The Australian Fair Work Commission has ruled that Qantas was right to fire a flight attendant with over 30-years experience after she admitted drinking a quarter of a litre of vodka during a flight between Sydney and Johannesburg. Alison Warr was originally sacked in October 2018 but appealed the decision to the Fair Work Commission – Yesterday, the FWC upheld her dismissal, in part because she attempted to deceive the airline.
The actual incident happened on 25th July 2018, when Warr was scheduled to operate Qantas flight QF63 from Sydney to Johannesburg as a Business and First Class flight attendant. During the course of the long 12-hour flight to South Africa, a number of her colleagues started to suspect she was drinking alcohol – a practice that is clearly prohibited – and reported her to bosses.
On arrival in Johannesburg, officials from Qantas made Warr take a breath test – which she failed. After being suspended on full pay, Warr surprisingly admitted to drinking around a quarter of a litre vodka that she had mixed with soda water. During the trial, Warr said she started drinking the vodka from around mid-way through the flight right up to the last hour, hiding in the front galley in an attempt avoid detection.
To make matters even worse, Warr strung the investigators along by telling them she had bought the vodka from Duty Free in Sydney airport even though she had actually got it from the onboard bar. She told the FWC that she thought admitting to stealing the vodka would get her sacked but eventually admitted that the Duty Free purchase had been fabricated when investigators obtained sales records from the store.
In her defence, the veteran flight attendant said she had been having marriage difficulties because her husband had been showing signs of depression and because of financial issues. The night before the flight, she ended up having an argument with other family members over staff travel. Warr said she never wanted to work the flight but felt compelled because many recent fights had been short staffed and she did not want to let down her colleagues.
Steven Reed, Manager of Industrial Relations for the Flight Attendants’ Association of Australia told the commission that he thought sacking Warr was a disproportionate punishment. He claimed Warr may have lied about stealing the vodka because Qantas flight attendants are trained to always give passengers a positive response even when it is sometimes inconsistent with the truth.
The FWC disagreed, however, finding that Warr’s dismissal was neither harsh, unjust or unreasonable. The commission described Warr’s decision to drink alcohol whilst on duty as “regrettable” and described the rest of her long career with Qantas as “exemplary”.