An Air New Zealand passenger has reported witnessing a cabin crew member breaking civil aviation laws this weekend, vaping and texting mid-flight.
Mike Georgantis was travelling with his wife from Wellington to Napier on Sunday, aboard NZ8884, after celebrating the birthday of a friend.
To their disbelief, after performing a safety briefing instructing passengers to refrain from smoking or using their phones, the crew member took a seat and began vaping.
The Napier-based private investigator says he was “absolutely positive” of what he saw.
The sole crew member of the Dash 8 Q300 prop-plane service went to the small galley and drew the curtain.
“We thought they were eating, helping themselves to cookies. Then we saw the little blue light and it was clear they were vaping.”
The passenger said he also had photographic evidence of the crew member texting on the plane, which he had shared with the airline.
The attendant “did the safety briefing holding the PA phone upside down - we had to tell them we couldn’t hear”.
“No sooner had [the crewmember] finished the safety briefing [they] sat down in the little jockey seat at the front, turned [their] phone on and began texting.”
Georgantis said he made a complaint straight away, but had great difficulty in reporting it to the airline.
The passenger said he received only automated responses but given the gravity of the incident, he phoned the airline on Monday. However, he was disconnected.
Georgiantis said that he had tried to email the airline’s CEO, Greg Foran. Having still had no reply, he went to the media yesterday.
“It was only then I got a reply from Greg Foran’s email saying that they were investigating the matter and were ‘taking it very seriously’.”
A spokesperson for Air New Zealand confirmed that they had received a complaint but would not be able to comment until its investigation was complete.
“Any complaint of this nature is taken seriously and an investigation was launched immediately,” they said.
“Air New Zealand cannot comment on individual employment matters for privacy reasons.”
The Civil Aviation Authority said anyone caught smoking or vaping on a flight faces a maximum fine of $2500 - for crew or passengers.
“The CAA would follow the same process in investigating the alleged breach regardless of whether or not it is a staff member or a passenger involved, as section 65N of the CA Act applies to every person,” said a spokesperson.
The CAA said it conducts its own investigations into alleged safety violations, and that passengers canreport safety incidents via its website.
An airline does not have to confirm the incident took place for the CAA to investigate.
Georgantis said he felt compelled to report it and felt it was particularly brazen for cabin crew to be caught breaching the Civil Aviation Act immediately after delivering a safety briefing to passengers.
“It’s a serious safety issue,” said Georgantis.
“If a member of the public was caught vaping, they’d be met by police,” he said.