New details have emerged of an alleged inflight sexual assault carried out by a senior and long-serving Qantas flight attendant on one of his colleagues during a domestic flight between Perth and Melbourne.
John Vatovec, 54, of Wollongong in New South Wales, was the team leader in the Economy cabin of the Qantas operated Airbus A380 when he is alleged to have exposed his genitals and grabbed the breast of a female coworker who was 33-years his junior.
Giving evidence via video link at Perth Magistrates Court on Wednesday, the woman said she had taken her assigned break at the same time as Vatovec. The pair sat in Economy seats at the back of the cabin which had a curtain around them to provide privacy away from passengers.
The unnamed victim told the court that Vatovec started to say “rude things” about other flight attendants he had worked with, including comments about the size of their breasts and how he used to “pash” some of them during break times (an Australian and New Zealand term for French kissing).
Vatovec is then accused of unzipping his trousers and exposing his genitals to the 21-year-old flight attendant. He then allegedly briefly grabbed her breast.
“I felt really hot and flustered. I think that was noticeable because he put it away,” the victim told the court. “I was in a state of shock. I recall pushing his hand away. I was frozen.”
The woman recalled Vatovec asking her if she was okay. “I said I was OK … I don’t know why I said that because I wasn’t OK,” she continued in testimony.
Vatovec then asked whether she would tell anyone what had just happened. She replied “No” before fleeing to another part of the plane where she “stood and cried a bit” before managing to get mobile phone signal and messaging her boyfriend.
The victim told another flight attendant what had happened but before she could tell the purser it was time to land and she had to take her jumpseat. After arriving in Melbourne, she grabbed her bags and got off the plane as quickly as possible before reporting the incident to her manager.
Vatovec was charged with committing an act of indecency following an investigation by the Australian Federal Police into the April 2019 incident. The trial was subsequently delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A spokesperson for Qantas said the airline “immediately conducted a workplace investigation” after the allegation was reported and Vatovec’s employment was terminated.
“We have zero tolerance for any form of harassment. Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected when they come to work,” the Qantas statement continued.
If found guilty, Vatovec faces a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.
Photo Credit: Vidit Luthra / Shutterstock.com
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.