Aviation

Australian family accuses Jetstar of racism after being refused permission to fly

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

A family refused permission to board a Jetstar flight from Sydney to Coolangatta has accused the carrier of racism and asked for an apology and compensation.

Vala Setareh, a Jetstar frequent flyer, and wife Dr Dona Hooshmand are seeking $10,000 in compensation after being refused to board Jetstar flight JQ412 on 18 March; the pair are also seeking an apology from a senior crew member on board the flight for “racially motivated” discrimination.

Setareh and Hooshmand, who were travelling with their two children and a grandparent, said they were refused permission to board by a senior crew member who ignored Hooshmand – who was carrying her baby and standing with her four-year-old son – and her request for assistance in lifting a barrier belt so that she could join her family.

The airline alleged this led to a dispute, where Hooshmand said she was accused of “attacking” the senior crew member, and the family’s boarding passes were confiscated; they were forced to stand aside while the rest of the passengers boarded, which Setareh and Hooshmand described as “humiliating” and “embarrassing”.

“The [senior crew member] completely overreacted and it can only be concluded that her actions were racially motivated,” Setareh said.

Setareh – who Hooshmand said was standing close by, waiting for her to join the rest of the family in boarding and saw the disagreement – denies there was any attack on a senior crew member. He said that following the initial dispute there was no further interaction between his family and Jetstar’s staff.

Jetstar check in counter Sydney Airport Australia

Their boarding passes were eventually returned by another crew member who allowed them to proceed to board; however, the senior crew member decided against it and told fellow crew that the family would not be allowed to fly.

Hooshmond asked why they were being sent off the flight and was told that she had “attacked” the senior crew member. Hooshmand rejected their removal from the flight on the grounds that she had to return to Coolangatta to attend to patients the next day and that she needed to feed her two children.

The pair said they sought further clarification from staff, who responded by calling the Australian Federal Police to the scene. Following their arrival, the AFP took the family to a Virgin Australia counter, where the family were booked on the next available flight to the Gold Coast.

Setareh, a lawyer, said there was no legal basis for their treatment at the hands of Jetstar and that the airline’s staff had no right to “harass” and “humiliate” his family.

In correspondence with Jetstar, Setarah said that he wanted an apology from the individual senior crew member; an explanation from the airline on the steps it’s taking to ensure other customers are protected from similar behaviours from crew; and confirmation that his family has not been flagged by the airline, following allegedly being threatened with blacklisting by Jetstar’s staff.

“It is mind boggling that your organisation tolerates its staff publicly humiliating its customers, without any consequences for the persons responsible,” Setareh said in a written submission to Jetstar CEO Gareth Evans.

“Jetstar could have easily rectified the situation. Instead, it has escalated this matter now and turned a good customer (frequent flyer) into one with a traumatic experience.”

Following the incident in March, both Hooshmond and Setareh contacted Jetstar to complain about their treatment by its staff. They were issued an apology by the airline and offered a $444.49 refund for their unused flights and $295.51 in accordance with the fare difference between the rebooked Virgin Australia flight. Jetstar also confirmed that Setarah and his family had not been blacklisted.

Jetstar later offered Setareh a $500 travel voucher, after he expressed his dissatisfaction with the offer, in addition to the previous amount and clarified that the sum was based specifically on the amount that Hooshmand had requested in her initial submission to Jetstar. The family has refused Jetstar’s offers to reimburse the flight.

In correspondence between the pair and a customer advocacy analyst from the airline, Jetstar denied either race or ethnicity played a factor in the family being refused permission to fly.

Following being contacted for comment, a Jetstar spokesperson told Travel Weekly that the airline has zero tolerance for anti-social behaviour at airports and on its aircraft:

“Our investigation found that the customers repeatedly refused to follow the instructions and were abusive towards our cabin crew when boarding, which was the reason why they were denied travel.

“We explained this to the customers at the time and also in our follow up discussions with them.

“The safety of our customers and crew is our number one priority,” a spokesperson from Jetstar told Travel Weekly.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Aviation

REVEALED: The final two bidders for Virgin Australia

by Huntley Mitchell

The next stage in the sale of the business and assets of Virgin Australia begins today, with the airline’s administrators having made a decision on which two bidders have made it through.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Virgin’s administrators still yet to name final two suitors following surprise bid

Virgin Australia’s administration process is starting to resemble Bathurst’s famous Mount Panorama racetrack, given the number of twists and turns.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

WTTC launches ‘Safe Travels’ protocols for aviation, airports, MICE and tour operators

Confused by all these new measures and protocols being issued by peak industry bodies? Add to your bewilderment with this.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Trans-Tasman travel ‘bubble’ could be in place by September, travel group says

by Christian Fleetwood

The expert working group behind the proposal for a trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ reckons it could be operational by September.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Aviation Wrap: Qantas Frequent Flyer’s new points offer, Gold Coast Airport’s runway concert + MORE

Reading Travel Weekly’s Aviation Wrap has been compared to taking a long-haul flight, in that you’ll likely fall asleep at some point.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

“There’s a real tug of war going on”: Global tourism expert on adapting to the ‘new normal’

With change becoming the ‘new normal’, this uni professor says knowing the trends to look out for is a must for operators in the sector.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

New collective turns agent influencers into destination marketing gurus

A group of influential travel agents have banded together to create a social marketing network for the post-pandemic travel industry.

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Crew members tie the knot on board cruise ship

Celebrity Edge crew members Rajiv and Venita decided they were not going to let COVID-19 ruin their special day, after their wedding in Mauritius was cancelled.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

WATCH: Leaning Tower of Pisa reopens with commemorative COVID-19 flash mob

Some of Italy’s major attractions are re-emerging from the country’s three-month coronavirus lockdown and beginning to welcome visitors again.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

One-on-one with travel marketing maven Julie King

by Christian Fleetwood

To answer some of Travel Weekly’s burning questions about travel marketing, we got in touch with an expert in the field – one who, as you’d expect, happens to be extraordinarily busy during the downturn.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

10 key findings from Colliers’ Australian Hotel Investment Sentiment Survey

Keen to find out what’s going through the minds of Aussie hotel investors during COVID-19, but can’t be arsed reading a full-blown report? We’ve got you covered with this 10-point snapshot.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Destination Wrap: Qld eases travel restrictions, Greece to open border to internationals + MORE

The wheels are beginning to turn on domestic and international tourism, with border restrictions easing near and far. Huzzah!

Share

CommentComments