Air NZ woman fired after 'stoning' jibe

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 11:59 24/09/2012

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Jokes about being stoned to death and other ill-judged comments have cost an Air New Zealand crew member her job.

Helen Watson, a flight services manager with 26 years experience, was dismissed in August last year after attempting to board an Emirates aircraft at Auckland International Airport without permission.

Air New Zealand said she had spoken sarcastically to staff aboard the plane and abused her security clearance, which amounted to serious misconduct.

An Employment Relations Authority decision released today described how Watson, when waiting for the departure of her own flight to Rarotonga, saw an Emirates flight at an adjacent boarding gate using a Boeing 777-300 aircraft.  

As Air New Zealand was due to get the same model of plane, she asked to have a look on board.

Although her request was declined, Watson continued down the airbridge and picked up a document containing the Emirates crew list before leaving. When approached a short while later by an Emirates representative who asked why she had attempted to go on the plane, Watson replied: ''Curiosity, do you know how to spell it?''  

Her actions sparked concern from the Emirates captain, who asked to speak with her.

On her return from that conversation, Watson told another Air New Zealand staff member: "What a bloody fuss...you would have thought they were going to stone me."

Emirates later complained to Air New Zealand, which began the investigation resulting in her dismissal.  

Air New Zealand said Watson's actions were partly responsible for the late departure of her own flight. It found Watson had breached her obligations to act in such a way as to "maintain and promote the company's image", and to act with integrity, trust, respect and in accordance with the law.

In her defence, Watson said she had been in a "playful mood" when she arrived at work and was embarrassed about her actions.  

She said she hadn't spoken sarcastically, but had offered to help with spelling because she thought English was the second language of the Emirates crew member. She did not deny making the comments about stoning.

However, the authority found Watson's concern was more for herself than the effect of what she had done, and upheld the dismissal.

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- Auckland Now

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