanilla’s spokesman Akihiro Ishikawa.
“We are taking measures to improve our service.”