Airlines may allow more disabled on board

.c Kyodo News Service


TOKYO, Jan. 16 (Kyodo) - Japanese airline companies may lift a limit on the number of disabled passengers allowed on board before Japan hosts an international conference for disabled people in October in Sapporo, a major Japanese daily said Wednesday.

The Asahi Shimbun said the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport asked the airlines to consider easing the limit after it received a request from the Japan National Assembly of Disabled Peoples' International (DPI-Japan), the paper said.

Three major Japanese airlines -- Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Air System -- only allow four to 16 passengers with walking or visual disabilities on board jumbo jets with more than 500 seats, the paper said. The number varies depending on whether they are accompanied by attendants, it said.

The companies said they impose the limit because too many disabled passengers on board could hinder emergency procedures such as evacuations, the daily said.

But DPI-Japan said the limit should be loosened because hundreds of disabled people from all over the world will attend the DPI World Assembly in the capital of Japan's northernmost main island Hokkaido. Among 2,000 participants, about 500 use wheelchairs and several hundred are blind, the daily said.

The daily said the airlines are currently discussing the issue at a committee of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan.

AP-NY-01-15-02 1933EST