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Current as of 26/12/14 05:00AM NZST

Air NZ crew member fired for boarding rival plane

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

An Air New Zealand crew member says she was devastated with her dismissal after she tried to board a rival company's plane and then lost an appeal to the Employment Relations Authority.

Helen Watson, a flight services manager with 26 years experience, was fired last August after an internal investigation found her actions amounted to serious misconduct.

Air NZ said Ms Watson was waiting for a flight to Rarotonga, which she was working on, when she saw an Emirates flight at another boarding gate using a Boeing 777-300 aircraft, a model Air NZ had on order.

The person in charge of the departure gate complained when Ms Watson went down the airbridge and picked up a document containing a list of the Emirates' crew. The crew member said Ms Watson was stopped forcibly from continuing down the airbridge.

Ms Watson said she was curious about the plane.

The Emirates' captain heard about the apparent attempt to board his plane and did not allow the aircraft to be pushed back from the gate until he had more information.

Eventually Ms Watson left her plane to explain to the Emirates' captain that she had wanted to see the aircraft because she was curious about it.

The captain was satisfied with the explanation and the Emirates' flight departed on time.

But when Ms Watson returned from talking with the captain she commented "what a bloody fuss'', and "you would have thought they were going to stone me''.

Ms Watson's Air New Zealand flight was delayed by 36 minutes.

An internal investigation found serious misconduct occurred by breaching the use of her identity card and her involvement in the late departure of her flight. She was dismissed.

In January Ms Watson launched a personal grievance case against her former employer with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), saying she was unjustifiably dismissed.

The ERA investigation found that Air New Zealand's conclusion was one that a fair and reasonable employer could have reached, and dismissal was justified.

Ms Watson today said the whole thing had been pretty devastating for her and her family and she did not want to comment further.

Air New Zealand said it did not have anything further to add to the ERA ruling.

- APNZ

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