It’s been 13 years since Calum Sanderson last had the courage to fly out of Tasmania.
Most important points:
- Calum Sanderson has documentation proving he needs a service dog
- Jetstar wouldn’t let Sun fly because the dog wasn’t trained at a recognized training organization
- Federal MP Andrew Wilkie Says Service Dog Legislation Needs Investigation
Finished again this year and just days before it was due to start, the airline’s rules messed up its plans.
Mr. Sanderson has a “severe anxiety disorder”, which makes it difficult for him to even go to the local shops on his own.
So the decision to book a Jetstar flight to the Gold Coast in January to see a friend was not taken lightly.
“It was me who spent months trying to figure out how to take the bull by the horns, sort out my finances and pay the ticket,” Sanderson said.
Mr Sanderson experiences panic and excitement when he is not accompanied by his assistance dog Sun, so he asked Jetstar for reassurance that the dog could come before booking his flight.
In an online conversation with Jetstar live chat agent Cyril, Calum’s father Tim Sanderson – who is a psychologist and works with people who use service dogs – was told that all it took initially to get Sun to fly was a letter from a GP and an assistance dog service ID card.
“However, you will need to contact us once you have booked a flight to apply for Jetstar Travel assistance dog admission,” the chat operator said.
After submitting the requested documentation, including an ID card for Sun from the nonprofit training and accreditation organization mindDog, Calum received an email stating that Sun did not meet the required criteria.
Jetstar said the dog was “not trained by a recognized training organization under the Guide, Hearing and Assistance Dog Act 2009 (Qld) or by any organization that is a member of Assistance Dogs International”.
In the end, Calum was told he could not take the dog with him, despite a letter from the GP informing Jetstar that he “depended on his dog to be able to fly or take public transport”.
Tim Sanderson said he was shocked and the decision was “devastating” for his son.
“Jetstar has a responsibility to actually pay attention to what the [federal] Disability Discrimination Act 1992 demands of them which is to treat a person with a disability with dignity and respect.
“Calum needs the dog. The dog is trained. He trained the dog. Jetstar seems to impose their demands on who trained the dog. Well, that’s none of their business.
Tim Sanderson said he was also disappointed with Jetstar for asking about specific details about his son’s disability.
MP says Jetstar’s actions ‘may violate the law’
Independent Federal Member of Parliament Andrew Wilkie has written on behalf of Mr Sanderson to Qantas, Jetstar’s parent company.
“This is appalling behavior from Jetstar,” Wilkie said.
Calum asked the question in good faith: could he fly? And he gave all the information requested and he was told he was good to fly, so I think Jetstar’s subsequent withdrawal was mean and deeply hurtful.
“It may be against the law, although that is something that needs to be investigated.
“She [Jetstar] present themselves as a good corporate citizen. This is not the behavior of a good corporate citizen.”
Mr Wilkie said the legislation on assistance dogs needed to be looked into.
“Problems crop up in this space far too regularly and it is something that federal and Tasmanian state governments need to look at to ensure public safety is protected, but so are the rights of individuals,” said Mr Wilkie .
A Jetstar spokesperson said the company apologized “if there was a misunderstanding with our live chat agent”.
“All service dogs are welcome on our flights, provided they meet the necessary criteria in accordance with the Civil Aviation Laws, which will be described on our website and at the time of booking.
“We have been in contact with Mr Sanderson and as Sun is unable to travel, our team has offered him a full refund.”