Here’s What it Takes to Get Fired as a Flight Attendant in Australia

It’s difficult to get hired on as an employee in many professions in Australia because it’s so difficult to get fired, and because benefits can be so generous. Frequently workers are taken on as contractors rather than employees.

Qantas has learned this over and over, for instance when a flight attendant was awarded six months’ pay because the government determined it was ‘harsh’ to fire him after he was found with “a can and a bottle of beer in his jacket, two 50ml bottles of vodka in his trousers and a 50ml bottle of gin in his bag” as he got off a flight. Qantas accused him of stealing and lying about it, but in Australia that’s just a way to get half a year’s pay without working.

However Australia’s Fair Work Commission recently upheld the dismissal of a flight attendant who showed up drunk to work after 14 cocktails, but claimed he shouldn’t be held responsible because he was tempted by a bar’s drink specials and because he followed the airline’s instructions to fly home rather than working his assigned flight after being hospitalized.

And now Qantas is on a downright roll with victories in their ability to let go of employees in the most egregious of cases. Paddle Your Own Kanoo reports that the firing of a flight attendant for drinking a quarter liter of vodka while working a flight, getting drunk, and lying was justified. Apparently though getting drunk on vodka alone wouldn’t have been sufficient, however.

  • On July 25, 2018 the flight attendant was scheduled to work Sydney – Johannesburg flight QF63 in a premium cabin.

  • Colleagues suspected her of getting drunk inflight and reported her. On arrival she failed a breath test so was suspended with pay.

  • She “admitted to drinking around a quarter of a litre vodka that she had mixed with soda water.”

    During the trial, Warr said she started drinking the vodka from around mid-way through the flight right up to the last hour, hiding in the front galley in an attempt avoid detection.

  • However she claimed the vodka came from duty free, rather than being stolen on board. She thought she could get away with the drinking if it had been her own bottle.

  • She challenged her dismissal arguing that she shouldn’t be held responsible for her conduct due to problems in her marriage. She hadn’t wanted to work the flight but “did not want to let down her colleagues” so really she was an exemplary employee who should be lauded, not fired.

  • Her union argued that firing her for getting drunk and lying in the subsequent investigation was disproportionate. After all, Qantas flight attendants are trained to lie to customers if it helps them provide better service.

Qantas flight attendants don’t even need to engage the services of the Saturday Night Live law firm of Green & Fazio.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s very harsh to fire her for this if, as reported, her employment record had been unblemished up to that point. A warning and some counseling would have been more appropriate.

  2. @Paolo FAs are primarily there for your safety. Really. If anything happened on that flight, the FAs are the ones in charge of handling the situation, be it restraining an unruly passenger or evacuating the cabin. This is why airlines have such strict regulations regarding drinking anytime near your shift. The seriousness of the situation is more like having a paramedic drinking on shift rather than a waitress at the corner diner.

  3. What are the “so generous” Australian benefits for those being fired? Or is talk of this just more of the VFTRW talking points to satisfy the Sean Hannity fan base?

  4. Just like cops here… but cops can MURDER people and get away with it. So there’s that….

  5. I was lied to by Qantas flight attendants to BNE and return to LAX and also pulled aside by so called customer service and peppered with questions before boarding on my return. As a result I will not fly Qantas again.

  6. We value workers’ rights in Australia.

    Sure, a tiny minority of bad apples abuse the situation.

    But I love the fact that nobody works two jobs (ironically except for the most affluent) and that we have job security.

    It’s why in Australia you can pump gas at the pump without swiping your credit card first. Our poor just ain’t that poor!

    Most of us squirm when we have to tip in the USA and think “I’ve paid for this meal, if the waiter is not earning a living wage, where did the money go?”

    We just accept different systems.

    You find out model silly and we find yours silly.

    (Remember, any Australian with a College degree can get an E3 visa to live and work in the USA, including all their dependents. And yet the annual quota of 10,500 E3 visas has never even got halfway to being reached, because so few Australians want to say goodbye to a 38 hour working week, guaranteed 4 weeks paid leave each year, universal free healthcare and absolute job security!)

    Aussies and Americans just have different lifestyle priorities.

  7. @Gary.

    Please do not wantonly misrepresent the industrial relations landscape in Australia.

    It is NOT the government that determines IR cases, rather the Fair Work Commission.

    The whole point of the commission to is act as an independent arbiter and hold both the employers and employees to account.

    There are cases wherein using contractors are valid and others wherein it is a vehicle to honouring the remuneration package at the minimum required.

    The tax office treats contracted positions as a salaried position in some cases – for maples wherein the contractor has earned more than 80% of their annual income in one position.

    Stop dabbling, mate!

  8. David F it is not workers right but more like workers welfare. I have been to the AU and squirmed when I had to pay a 2% fee to pay my hotel bill on my credit card rather then pay cash. how the waitstaff was slow and did not really care because they had to work on Labour Day.

    I how many American’s are running to the AU to pay higher prices for everything there like petro, food and then AU$6 to cross the Sydney bridge

    I have met many AU’s who come to the States to get a college education but never anyone who goes there to get a degree at an Ivy league school (oops there are non there)

  9. @ Tomri

    Your remarks betray idiocy and ignorance in equal measure.

    On credit card transaction fees:

    “…Merchants will retain the right to impose a cost-based surcharge on card payments, but any surcharge is limited to the amount it costs the merchant to accept that type of card for that transaction…”

    That from the Reserve Bank of Australia.

    How has that got anything to do with your spurious accusations of workers’ welfare?!

    Australia is an entirely different market to the USA – it has a population of 24.6 million compared with one of 372.2 million.

    Goods are services are sold here at higher prices because he market is smaller, many goods are imported, and the sellers know they have a captive market.

    Wages growth has been very low for some years.

    Regarding education – Australia 3.5 times more successful than the USA at attracting overseas revenue per head of population ($280 per capita for Australia versus $80 per capita for USA).

    Australia’s higher education sector attracts an annual revenue from overseas students of AUD7 billion and rose by AUD1 billion between 2016 and 2017, which is a significant increase.

    On the other hand enrolments of new international students to US colleges is FALLING (by 7% in fall 2017).

    The cited reason being the noxious political climate in the USA – people don’t want to go there.

    Oh and in terms of affordability – the buying power of the US dollar in Australia is around 35% greater than is what 10 years ago (USD1.10 falling to around USD0.70).

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