A deaf-blind woman has been left in tears after she was not allowed to board a Jetstar flight.
Vanessa Vlajkovic, 21, was boarding a flight to Adelaide on Thursday by herself.
It was her first time travelling alone. She has only 20 per cent of her vision and is deaf.
Ms Vlajkovic, who lives in Perth, told Yahoo News Australia when she booked her flight she informed Jetstar she was deaf-blind and “could not have been more clear”.
There were no issues taking the booking.
She added she rang them twice to ensure they understood her needs.
“They said, ‘No worries, that's all written down, we will see you on the day’,” Ms Vlajkovic said.
“And I stupidly believed it would go off without a hitch.”
The 21-year-old claims as she was boarding on Thursday she was led down the tunnel by staff with a person in a wheelchair.
“I waited there, just outside the plane doors, along with a person in a wheelchair also waiting to board first,” Ms Vlajkovic said.
“After much waiting, maybe 20 minutes or so, I started wondering what the hold-up was and why the wheelchair user had boarded but I still had not.”
The plane was meant to depart at 5.50pm.
Confused, Ms Vlajkovic took out her BrailleNote, which converts English to Braille, to communicate with a member of the crew.
The crew member, a woman, asked Ms Vlajkovic if she could read the safety card.
Ms Vlajovic told her she could only read it if it was in Braille.
A screen was provided to the 21-year-old and the safety instructions were enlarged, but she told the crew member she could not read them.
‘My heart sank’
“After a time the plane passengers were brought to the plane entrance and they waited there some more while Jetstar tried to work out what to do with me because apparently, ‘It didn't say anything about you being deaf-blind in the booking’,” she said.
“So the passengers board and the Jetstar staff member I'm with tells me to follow her back to the gate so they could sort out my booking.
“I did so reluctantly as I started to get anxious at that point – and didn't want to make a scene.”
Ms Vlajkovic returned to the gate and the doors shut behind her.
“My heart sank,” she said.
“I realised what happened and I almost threw my phone in anger.”
Ms Vlajkovic texted her housemates to have someone pick her up.
“I never cry in public but I cried for 20 minutes,” she said.
The 21-year-old received compensation from Jetstar and was rebooked on another flight the following day.
But she was angry over the administration error, which saw her unable to fly.
“I appreciate that because it wasn't their fault, it was a policy error beyond their control,” Ms Vlajkovic said.
“But it did not ease the stress of the situation, the fact I'd been discriminated against for something that was their fault, an access issue.”
M Vlajkovic added she “wasted time, money, energy and dignity” and will never ever fly with Jetstar again.
Under Jetstar’s Disability Facilitation Plan, anyone travelling either alone or with a carer has to be able “to communicate in some way” that they have understood the safety and emergency instructions.
Anyone who can’t has to travel with a carer who is more than 15 years old.
A person who is deaf or blind is sat closer to the front of the aircraft “and will be provided with a special safety briefing appropriate to their needs”.
It is understood the airline made an administration error and did not record Ms Vlakjovic’s deaf-blindness properly on the booking. Jetstar are undertaking a review following the incident.
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, the airline apologised to Ms Vlajkovic.
“When we discovered Ms Vlajkovic wasn’t travelling with a carer our team explained the situation to Ms Vlajkovic and her family and worked as quickly as possible to find an alternative and safe way to get her to her destination,” a Jetstar spokesperson said.
“This included delaying the departure of the flight by 45 minutes while we offered a free ticket for a carer to travel with her and attempting to find a Jetstar crew member to fly with her.
“Our team was able to arrange alternative travel to Adelaide with Qantas accompanied by a carer and we have organised the same for Ms Vlajkovic’s return journey to Perth.
“We sincerely apologise to Ms Vlajkovic and acknowledge how frustrating the situation was.”
Do you have a story tip? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.