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DRUNK & PASSED OUT: QANTAS flight attendant loses unfair dismissal appeal

Tony Yoo
An Australian airline carrier Qantas Airbus A380 passenger plane landing at Tullamarine International Airport in Melbourne, Australia, 12 January 2014. (EPA/BARBARA WALTON)
An Australian airline carrier Qantas Airbus A380 passenger plane landing at Tullamarine International Airport in Melbourne, Australia, 12 January 2014. (EPA/BARBARA WALTON)

A former Qantas flight attendant who missed an international flight after drinking and blacking out during a night out has lost his unfair dismissal appeal.

Flight crew member Luke Urso, after undergoing heart surgery, returned to work in July 2017 for a seven-day journey that would go from Brisbane to Los Angeles to New York City, then back to Los Angeles and Brisbane.

While in New York City, he and a colleague went out on the town and started drinking at a bar, with the commission hearing that “there was no evidence” Urso had eaten anything since getting off the flight.

Just before midnight, Urso’s colleague found him unconscious in the bar bathroom.

Toxicology tests in hospital almost three hours later found him with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.205 – roughly the result of having 14 standard drinks.

Urso was discharged from hospital the morning after but was not well enough to make the flight back, later travelling back to Australia as a regular passenger.

Qantas – which footed the New York hospital bill of $20,000 – afterwards took the flight attendant through dismissal procedures, alleging that he consumed an excessive amount of alcohol and missed work in a “safety sensitive role” as a flight attendant.

In earlier commission hearings, the former flight attendant claimed that his drinks were “spiked” or that the bar had practised “free pouring”, meaning it gave out drinks without measuring out the amount of alcohol in each serve.

The commission was unconvinced by these explanations.

“If free-pouring occurred, I find it implausible that Mr Urso did not feel intoxicated at an earlier time and adjust his intake accordingly,” said the FWC deputy president.

“In the end, it is Mr Urso who is responsible for putting himself in a situation where his consumption of alcohol caused him to fail in his duty to join his scheduled flight.”

The full bench of the Fair Work Commission on Wednesday dismissed Urso’s appeal, after the flight attendant could not convince it that the dismissal was “harsh, unjust or unreasonable”.

“It defies common sense that a person exercising the requisite degree of restraint could put themselves in the position of consuming 14 standard drinks and then passing out in a period of well under two hours,” read the appeal judgment.

“That Mr Urso got himself in that condition was, we consider, the result of recklessness and misjudgement on his part.”

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