Virgin Australia has won an appeal it lodged against a court ruling that ordered the airline to rehire a flight attendant who was sacked for napping during a flight and watching a movie while she should have been working.
DeVania Blackburn, a veteran flight attendant who had worked for Virgin Australia for around 14 years, was terminated in July 2021 following a short investigation into her conduct during a one-month period, including during a training flight.
The slew of allegations made against Blackburn included accusations that she had napped and watched a movie on her iPad during the training flight and that she stole four packs of food which were meant to be given out on flights.
Blackburn also faced disciplinary charges of reporting late for work and breaching Virgin Australia’s strict uniform standards by failing to wear makeup or stockings.
Following her dismissal, Blackburn made a complaint to the Fair Work Commission and last July, the Commissioner overseeing the complaint ruled that Blackburn should be awarded her job back.
The court ruled that despite numerous and “strongly termed” adverse findings against the flight attendant, Blackburn’s dismissal was “harsh, unjust and unreasonable” because there were mitigating circumstances, including her long service with the airline.
The Commissioner also said Virgin Australia had failed to take into account Blackburn’s previous performance or personal circumstances and ruled that Blackburn lacked specific training.
Virgin Australia filed an appeal against the ruling, arguing that the Commissioner had made a litany of mistakes in her ruling, including the decision to ignore previous disciplinary warnings that Blackburn had received.
An appeals panel has now sided with Virgin Australia, concluding that Blackburn’s years of service to the airline don’t “outweigh the unsatisfactory conduct” that she engaged in. The court also found that Blackburn was aware of the required conduct during her training flight and that she “chose not to comply with the correct procedures”.
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.