A Qantas flight attendant who was sacked for drinking a quarter bottle of vodka while working on a flight from Sydney to South Africa has had her unfair dismissal claim thrown out.
The woman, who was working in a “safety critical role”, recorded a positive alcohol breath test when she arrived in Johannesburg after a colleague suspected she was drinking.
On Wednesday, the Fair Work Commission dismissed her claim she was unfairly sacked last year for drinking the vodka she stole from Qantas.
She drank the vodka mixed with soda water quickly to avoid getting caught.
The woman, who worked with the airline for more than 30 years, initially said she had bought the vodka at a duty-free store at the airport but was later forced to admit she had stolen it.
“I allowed the company to investigate something that I knew was false, I didn’t tell my support that I had misled the investigation until the evidence was overwhelming,” the woman stated in a show cause letter.
“I can only say that in my mind, drinking company stores was worse than drinking my own.
“I deeply regret being untruthful about the source of the alcohol; I panicked and I lied.
“As the investigation 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.”
In her submissions to the Fair Work Commission, the business and first class flight attendant said her sacking was “disproportionate to the misconduct” and didn’t take into account her three decades loyalty to the airline.
She also said she was stressed and there was pressure on flight attendants “not to call in unfit”.
Qantas submitted that the woman’s neglect of her safety role on the flight and the fact she stole the vodka made the issue worse, saying “misconduct was exacerbated by her untruthfulness during the course of the investigation which was only acknowledged in the face of overwhelming evidence that was presented to her”.
The commission’s deputy president Geoffrey Bull said the woman’s length of good service was the “most compelling” reasoning put forward but dismissed her argument, saying she had a “a safety sensitive position and for good reason was prohibited from consuming alcohol during a flight”.