Pilot wins meal break battle with Jetstar

Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014

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Jetstar threatened it could be forced to leave New Zealand if it lost a court battle over pilots' meal and rest breaks during or between flights.

Christchurch-based pilot Robert Greenslade has won an Employment Court battle with Jetstar over meal and rest breaks .

Jetstar's lawyers told the Court if the airline had to give its pilots meal and rest breaks during flights or on the tarmac, it would affect operations and financial performance to the point where thebudget carrier may exit New Zealand.

Greenslade had wanted to take rest and meal breaks in accordance with his employment contract and the Employment Relations Act.

Jetstar told the Court implementing the breaks on its domestic and trans-Tasman flights, which have turnaround times of 30 mintutes and 40 minutes respectively, would affect scheduling, increase costs and affect revenues.

The court ruled against Jetstar, saying the airline breached its employment agreement with Greenslade.

Possible compensation and costs were to be determined through mediation between Jetstar and Greenslade.

Greenslade's lawyer Rodney Harrison QC said the low-cost, low-yield model that Jetstar operateswas no more of an excuse to flout legal requirements than it would be for a garment sweatshop operator.

Greenslade said he did not intend to take breaks in a way that would interfere with flight operations in the air, but that rest and meal breaks should be considered by the airline when aircraft are on the ground.

He said Air New Zealand used this model for pilot and crew breaks.

Jetstar argued the breaks could have been taken at other times during the pilot's shift, but not during flight or tarmac turnaround time.

Greenslade had neumerous tasks to do during a turnaround, when passengers are exiting or boarding, including flight planning, aircraft preparation, completion of documentation, supervision and checking of load planning information.

Despite finding in Greenslade's favour regarding the employment conditions breach, the Court ruled the two sides mediate to a solution to rest and meal breaks.

Greenslade is still flying for Jetstar.

In a statement, airline spokesman Phil Boeyen said the company had yet to decide if it would appeal the decision.

Boeyen said Jetstar was "in the process of reviewing the judgement and considering the impact of the decision," and would not comment further.

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- BusinessDay

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