By AFP - Japan Airlines (JAL) has come up with a novel way to help wheelchair users avoid setting off metal detectors at airport security gates -- by offering them bamboo wheelchairs instead.
"Passengers using steel wheelchairs have had to put up with a full body check every time they fly because the metal frame of a wheelchair sets off the security alarm," JAL said in a statement.
"But with the bamboo-made wheelchair, physically challenged flyers can now go to the gate swiftly as they remain seated while they go through security."
JAL will start offering the new wheelchair model, which it likens to "a piece of sophisticated furniture," next year -- first at Japan's Oita airport on Kyushu island and then at Tokyo's Haneda airport. The bamboo model, completely hand-made and with rubber wheels, costs about 600,000 yen (about $7,200) each and is made at a pace of one a month by a specialised workshop, a JAL official said.
"We would like to increase the number of the vehicles while listening to the voices of users," said the official.
Former baseball player Norihiro Akahoshi tries a bamboo wheelchair at Haneda Airport, (Mainichi Dec 21,2010)