Travel Trouble

Courtney Allan

Aussie passenger embarrassed after Jetstar's "shameful" treatment of him

Aussie passenger embarrassed after Jetstar's "shameful" treatment of him

A qualified pilot was told to move seats on his Jetstar flight from the emergency row due to his arm and lack of thumbs.

James Hall-Thompson was travelling from Ballina, northern NSW, to Sydney when the flight attendant asked him to move after he was seated.

"We had just buckled up when she came up and started talking to me, then said, 'I'll sit down so this doesn't look so rude'," the qualified pilot explained.

"She said the cabin manager had noticed my arm and needed me to move.

"I told her that there's never been an issue before and I am fit, willing and able to move the hatch if needed. She just said, 'I need you to move,'" he told 

Mr Hall-Thompson was born without a radical bone in his left forearm and he’s missing a left thumb.

"I also don't have a left thumb but my arm and hand aren't impaired," he elaborated. "On my right, my arm is normal but I've got a slightly crooked right thumb. That's it.”

Whilst trying to explain the situation, it fell on deaf ears as the cabin manager had already found a replacement for his seat. 

“As a pilot, I'm all about safety. I would never sit there if I couldn't remove the hatch."

His arms were not an issue with the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority as they’ve issued him a Class 1 medical licence.

When asked how he felt about the whole experience, Hall-Thompson explained:

"At first I was a bit angry. To be frank, I was on the verge of tears, which is very unusual for me. I had to stand up and move when everyone had already sat down. I felt like I was put on show a little bit. I was embarrassed. It's shameful."

However, when he tried to reach out to Jetstar in order to let them know what happened, things took an odd turn.

"I outlined what happened and the man who took the call said he needed me to agree on a recording that it wasn't discrimination but a procedure.

"It's not for him or me to decide that, but he said he needed me to agree to it for a recording, he wanted to record me saying it."

After being told that he would receive a response within 10 business days, Hall-Thompson received a phone call less than half an hour after had contacted Jetstar. The phone call was from the airline’s chief of customer complaints and advocacy.

The organisation has also addressed the incident in a public apology.

"We sincerely apologise for Mr Hall-Thompson's experience and are reaching out to him directly," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"There are strict safety requirements regarding exit rows which are mandated by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority, however we are looking into what took place in this situation."