Qantas taken to court over dog discrimination claim

An NDIS recipient is taking Qantas to court over allegations of disability discrimination after the airline barred her assistance dog from travelling with her on its planes.

Rachael Fullerton and her border collie assistance dog Strike first made the request to Qantas for approval in late 2022, but the airline has failed to recognise her dog as an assistant animal, preventing him from travelling on its flights.

"Strike plays a massive role in my life," Ms Fullerton said. 

"He gives me the independence most people take for granted and my world has expanded significantly because of his support."

The National Disability Insurance Agency recognises Strike as an assistant animal and he receives funding from the NDIS for training and maintenance. 

The collie, which has passed the required test for assistance dogs and is registered, has been trained to keep Ms Fullerton safe including alerting her to impending medical issues and seeking help when needed.

Rachael Fullerton’s border collie assistance dog Strike
Strike is recognised as an assistance dog by the NDIS, Virgin Airlines and Rex.

Virgin Australia and Rex Airlines both recognise Strike as an assistant animal and permit him to travel on their planes.

"(Strike’s) been on several flights with me in the past year and his training and behaviour have been repeatedly praised by flight crews and other passengers," she said.

Ms Fullerton has spent countless hours over many months dealing with the "stressful and traumatic" process to get Strike approved by Qantas but said she has been met with silence.

The stance by Qantas meant Ms Fullerton has missed important meetings and been left stranded as it was the only airline regularly flying to places she needed to go.

"It’s incredibly disheartening that consumer choice is taken away from me and others with fully trained assistance dogs. But Qantas doesn’t seem to care."

Qantas uses standards set by Assistance Dogs International or under the Queensland Act, and handlers with dogs not approved under those guidelines must be able to demonstrate they meet those standards.

"We recognise the important role that properly trained assistance dogs perform for travellers with specific needs and Qantas carries many assistance dogs each year," a Qantas spokeswoman said.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has taken Qantas to the Federal Court on behalf of Ms Fullerton, arguing the airline's conduct amounts to disability discrimination.

"Qantas can’t make its own rules," Ms Fullerton's lawyer Sheetal Balakrishnan said.

"If Strike is an assistance animal under the federal Disability Discrimination Act, refusing to let him fly discriminates against Rachael."

The senior solicitor will ask the court to make a formal finding that Qantas has discriminated against her and order that Qantas change its policy to prevent this from happening again to anyone else.

Ms Balakrishnan said clear national standards would have prevented this from occurring.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store