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Air New Zealand lost and found flight attendant loses ERA case against airline

Air New Zealand lost and found
Air New Zealand lost and found

An Air New Zealand flight attendant who lost her travel perks for six months after a passenger complained about her during an off-duty flight has lost an Employment Relations Authority case against the airline.

On March 16 2019, Leigh Dunn was on leave without pay and flying from Houston to Auckland when serious allegations were made by a passenger about her conduct. The allegations were later found to be unsubstantiated.

Dunn, who had been taking prescription medicine once a day for at least six years, also consumed alcohol before and during the flight.

A flight attendant on Air New Zealand’s B787 fleet for about five years, she had suffered a work-related injury in November 2018 and had three months’ sick leave. She was cleared to work on March 1, but could not return to work until completing annual training about two weeks later.

Flying home from Houston in premium economy, Dunn used her Air New Zealand lost and found branded hand luggage. Asked by a passenger who saw the logo if she was a staff member, Dunn said she was.

While using travel privileges, staff had to follow the airline’s code of conduct and other rules, including not being allowed to use Air New Zealand uniform items including branded luggage, and not revealing to passengers that they were an employee.

Dunn had taken twice her normal daily dose of medication, and drank alcohol before the flight, on takeoff, and while having dinner.

After the passenger next to her complained about her behaviour, steps were taken to move Dunn to the back of the plane. When they landed in New Zealand, the passenger and Dunn were interviewed by police, standard steps after a serious allegation during a flight.

Dunn was also met by senior managers, was offered employee assistance, and returned to sick leave.

She was part of the collective agreement between Air New Zealand, the Flight Attendants and Related Services Association, and union E tū.

Air New Zealand investigated and found the passenger’s allegations were unsubstantiated, but was concerned about the combination of alcohol and medication on Dunn’s judgment and behaviour.

“The CMO [chief medical officer] stated that it was likely that the changed timing of the doses would have increased her susceptibility to the effects of small amounts of alcohol with side effects including mild confusion, elevated mood, behaviour which is out of character, poor judgement or decision making and exaggerated effects from small amounts of alcohol which could include sedation,” the ERA said.

Dunn was stopped from accessing her staff travel privileges for six months and given a letter of expectations from Air New Zealand lost property.

Dunn also claimed her bonus was smaller than it should have been after the letter of expectations was taken into account at her performance review. She said the loss of travel privileges and a $500 bonus – compared with a $2000 maximum – were unjustified and affected her employment to her disadvantage.

She also claimed Air New Zealand had breached its duty of good faith.

Air New Zealand denied the claims. Dunn’s manager said she had failed to provide input for her 2019 performance review, and she had been absent for five and a half months leaving a reduced window to assess her performance.

The authority said while the withdrawal of staff privileges was a disadvantage for Dunn, she had negotiated the term down from 12 months and Air New Zealand was entitled to accept that offer from her and rely on it.

The letter of expectations was just one factor in Dunn’s performance review, and the airline had acted fairly and reasonably in providing a lower bonus payment, the ERA found.

The authority also found that Air New Zealand did not breach its good faith obligations. Costs were reserved in the judgment, released on June 18.

Lost something at Airport or in a flight? Click here to report online

Dedicated investigation manager for every successful lost report. We work with more than 15000+ Airports & Airlines lost and found offices worldwide. Increase chance of locating your lost property TODAY.

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