Disappointing Ruling in Singapore Airlines Case

Although Japan is usually considered a pretty progressive country as far as access and disability rights are concerned, a not-so-progressive ruling came down from a Japanese court earlier this year.

At issue once again was air travel and denied boarding. Masayuki Ota who has what the Japan Times defines a “brain paralysis” was denied boarding by Singapore Airlines in 2003, on a flight from Kansai International Airport to Bangkok. He was traveling alone and the airline crew deemed that he was unable to fly without an escort because of his “motion and speaking disabilities.” Ota was seeking 1.65 million yen in compensation from the airline for the denied boarding. In retrospect that seems like a lot, but I guess you have to make a point somehow.

The judge ruled against Mr. Ota and found that the actions by Singapore Airlines? employees were not discriminatory.

Although there seems to be a language barrier and I?m not exactly sure of the extent of the plaintiff?s disability, I?m guessing it?s something akin to cerebral palsy. Also at issue was the fact that the crew only found out about Mr.Ota?s disability two hours prior to the flight, so they didn?t have time to prepare a proper plan to care for him in the event of an emergency.

In any case, it?s a disappointing ruling. Mr. Ota plans to appeal, but I don?t have high hopes for a reversal. So add Singapore Airlines to your “be careful” list.