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Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a journalist based in Auckland.

Pilot to pay Air NZ for first class hotel dispute

File photo / supplied
File photo / supplied

An Air New Zealand pilot has to pay the airline $1500 in a dispute over whether it put him up in a truly first class hotel.

Michael Alexander Talbot contends the airline's hotel of choice for stopovers in Los Angeles, the Manhattan Beach Marriott, does not meet the definition of a "first class'' hotel, as set out in the collective agreement with the Airline Pilots' Association.

In a letter to the airline's operations manager, Mr Talbot said the walls were too thin, the air conditioning was too noisy, the cardboard cups in the suites were substandard and there was no first class restaurant at the hotel.

He took the dispute to the Employment Relations Authority, seeking a definition of the term "first class''.

Authority member Kenneth Anderson found that even with the most objective analysis, it was not possible to give a meaningful interpretation of the term.

"I would add that perhaps the term may be somewhat outdated and may apply to another era of travel,'' he said.

Mr Anderson noted there were better hotels than those at which aircrew stayed - citing Claridges Hotel in London and the Burj Al Arab in Dubai as examples - but said accommodating crews at such establishments would not be "within the realms of commercial reality''.

He found it was up to the airline and the union to decide whether accommodation was acceptable following a process if inspection and recommendation, and that had been done.

In a costs determination, released today, the authority ordered Mr Talbot pay the airline $1500 for the cost of the half-day employment hearing.

Mr Talbot has previously taken Air New Zealand to the authority over its choice of accommodation.

In 2007, the authority ordered the airline reimburse him 80 pounds for every night he chose to stay at the Chiswick Hotel in London, rather than the airline's preferred hotel.

Mr Talbot had argued his life would be at risk if he stayed at the Millennium Mayfair hotel, which he said was a target for terrorists because it was near the United States embassy.

He had previously been able to stay at the Sheraton Hotel as an alternative, but the airline took away that option.

The authority found that in doing so, the airline breached the terms of its accommodation arrangement, which required the consent of both parties before changes were made.

- APNZ

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