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Qantas flight attendant fired after drinking vodka on flight

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

A Qantas flight attendant has lost her unfair dismissal case after she was found to have drunk a quarter of a bottle of vodka while working on a flight from Sydney to Johannesburg.

The flight attendant admitted to drinking the vodka – supplied by Qantas for passengers – mixed with soda water while on the flight in June last year, the Fair Work Commission heard.

However, the commission also heard that the flight attendant wasn’t just fired for drinking on the job.

“Firstly, she was employed in a safety critical role and while on duty she removed and consumed alcohol… which resulted in a positive breath alcohol test on arrival at Johannesburg,” Qantas submitted.

In addition, the flight attendant had lied to Qantas about the consumption of Qantas’s vodka, instead claiming that she purchased the vodka from the duty free store, consumed some and threw away the bottle.

As the flight attendant explained, she believed she would receive a harsher penalty if Qantas knew that she had been drinking company stores.

“I panicked and I lied,” she said.

“As the investigation [into the misconduct] continued the lie was perpetrated and in fact caused me even greater stress in hindsight than I would have experienced I suspect that if I told the complete truth from the beginning.”

A union representative from the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia (FAAA) also pled that the flight attendant’s dismissal was unfair, and that the lies could be explained by training designed to keep passengers calm during delays and engineering problem which could lead to a tendency to make positive but inaccurate statements.

However, presiding judge, Deputy President Geoffrey Bull didn’t accept this argument, or the argument that the sacking was disproportionate to the misconduct.

He said that while he judged the flight attendant’s 31 years of service “the most compelling” argument for the flight attendant’s case, the deception during the investigation about the source of the alcohol was too much to ignore and “destructive” of the confidence needed between an employer and employee.

“The ongoing dishonesty during the investigation is an overwhelming factor contributing to the loss of trust and confidence between the applicant and her employer that her length of service cannot restore,” the judge said.

“[She] had a long and exemplary record of service with Qantas. It is regrettable that her poor judgement in consuming alcohol while on duty…[and for lying] during the following investigation has resulted in the loss of her employment.”

The finding comes just weeks after another Qantas flight attendant lost his unfair dismissal case after drinking so much he blacked out while staying in New York before his rostered shift flying home.

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