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The government has instructed the nation’s three major domestic airlines not to refuse passengers with mental illnesses after it learned that All Nippon Airways Co. had turned down such passengers who wanted to fly without being accompanied by family members or friends.

ANA refused to accept two male tourists with mental illnesses who wanted to travel on their own in February, said the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Ministry.

The two men, residents of Tokyo in their 50s, had traveled to Okinawa among a group of tourists. ANA refused to allow them aboard their scheduled return flight to Tokyo, however, after the travel agency that arranged their tour notified the carrier of their illnesses and behavior in Okinawa, ministry officials said, without elaborating.

The two were allowed to take another flight the following day only after their doctors faxed documents of their diagnoses to the airline and family members came to Okinawa to accompany them.

ANA has told the ministry that it took the action based on an internal bylaw that people with mental illnesses designated by the Mental Health and Welfare Law are allowed to board an airplane only when they are accompanied by attendants and when diagnosis-related documents are submitted by their doctors. The documents should state that the patients pose no obstruction to a safe flight.

The ministry has instructed ANA as well as Japan Airlines Co. and Japan Air System Co., which have similar bylaws, to review the rules so that airlines do not prevent mental patients from participating in social activities.

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