Pilot reinstated after sex with flight attendant

A pilot has won his job back after being sacked for a late-night drinking spree during which he had sex with a 19-year-old flight attendant.

The Employment Court found the grounds for his dismissal were unjustified and ordered he be reinstated and paid $10,000 compensation and $51,000 for lost wages.

The pilot had earlier unsuccessfully sought a personal grievance case with the Employment Relations Authority.

In a brief statement tonight, Air Nelson and its parent company, Air New Zealand, said they were disappointed "that the Employment Court in its judgment sets a far lower standard of expectation on the behaviour and professional standards of pilots than the airline".

The pilot, the flight attendant and a male first officer, whose names are suppressed, were forced to abandon a flight out of Napier in May 2008 due to heavy fog.

They booked a hotel, picked up alcohol and engaged in smutty, sexual banter on the way there, according to evidence given to an Air Nelson probe into the incident.

Because they had no overnight clothes, the pilot arranged for three bathrobes to be sent and the three met in his room for drinks and nibbles, wearing the robes and their underwear.

The first officer said at some point the woman went to the pilot's bed uninvited and lay next to him.

According to the pilot, who was married, the woman told the men she had had sex with at least one flight attendant previously and led them to believe she may do so again.

"She talked about having sex with no strings attached and said that that was the same for married men when we asked more.

"There was a tattooed man on the TV and we asked if anybody had tattoos. She showed her pierced belly button. We asked if she had any more piercing... (She) said that she used to have a pierced nipple and showed us her breasts."

They then moved on to the topic of waxing.

The first officer said when he left the woman was fully conscious and smiling suggestively.

She and the pilot had sex, which the pilot claimed was consensual but which she said was something she would never have consented to, although she said she had no memory of events after midnight due to the amount of alcohol she had consumed.

"My next memory was standing inside (the pilot's) room with my bathrobe on but nothing else. My bra and underwear were gone.

"I went back to my room. As soon as I got there I started crying. I felt really dirty and disgusted. It felt like I had had sex but I could not remember it. I had my period at the time and I remember thinking that (the pilot) was a married man and there was no way I would have willingly had sex with him."


She laid a complaint and the pilot was sacked for serious misconduct, with Air Nelson general manager John Hambleton finding he had breached the trust the company had placed in him as a captain and that his actions amounted to sexual harassment.

A police investigation did not find any foundation to the allegations.

In his decision, Judge Mark Perkins said Mr Hambleton had come to his conclusion based on the woman's state of hysteria and anxiety but had failed to consider other possibilities.

"He should have considered whether (the woman's) memory loss was simply a convenient way to avoid confronting her own behaviour that night."

Mr Hambleton had also not taken into account scientific evidence that suggested they had drunk less alcohol than was alleged.

The man is due to be reinstated later this month.



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